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The AllMusic 2021

Year In Review

The world of classical instrumental music received many welcome new additions this year, including a collection of Parisian compositions performed by Hilary Hahn (pictured), Spanish, Italian, and Argentine guitar works from Krzysztof Meisinger, and a thrilling Beethoven's Ninth from Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Akademie für Alte Musik, Berlin

Mozart: Gran Partita - Wind Serenades K. 361 & 375

A rare historically-oriented performance of Mozart's big partitas shows the possibilities of authentic instruments in this repertory.

Alina Ibragimova

Paganini: 24 Caprices

A superb set of Paganini Caprices, recorded during the coronavirus pandemic, manages to be inward despite all of the fireworks.

Andris Nelsons / Boston Symphony Orchestra

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 1, 14 & 15; Chamber Symphony in C minor

This volume of Nelsons' Shostakovich survey with the Boston Symphony explores music from opposite ends of the composer's life.

András Schiff / Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

Johannes Brahms: Piano Concertos

Historically oriented Brahms piano concertos from Schiff are often revelatory.

Arcadia Quartet

Weinberg, Vol. 1: String Quartets Nos. 2, 5, and 8

The first release in a new cycle captures Weinberg's debt to Shostakovich and, perhaps, the reverse influence.

Christopher Herrick

Northern Lights: Organ of Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway

A delightful, exciting recital from a cathedral organ in northern Norway.

Ehnes Quartet

Beethoven: String Quartet No. 12 Op. 127; String Quartet No. 14 Op. 131

Rich, expressive late Beethoven that emphasizes the futuristic quality of the music.

Emmanuelle Bertrand / Pascal Amoyel

Brahms: Sonatas & Liebeslieder for Cello and Piano

Absolutely lovely Brahms in a melody-oriented style celebrates the long artistic partnership of cellist Bertrand and pianist Amoyel.

Ferenc Snétberger / Keller Quartet


A unique program of music that revolves around works by guitarist Ferenc Snétberger, powerfully executed.

Gidon Kremer / Madara Petersone / Daniele Gatti / Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Violin Concerto; Sonata for Two Violins

A major statement in violinist Kremer's long career of championing Weinberg's music.

Hilary Hahn / Mikko Franck / Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France


An extraordinary outing from Hahn, not stereotypically Parisian but Parisian nonetheless.

Igor Levit


Beautifully shaped Shostakovich Preludes & Fugues, paired with Ronald Stevenson's epic tribute Passacaglia on DSCH.

Indre Petrauskaite

Mozart: Solo Piano Works

An exceptionally absorbing collection of Mozart piano works in minor keys, with a strong Beethovenian flavor.

Isabelle Faust / Alexander Melnikov / Jean-Guihen Queyras / Freiburger Barockorchester / Pablo Heras-Casado

Beethoven: Triple Concerto; Piano Trio Op. 36 (Symphony No. 2)

A splendid historically oriented Beethoven performances with touches of the humor that is so often missed in his music.

Isabelle Faust / Alexander Melnikov

Mozart: Sonatas for Fortepiano & Violin, Vol. 3

Superb ensemble work from Faust and Melnikov in this historical-instrument reading of Mozart's mature violin sonatas.

James Ehnes

Ysaÿe: Sonatas for Solo Violin

A superb traversal of the technically brutal Ysaÿe sonatas for solo violin, recorded in Ehnes' home.

Jean Rondeau

Melancholy Grace

A bold, compelling release by a young harpsichordist that focuses on two Renaissance conceptions of melancholy.

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

Haydn: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 9

An especially exuberant item in Bavouzet's superb Haydn sonata cycle.

John Wilson / Sinfonia of London

English Music for Strings: Britten, Bliss, Bridge, Berkeley

Works close to each other in time display an astonishing range of instrumental sound and mood.

Julian Bliss / James Baillieu

Johannes Brahms: Clarinet Sonatas Op. 120; 4 Ernste Gesänge, Op. 121

A wonderfully sensitive traversal of the Brahms clarinet sonatas, with Bliss' arrangement of the Four Serious Songs.

Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective

American Quintets: Amy Beach, Florence Price, Samuel Barber

Little-known and worthy chamber works by women composers frame a fine recording of Barber's Dover Beach.

Klenke-Quartett / Nicola Jürgensen / Stephan Katte

Mozart: Clarinet Quintet; Horn Quintet

A lovely, perfectly balanced performance of these quintets on historical-style instruments.

Krzysztof Meisinger

Elogio de la Guitarra

An exceptionally virtuosic album of Spanish, Italian, and Argentine guitar works satisfies with commanding presence.

Lan Shui / Singapore Symphony Orchestra

Russian Spectacular: Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Borodin

Album of Russian favorites in the classic mold marks the full coming of age of the Singapore Symphony.

Lise Davidsen / Edward Gardner / Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra

Sibelius: Luonnotar; Tapiola; Spring Song

Beautifully etched Sibelius, with a star turn by soprano Davidsen.

Manfred Honeck / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9

A fresh, kinetic, and thrilling Beethoven's Ninth from Honeck and his increasingly well-drilled Pittsburghers.

Metamorphosen Berlin / Wolfgang Emanuel Schmidt

Very British: Elgar, Britten, Warlock, Jenkins

A program of music from Great Britain by the Metamorphosen Berlin, featuring recording premieres of arrangements by the group's conductor.

Michael Waldrop

Time Frames

Michael Waldrop's fourth album features the marimba in a fusion of chamber music and jazz.

Michelle DeYoung / Brian Jagde / Liping Zhang / Long Yu / Shanghai Symphony Orchestra / Shenyang

Gustav Mahler, Xiaogang Ye: The Song of the Earth

A worthy "Song of the Earth" paired with a contemporary Chinese setting of the same poems in Mandarin.

Olivier Latry

Liszt: Inspirations

An extraordinary realization of Liszt's rather neglected organ works on the new instrument at the Philharmonie de Paris.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra / Brad Mehldau

Variations on a Melancholy Theme

The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Brad Mehldau perform a colorful arrangement of “Variations on a Melancholy Theme.”

Parker Quartet / Kim Kashkashian

Kurtág: Six Moments Musicaux; Officium Breve; Dvořák: String Quintet Op. 97

A chamber program shot through with memorials and mentorship, with a superb performance of Dvořák's String Quintet, Op. 97.

Renaud Capuçon / Bertrand Chamayou / Edgar Moreau

Saint-Saëns: Sonates & Trio

Well-acquainted players bring out the sparkling melodies and fresh formal ideas of Saint-Saëns' chamber music.

Robert Trevino / Euskadiko Orkestra Sinfonikoa

Americascapes: Loeffler, Ruggles, Cowell, Hanson

Virtually unknown pieces of symphonic Americana turn out to be lively and contemporary in the hands of conductor Trevino.

Sonya Bach

Rachmaninov: Piano Sonata No. 2; Preludes Op. 23 Nos. 4, 5 & 6; Moments Musicaux Op. 16/1-6

A splendid, variegated Rachmaninov recital from a pianist in the classic Russian school.

Steven Isserlis / Connie Shih

Music from Proust's Salons

Beautifully performed thematic album by Isserlis goes beyond superficial connections.

Sueye Park

Journey Through a Century

A virtuosic survey of mostly 20th century solo violin works, brilliantly performed by Park.

Théotime Langlois de Swarte / William Christie

Générations: Senaillé, LeClair - Sonates pour violon et clavecin

Marvelous "generations" of Baroque music performance, with fascinating sonatas of little-known composer Senaillé.

Vadim Repin / Andris Nelsons / Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra

Sofia Gubaidulina: Dialog: Ich und du; The Wrath of God; The Light of the End

Nelsons and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig celebrate Gubaidulina's 90th birthday with rousing performances of three later-life works.

Valencia Baryton Project

Haydn: Baryton Trios - Treasures from the Esterháza Palace

A superb recording by the Valencia Baryton Project of Haydn's rarely heard baryton trios.

Various Artists

Nino Rota: Chamber Music [Alpha]

Gorgeous rediscoveries of little-known chamber music by Rota from a group of crack Berlin Philharmonic players.

Various Artists

Kalevi Aho: Solo, Vol. 1

The inaugural volume of BIS' survey of Aho's Solo compositions offers a welcome look at these complex works.

Viktoria Mullova / Alasdair Beatson

Beethoven: Sonatas 4, 5 & 7

Extraordinary Beethoven violin sonatas, animated not only by deep, pandemic-era reflections but by a new edition of the music.

Vladimir Jurowski / Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra

Strauss: Eine Alpensinfonie

Excellent sound engineering captures the brilliant orchestration of Strauss' epic Alpensinfonie.

Vladimir Jurowski / Judith Howarth / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Anne Schwanewilms

Mahler: Symphony No. 8 'Symphony of a Thousand'

Gigantic performance, even by the standards of the "Symphony of a Thousand," brings tremendous excitement and transcendence.

William Youn

Schubert: Piano Sonatas II

Quiet, detailed Schubert sonatas capture many subtle structural touches and internal connections.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin / Philadelphia Orchestra

Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 1; Symphonic Dances

Rachmaninov's First by Nézet-Séguin honors the long Philadelphia Rachmaninov tradition while adding a fresh outlook.

Yeol Eum Son


A much-needed overview of music by this unique Russian composer who fused jazz and classical music.

Yo-Yo Ma / Emanuel Ax

Hope Amid Tears: Beethoven Cello Sonatas

Late-career mastery from Ma and Ax brings a delightful sense of meditative conversation and deep structural insight.

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Orpheus Chamber Orchestra