Awards - Discs of the Year 2015 - our top 10

by Chris O'Reilly. 4th December 2015

"Many are called, but few are chosen"... the process of slimming our 100 finalists down to just 10 was not an easy one by any means, but after several rounds of negotiations we managed it.

Here they are - our ten favourites, the recordings that we think are the absolute pinnacle of this year's releases.

You can view our gallery of the winners with their awards here.

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Discs of the Year 2015 - The Winners

Alina Ibragimova, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

JS Bach: Violin Concertos

'Ibragimova’s playing, from the very first entry, is surprisingly sweet-toned; even in the relatively boisterous first movement the instrument constantly sings, and she’s not afraid to let the sustained notes ring out a little... her musical comfort zone seems to know no bounds.'

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Bach, Beethoven, Rzewski

Igor Levit

'Levit's Diabelli Variations brim with exuberance, vitality and often humour, tumbling into one another with unstoppable energy but with such lightning-like shifts of character that the overall experience is exhilarating and exhausting.'

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Brahms: The Hungarian Connection

Andreas Ottensamer and friends

'The rapport between clarinet and strings throughout [the Brahms] is supremely warm and natural...But the real fun comes with the half-dozen companion-pieces...The result is so breathtakingly virtuosic that I laughed out loud the first time I heard it.'

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Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Budapest Festival Orchestra, Iván Fischer

'The sound he draws from his players is rich without being heavy... even when the music peters out into inaudibility at the end somehow that richness still seems to be there, which leaves an aftertaste of serenity rather than of exhausted collapse. If you like your Mahler histrionic and overwrought then this may not be the disc for you – but I found it a mature, sensitive performance throughout.'

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Nessun dorma: The Puccini Album

Jonas Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

'I don't think I can recall another new release which has received quite so much air-time in the Presto office...Puccini's tenor writing is often associated with a rather more 'golden' sound than Kaufmann's essentially coppery one, but once you adjust to that everything's glorious.'

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Also available in deluxe version.

Schubert: Symphony No. 9 in C major 'The Great'

Orchestra Mozart, Claudio Abbado

'There's a freshness and vigour to it that kept me enthralled throughout...Listen to the way Abbado carefully crafts and shapes each bar, helped by some sensitive horn playing...The string sound is really quite beautiful...The oboe solo at the start of the second movement is full of poise and refinement...A delight of a recording'

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Schumann: Das Paradies und die Peri

London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Sir Simon Rattle

'Mark Padmore is in quite extraordinary voice: the hushed passage where he describes the Peri arriving in a plague-stricken land is nothing short of spine-tingling, with an amazingly mournful horn solo, so simple on the page and yet when brought to life by such expert players as the LSO it becomes an astonishingly poignant moment.'

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Shostakovich - Under Stalin's Shadow

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons

'Nelsons’s masterful grasp of the architecture of the work (particularly the epic 20-minute first movement, which almost feels like a symphony in its own right here), the slow-burn climaxes and the searing brass-playing all make their mark, but there’s something quite special going on here which transcends the technical side of things.'

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Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

Pavel Haas Quartet

'[This disc] maintains the astonishingly high standards that we have come to expect from them...Their tone, radiant one moment and poignantly hushed the next, is quite marvellous...With these highly expressive, virtuosic performances, the Pavel Haas Quartet have done it again!'

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Verdi: Aida

Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tezier, Erwin Schrott, Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

'The cast really couldn't be bettered today...Kaufmann's sublime 'Celeste Aida' sets the tone for a recording that's full of fresh insights...But in the final analysis the laurel-wreath must go to Pappano's wonderful Santa Cecilia Orchestra, who capture every facet of the score's astonishing emotional and dynamic range and get right behind their conductor's vision of the opera.'

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Finalists

JS Bach: Mass in B minor

Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner

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JS Bach: St Matthew Passion

Academy of Ancient Music & Choir of the AAM, Richard Egarr

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Berlioz: Harold en Italie

James Ehnes, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

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Donizetti: Les Martyrs

Michael Spyres, Joyce El-Khoury, David Kempster; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Opera Rara Chorus, Sir Mark Elder

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Elgar: King Olaf

Emily Birsan, Barry Banks, Alan Opie; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

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The French Collection

Piotr Beczala, Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Lyon, Alain Altinoglu

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Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

Franco Fagioli, Malin Hartelius, Emmanuelle de Negri; Accentus, Insula Orchestra, Laurence Equilbey

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Gounod: La Colombe

Erin Morley, Javier Camarena, Michèle Losier, Laurent Naouri; Hallé Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder

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Italia

Juan Diego Flórez, Filarmonica Gioachino Rossini, Carlo Tenan

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Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Robin Johannsen, Mari Eriksmoen, Maximilian Schmitt, Dimitry Ivashchenko; Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, René Jacobs

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Mozart: The Weber Sisters - Deluxe version

Sabine Devieilhe, Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon

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My Hero

Greta Bradman, English Chamber Orchestra, Richard Bonynge

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Paris, mon amour

Sonya Yoncheva, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Frederic Chaslin

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Pärt: Tintinnabuli

The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips

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Praetorius

Balthasar-Neumann-Chor-und-Ensemble, Pablo Heras-Casado

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Prokofiev & Shostakovich: Cello Concertos

Steven Isserlis, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

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Puccini: La fanciulla del West (DVD)

Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Tomasz Konieczny; Orchester & Chor der Wiener Staatoper, Franz Welser-Most

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Puccini: La fanciulla del West (Blu-ray)

Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Tomasz Konieczny; Orchester & Chor der Wiener Staatoper, Franz Welser-Most

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Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album (standard version)

Jonas Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

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Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album (deluxe version)

Jonas Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

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Nessun Dorma: The Puccini Album (vinyl version)

Jonas Kaufmann, Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Antonio Pappano

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Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé & La Valse

Orchestre et Choeur de l'Opéra National de Paris, Philippe Jordan

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Rossini: Guillaume Tell (DVD)

Nicola Alaima, Marina Rebeka, Juan Diego Flórez; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Michele Mariotti

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Rossini: Guillaume Tell (Blu-ray)

Nicola Alaima, Marina Rebeka, Juan Diego Flórez; Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Michele Mariotti

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Scriabin: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko

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Shostakovich: Cantatas

Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Narva Boys Choir & Estonian Concert Choir, Paavo Järvi

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Joby Talbot: The Winter's Tale (DVD)

Edward Watson, Sarah Lamb, Zenaida Yanowsky, Steven McRae; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, David Briskin

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Joby Talbot: The Winter's Tale (Blu-ray)

Edward Watson, Sarah Lamb, Zenaida Yanowsky, Steven McRae; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, David Briskin

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Tchaikovsky & Prokofiev: Piano Concertos

Kirill Gerstein, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, James Gaffigan

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Tchaikovsky: Iolanta

Anna Netrebko, Sergey Skorokhodov, Alexey Markov, Vitalij Kowaljow; Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Emmanuel Villaume

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Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (DVD)

Natalia Osipova, Matthew Golding,Elizabeth McGorian; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House & The Royal Ballet, Boris Gruzin

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Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake (Blu-ray)

Natalia Osipova, Matthew Golding,Elizabeth McGorian; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House & The Royal Ballet, Boris Gruzin

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Verdi: Aida

Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tezier; Orchestra e Coro dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma, Antonio Pappano

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Verdi: Macbeth (DVD)

Željko Luèiæ, Anna Netrebko, Joseph Calleja, René Pape; Metropolitan Opera, Fabio Luisi

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Verdi: Macbeth (Blu-ray)

Željko Luèiæ, Anna Netrebko, Joseph Calleja, René Pape; Metropolitan Opera, Fabio Luisi

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Leonardo Vinci: Catone in Utica

Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli, Valer Sabadus, Juan Sancho; Il Pomo d'Oro, Riccardo Minasi

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Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)

Bryn Terfel, Anja Kampe, Matti Salminen, Marco Jentzsch; Philharmonia Zurich, Alain Altinoglu

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Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer (Blu-ray)

Bryn Terfel, Anja Kampe, Matti Salminen, Marco Jentzsch; Philharmonia Zurich, Alain Altinoglu

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Wagner: Das Rheingold

Matthias Goerne, Kim Begley, Michelle DeYoung, Peter Sidhom; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden

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Wagner: Das Rheingold

Matthias Goerne, Kim Begley, Michelle DeYoung, Peter Sidhom; Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden

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