My Top 5 Classical Albums of 2019

Isabelle Faust plays Bach Violin Concertos

This album just had to be there. I’m a big Isabelle Faust fan, as most of my regular readers know.

This is just a fantastic album overall, and an must have. Hugely enjoyable, Faust’s signature Sleeping Beauty Stradivarius sound, and the AKAMUS is a perfect partner. I had heard the same combination live in 2018, and it was already a great experience.

You’ll find the original review here

Saint-Saëns Piano Concertos 2&5 by Bertrand Chamayou

Saint Saens Concertos 2& 5 solo piano works Bertrand Chamayou Orchestre National de France Emmanuel Krivine Erato 2019 24 96

I really didn’t know Saint-Saëns really well before 2019. I still don’t, but at least the piano concertos were a true discovery for me, with Bertrand Chamayou’s fantastic recording, also with the equally exciting album by Alexandre Kantorow with the concertos 3-5.

The Chamayou album got the 2019 Gramophone award, and I can only highly recommend this, particularly for the concerto no. 2 which really has become a favourite of mine now.

Yuya Wang’s Berlin Recital

Yuya Wang The Berlin Recital Encores Deutsche Grammophon 2019 24 96

I’ve said it in the review, I wasn’t a big fan of Yuja Wang before this album. This live recital really has become one of my absolute favourites, for the playing, the recording quality, and the exciting repertoire. Highly recommended.

Savall’s mesmerising Messiah

Georg Friedrich Händel Messiah An Oratorio HWV 56 La Capella Reial de Catalunya Jordi Savall Alia Vox 2019 DSD 24 88

This album, which only came out some weeks ago, has been in constant rotation on my playlist. Being in the Christmas season helps, but this album constantly keeps playing in the back of my head, even when not listening to music at all. You’ll find my original review here.

Igor Levit’s Beethoven Cycle

Igor Levit Beethoven Complete Piano Sonatas Sony Classical 24/96 2019

I had several contenders for the last spot on this list. There’s Volodos’ beautiful recording of the Schubert sonata D959 (not yet reviewed), Pichon’s Liberta compilation, several of the great Debussy recordings on Harmonia Mundi (e.g. Faust, or Roth), or Petrenko’s Tchaikovsky Pathétique. But ultimately I ended up choosing this fantastic cycle. I have yet to fully discover in detail every of the 32 sonatas (there’s just so much material), and I don’t think I’ll ever feel fully qualified to review all 32 sonatas in detail.

And I don’t necessarily agree with every single choice of style or particularly tempo. But one this is for sure, this cycle is special, and will make you think. Isn’t this what musical enjoyment is all about?

You’ll find the download links to all of the above in the original reviews.

So, up to you? Do you agree with my choices? Anything I missed?

Author: Musicophile

I'm not a professional musician, I don't work in the music industry, I'm just what the name says, somebody who loves music. I've been in love with music for all of my life, took piano lessons for nearly 10 years, and played in several amateur Jazz groups. I go to concerts, both classical and Jazz, quite regularly. And I collect music previously on vinyl and CDs, now on my computer, and am slightly OCD on my music collection. You can reach me at Musicophile1(AT)gmail.com

7 thoughts on “My Top 5 Classical Albums of 2019”

  1. You’ve made fine choices in a year that seems to have had a lot of duds. Let’s talk piano. Ivo Pogorelich(!) released a Beethoven/Rach album that appears to have been roundly ignored, which is an interesting story by itself. Arcadi Volodos’ and Khatia Buniatishvili’s Schubert records didn’t do it for me, surprising because I’m a big fan of all of these people. And who knows what’s going on at Decca in general. I give them credit for trying, at least.

    On the positive front, however, András Schiff’s Schubert Sonatas & Impromptus (D899, D958, D946, D959) is delightful and worthy of a listen. He brings a great narrative spirit to the music and makes his fortepiano sound intimate or grand at will. This is one of my top five for the year. Great job ECM and Mr. Schiff.

    Jeremy Denk and Olga Scheps also released excellent box-of-chocolates programs that are beautifully played, entitled c.1300-c.2000 and Melody, respectively. Denk’s performance in particular is a nice achievement I think.

    Thank you for your reviews this year! Here’s to 2020. I’ve got tickets to see Isabelle Faust with Freiburg Baroque and I shall certainly think of you.

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  2. Thoughtful choices. Thanks.

    I, too, have been listening to Levit’s set of the Beethoven sonatas, but I haven’t really been able to give them the time and space they deserve yet. I’m planning for this set to be a touchstone for me next year, in the Beethoven anniversary year. I do love Igor Levit, and I’m looking forward to it.

    I also really liked Jeremy Denk’s tour through musical history! It’s not often you see a pianist reaching back to the medieval and renaissance periods, and I found it really interesting to hear that music, which I love, transposed from voices to piano.

    I’m not sold on Savall’s “Messiah”. The choral singing is very good, but I found the soloists less than stellar: some vocal straining, I thought, and some unidiomatic pronunciation of the English. I wasn’t thrilled with the sound either. My two go-to recordings are still Gardiner’s old version and the more recent one from John Butt and the Dunedin Consort.

    Thanks again for the recommendations. I’m wrestling over my favourites of the year too, and may drop a link here when the dust settles. In the meantime, my thanks for the writing you do here on this blog, which I’ve really enjoyed reading this year.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback! I’m now really looking forward to discovering Denk. Regarding the singers of Savall, I hear what you don’t like but it really doesn’t bother me. That said both Gardiner and Butt are excellent in their own ways.

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  3. Hello again. If you’re interested, I’ve settled on a list of my favourite classical albums from last year (or, more accurately, from the past couple of years). Here. Again, many thanks for your thoughtful list. I’ll be making an effort to hear a number of your recommendations.

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