Reviews of the year – critics’ picks



Every December, classical music critics from papers across the world choose their highlights of the year, from favourite performances to top recordings.

Below is a round-up of just a handful of this year’s ‘best classical’ articles.

Recordings of the Year, by Chris O’Reilly (Presto Classical) 

Top 10 Recordings 

Rising Star Award – Eric Lu

“A student of Jonathan Biss and Đặng Thái Sơn, this 20-year-old Chinese-American pianist won the First Prize and Terence Judd Hallé Orchestra Award at The Leeds International Piano Competition in September after holding the audience and jury spellbound from his very first entry in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto in the final; the live recording (issued earlier this month on Warner Classics) testifies to musicianship of immense poise and potential.”

You can watch our interview with Eric below, talking about his musical philosophy, the pianists who have inspired him, and what the future holds:

The 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018 (The New York Times)

“Bernstein mingles elements of Gershwin-esque jazz into the score for his ambitious Second Symphony. But on this recording, to their credit, Mr. Zimerman and Mr. Rattle do not overdo the jazziness. In this gripping track, the jazz piano riffs sound almost like pointillist strands of atonal music.” (Anthony Tommasini) 

Best Classical Music Albums of 2018 (The Times)

Recording of the Year

Destination Rachmaninov: Departure – Daniil Trifonov (piano), Philadelphia Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Deutsche Grammophon)

Other Best Classical Albums of 2018:

“Allan Clayton and Lucy Crowe enchant as the lovers menaced by Neal Davies’s “monster Polypheme” in Handel’s pastoral masterpiece.”

“The Violin Concerto is beautifully interpreted by Alina Ibragimova, with an impassioned andante; the Flute Concerto puts weight on birdsong-like curlicues, but Adam Walker’s superb playing is well able to carry it.”

Listen to The Times full playlist here:

Musical ups and downs in a year of change and challenge (The Irish Times)

Michael Dervan highlights Harry Bicket’s performance of Mozart and Rameau in RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 concert season, also praising Nathalie Stutzmann for “another high-achieving year as the orchestra’s principal guest conductor”. Michael’s festival favourites include Magdalena Kožená’s “fine form” in Rameau and Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Emmanuelle Haïm and her Le Concert d’Astrée in the NCH Chamber Music series, Carolin Widmann’s “refreshing” take on Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with the Irish Chamber Orchestra at Kilkenny Arts Festival, and Robin Tritschler’s performance of French songs at the Westport Chamber Music Festival.

Justin Davidson’s 10 Best Classical-Music Performances (Vulture) 

  • Louis Langrée conducting Leonard Bernstein’s Mass at the Mostly Mozart Festival
  • Sir Simon Rattle makes his debut performance at the Lincoln Center with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducting Mahler’s Tenth Symphony

“After 16 years at the Berlin Philharmonic, Simon Rattle has moved to the London Symphony Orchestra, and the new partners made their Lincoln Center debut with a round of valedictory works. Mahler left his Tenth Symphony unfinished; Rattle, preferring clarity and nuance to hysteria, made an irresistible argument for Deryck Cooke’s completion.”

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