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 Awards  Gramophone Awards 2015: Finalists

Gramophone Awards 2015: FinalistsThe 2015 Gramophone Awards are now just a month away, and we're pleased to present the top three discs which will be battling it out in each of the 12 categories.

The category winners will be announced on 27th August, in advance of the 17th September Awards Ceremony at St John's Smith Square where we will find out the overall Record of the Year as well as the other special awards.

Baroque Instrumental

JS Bach: Cello Suites

David Watkin

"Watkin's profound musicianship is more than enough to accelerate this recording of Bach's Cello Suites to the top of the tiny league of 'definitive' recordings..it's as if all the work that Watkin has ever done on these pieces has been absorbed absolutely and then reproduced in a performance that is able to be completely original in its voice."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Mahan Esfahani

Rameau: Pièces de clavecin

"a key factor in determining the longevity of an interpretation is the degree to which the performer succeeds in characterising the music and, on this point alone, top marks must go to Mahan Esfahani, who seems always to have its measure and brings unfailing wit, affection, fluency and pacing to his interpretations. "

Available Format: CD

Vivaldi: L'estro armonico - 12 concerti, Op. 3

Rachel Podger, Brecon Baroque

"There is plenty of detail, but it is natural and never fussy, and ornamentation is always clever, sometimes humorous, often delightful...What really shoots this recording straight to the top of the pile, however, is the sheer joy of it, the spontaneity and the tireless, surging musical energy of its many sudden feints and sallies."

Available Format: SACD

Baroque Vocal

JS Bach: Mass in B minor

Lydia Teuscher, Ida Falk Winland, Tim Mead, Samuel Boden, Neal Davies, Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen

"Cohen's rejection of the generic, within a grand and ravishing overview, is what propels an overwhelming sense here that this reading deserves to be taken very seriously...The work infrequently speaks with such gracefulness, freedom or conviction."

Available Format: CD

Charpentier: La couronne de fleurs & La descente d'Orphée aux enfers

Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra & Chorus, Paul O'Dette & Stephen Stubbs

"Sheehan, who sings the role of Orpheus, [delivers] a finely nuanced interpretation...Amanda Forsythe is a charming Euridice and Roselie, Teresa Wakim a beautifully styled Flore, and Dorothee Mields a compelling Amaranthe and Proserpine."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Monteverdi: Vespri solenni per la festa di San Marco

Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini

"The resonant yet exquisitely transparent acoustic weaves its spellbinding magic on the single voices and accomplished instrumentalists of Concerto Italiano...Much of the music-making has perfect conversational qualities...Concerto Italiano's distinguished performances constitute their most essential Monteverdian work in donkey's years."

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Chamber

Brahms: Clarinet Quintet

Martin Fröst, Janine Jansen, Boris Brovtsyn, Maxim Rysanov, Torleif Thedéen, Roland Pöntinen

"Sensuous beauty and taut sinew mingle for an interpretation whose fastidious attention to internal balance and every musical detail result in sovereign excellence, in a sovereign recording. Fröst's control instrumental colour is superfine, intensity of phrases shaped through swell and diminution of sound."

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Haydn: String Quartets, Vol. 1

Doric String Quartet

"Thoughtfulness is uppermost. Allied to precision in articulation is a flexibility in the scansion and shaping of phrases, of notes timed through a remarkable understanding of rubato, of a range of expressive resilience that gives even the smallest of episodes in a long line their own character without distorting structure or disturbing flow."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Smetana: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2

Pavel Haas Quartet

"The PHQ understand absolutely the plasticity of Smetana’s vision and convey it unerringly, unshrinkingly – and in some ways even more convincingly than the Talich, which is saying something. This is extraordinarily bold playing – and they truly capture the sense that Smetana is writing symphonic quartet music."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Choral

Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius & Sea Pictures

Stuart Skelton, Sarah Connolly, David Soar, BBC Symphony Chorus & BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

"[Davis's] patient and scrupulously observant conception of the whole work evinces a selfless authority, wisdom and instinctive ebb and flow...Skelton's stamina, dramatic range and ringing, Vickers-like tone are a tremendous asset...Arguably best of all, though, is Sarah Connolly, who brings a deeply affecting radiance, sense of wonder and intelligence to everything."

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Haydn: The Seasons

Christina Landshamer, Maximilian Schmitt & Florian Boesch, Collegium Vocale Gent & Orchestre des Champs-Elysees, Philippe Herreweghe

"Landshamer, pure and luminous of tone, sings this with an ideal mix of grace and wondering innocence...Boesch makes a genially relaxed Simon, singing the ploughman's song and shooting aria with unforced relish...Herreweghe and his forces do eloquent justice to the poetry, grandeur and, crucially, the sheer joy of this least solemn, most life-affirming of oratorios."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Howells: Stabat Mater

Alison Hill, Benjamin Hulett, The Bach Choir & Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, David Hill

"Though there is much emotional turbulence in this music, Hill maintains a compelling life and forward momentum in Howells's immensely contrapuntal score...The Bach Choir has a palpable vibrancy in its range and layers of dynamics which are complemented by the extensive and highly sensitive palette of Howells's orchestra."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Concerto

The Beethoven Journey: Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 4

Leif Ove Andsnes, Mahler Chamber Orchestra

"Andsnes has two great assets: a highly reactive chamber orchestra of the first rank and a acumen as a Mozartian that stands him in good stead...such is the clarity of detail that I find myself noticing details I've never heard before...Another extraordinary achievement from all concerned, sound engineers included."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Maria João Pires, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Harding

"Never for a moment does she over-reach herself or force pace and sonority...Few pianists have ever been more true to their own lights and it is hardly surprising that her many performances of this concerto in London and elsewhere have become the stuff of legends...It is my dearest wish that this will become a complete cycle."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Dvorak: Cello Concerto

Alisa Weilerstein, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiří Bělohlávek

"Not only does Weilerstein possess a flawless technical address, lustrous tone-production and intrepid range of dynamic, her playing evinces a captivating candour and risk-taking flair that not only succeed in activating the goosebumps (always a good sign) but also make you hear the music with fresh ears."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Contemporary

Harrison Birtwistle: Chamber Music

Lisa Batiashvili, Adrian Brendel, Till Fellner, Amy Freston, Roderick Williams

"There are a dozen of [Niedecker's poems] here to which Birtwistle responds with great refinement of sound and procedure...Roderick Williams is very fine in Bogenstrich and the three instrumentalists, quite closely recorded, are in a class any composer would die for."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Unsuk Chin: Three Concertos

Sunwook Kim, Alban Gerhardt, Wu Wei, Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Myung-Whun Chung

"Chin is one of the best contemporary exponents of purely instrumental music drama, and these concertos provide absorbing listening...The music inevitably acquires a ritualistic aura but there is also plenty of visceral excitement in a performance that is supremely well integrated and no less well recorded. A highly successful CD."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Per Nørgård: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 8

Vienna Philharmonic, Sakari Oramo

"The premiere recording of Nørgård’s latest symphony is a rewarding listen, the Vienna Philharmonic bringing their perfection to his fascinating and attractive sound world."

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Early Music

Adoramus Te

Clare Wilkinson, The Rose Consort of Viols

"These are impressive interpretations. The Rose Consort's tone is placid and soft-centred but they cope very well with energetic passagework. This isn't faint praise...Clare Wilkinson turns in perhaps the finest performances I can remember from her in this repertory."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Au Sainct Nau

Ensemble Clément Janequin, Dominique Visse

"The ensemble continues to do what it does best but retains a freshness and questing spirit that sometimes eludes groups of comparable vintage, a sense of joyous music-making that marked them out from the start and which they've never lost. It was utterly infectious then, and it still is."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

The Spy’s Choirbook

Alamire & English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, David Skinner

"34 four-voice motets from the first decade of the century by French and Franco-Flemish composers, giving a magnificent panorama of the repertory. Most of them have never been recorded before. Most of the music is performed by mixed voices alone, a small group sounding gorgeous throughout."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Instrumental

JS Bach: English Suites Nos. 1, 3 & 5

Piotr Anderszewski

"Simply glorious...To start with, there's the sense of sharing the sheer physical thrill of Bach's keyboard-writing....And at every turn, he harnesses the possibilities of the piano in the service of Bach; the result is a clear labour of love...Anderszewski's CDs are all too infrequent, so let's cherish this one."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Dances

Benjamin Grosvenor

"performances that are carried forwards on an irresistable tide of youthful exuberance...there is a sense of joyful release, of music-making free from all constraint...Grosvenor may well be the most remarkable young pianist of our time...this is a disc to prompt wonder and delight in equal measure."

Available Format: CD

The Salzburg Recital 2008

Grigory Sokolov

"It's an overused word, but he is inimitable. His Chopin Preludes, for example, have no time for the notion of a freely Romantic melodic line being kept in check by a Classical accompaniment...The Mozart is treasurable too, though - of course - you have to take it on its own terms."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Opera

Britten: Death in Venice

John Graham-Hall, Andrew Shore, Tim Mead, English National Opera, Edward Gardner

"[Graham-Hall ] is parsimonious with the opera’s vocal beauty (the recitatives are invariably more telling than the passages of arioso) but he has stamina, clear words and the ability to penetrate to the heart of the role...No other performance on DVD has presented the psychological dilemma posed by Thomas Mann and Britten with such intensity."

Available Format: DVD Video

Strauss: Elektra

Evelyn Herlitzius, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, Orchestre de Paris, Esa-Pekka Salonen

"It is Herlitzius's performance and the finely detailed, well-balanced conducting of Esa-Pekka Salonen...that are the main selling points...One of Chereau's innovations is to have Klytemnestra played relatively straight, rather than as the neurosis-addled monster she can be...Pieczonka is a terrific Chrysothemis, tearing into the role with luscious tone that thins only occasionally."

Available Format: DVD Video

Wagner: Parsifal

Jonas Kaufmann, Katarina Dalayman, Peter Mattei, René Pape, Metropolitan Opera, Daniele Gatti

"The orchestral sound is consistently rich and resonant...The impassioned intensity Jonas Kaufmann brings to Parsifal's music is matched by the rhetorical conviction of Peter Mattei's Amfortas and Evgeny Nikitin's Klingsor...This is very much Wagner for the 21st century."

Available Format: DVD Video

Orchestral

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9

Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

"I’d say that overall the new version is the more affectionately played, the earlier one bolder, with a more impressive yield of tonal power...Abbado in Lucerne radiates clarity, wisdom and vision, qualities that over the years one had come to expect of him."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Sibelius: Complete Symphonies

BBC Philharmonic, John Storgårds

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Vaughan Williams: Orchestral Works

Hallé, Sir Mark Elder

"the finest volume yet in Sir Mark Elder's unfolding Vaughan Williams cycle...Abetted by uncommonly articulate orchestral playing, the performance of the Pastoral Symphony evinces a glowing dedication, remarkable luminosity of texture, songful rapture and emotional clout that mark it out as a front-runner...A marvellous disc."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Recital

A French Baroque Diva: Arias for Marie Fel

Carolyn Sampson, Ex Cathedra, Jeffrey Skidmore

"this is a programme that pleases as much today as it did in [Fel's]...the longer we listen to Sampson's voice, the more she seems to inhabit the aura of Fel...Sampson's performance is the more admirable for evoking the spirit of another singer. Start to finish, Jeffrey Skidmore devotedly shapes and paces the programme."

Available Format: CD

Stella di Napoli: Bel Canto Arias

Joyce DiDonato, Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Lyon, Riccardo Minasi

"warm tone, perfect control, a deeply sympathetic portrayal [of Maria Stuarda]. The finale of Zelmira provides DiDonato with the opportunity of showing off her brilliantly executed coloratura, while her mezza voce at the start of Romeo's farewell to the supposedly dead Juliet in Bellini's opera is sustained to perfection."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Semiramide - La Signora Regale

Anna Bonitatibus, Accademia degli Astrusi, Federico Ferri

"There is much coloratura and here, as elsewhere, Anna Bonitatibus is spot-on...This set, sumptuously illustrated, is an absolute must-have."

Available Format: CD

Solo vocal

Mahler: Orchestral Songs

Christian Gerhaher, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, Kent Nagano

"Gerhaher combines vocal beauty and acute sensitivity to verbal and musical nuance with a certain patrician restraint...The Montreal orchestra (superlative wind solos) match the baritone in their sentient, compassionate playing, while Nagano keeps textures lucid...one of the finest baritone versions of these cycles since Fischer-Dieskau."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Nachtviolen: Schubert Lieder

Christian Gerhaher, Gerold Huber

"With his lyric high baritone at its freest, Gerhaher has the uncommon gift of making everything alive, specific, while always sounding natural...a superlative recital by a singer who for vocal beauty, poetic insight and expressive immediacy is surely unsurpassed in Lieder today."

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Fleurs

Carolyn Sampson & Joseph Middleton

"Sampson vividly suggests the mounting erotic excitement of 'Sweeter than roses'...But with hints of deeper colours in her vernal soprano, she is hardly less persuasive in Romantic songs...Middleton creates limpid, luminous textures...an imaginatively planned, beautifully executed recital that charms and touches by turns."

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC