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The 25 best classical music tracks of 2022

Andy Akiho: ‘Pillar III’

“Seven Pillars”; Sandbox Percussion (Aki
Rhythm Productions)

A lush, brooding celebration of noise,
“Seven Pillars” is the sprawling result of a deep collaboration between a
composer and a percussion quartet. Mixing antsy chimes and a low-slung beat
below, “Pillar III” builds in force before collapsing in ferocious shudders,
explosions and shivers — and an ominous lullaby coda. — ZACHARY WOOLFE

CPE Bach: Rondo in D minor

“Mozart and Contemporaries”; Vikingur
Olafsson, piano (Deutsche Grammophon)

Pianist Vikingur Olafsson has released
another fascinating album, this one offering works by Mozart alongside pieces
by his contemporaries Domenico Cimarosa, Baldassare Galuppi, Haydn and Carl
Philipp Emanuel Bach. Olafsson’s lucid and intense account of this Bach rondo
is especially exhilarating. — ANTHONY TOMMASINI

JS Bach: Fugue in D sharp minor

“Well-Tempered Clavier”; Piotr
Anderszewski, piano (Warner Classics)

Piotr Anderszewski’s strange, ultimately
satisfying selection of half the preludes and fugues from Book Two of “The
Well-Tempered Clavier” might well be one of the great Bach recordings — in no
way more so than in the psychological depths it charts in the slowest of its
fugues. Anderszewski’s is playing of almost heroic concentration, and profound
humanity. — DAVID ALLEN

Bartok: ‘Oh! Viragok! Oh! Illatos kert!’

“Bluebeard’s Castle”; Szilvia Voros,
mezzo-soprano; Mika Kares, bass; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra; Susanna
Malkki, conductor (Bis)

A tour of Bluebeard’s home is the stuff
of HGTV nightmares. His new wife, Judith, should beware what lies behind each
locked door but fatefully insists on opening them. The fourth reveals a secret
garden — rendered vividly in this recording, a master class in orchestral
colouring and texture. Because the tension never truly slackens in Susanna
Malkki’s interpretation, even a moment of fleeting beauty is shaded with
nervous anticipation. — JOSHUA BARONE

Amy Beach: ‘By the Still Waters’

“Summertime”; Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano
(Decca)

There’s suave Gershwin on Isata
Kanneh-Mason’s most recent album, as well as elegant Samuel Barber and moving
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, including a heated yet heartbreakingly dignified “Deep
River.” But Amy Beach’s “By the Still Waters” was new to me, and Kanneh-Mason
makes of it a dreamy, unhurried little masterpiece. — ZACHARY WOOLFE

Brahms: Symphony No. 4, Allegro giocoso

“Brahms/MacMillan”; Pittsburgh Symphony
Orchestra; Manfred Honeck, conductor (Reference Recordings)

After a bland Tchaikovsky Fourth and a
finicky Beethoven Ninth, I had started to wonder whether Manfred Honeck and the
Pittsburgh Symphony were getting a little too invested in their innovative
approach to the canonical repertoire for their own good. This furious Brahms
Fourth dispels those doubts; at times, the orchestral playing is barely
believable. — DAVID ALLEN

Christopher Cerrone: ‘I Will Learn How
to Love a Person and Then I Will Teach You and Then We Will Know’

“The Arching Path”; Timo Andres, piano;
Lindsay Kesselman, soprano; Ian Rosenbaum, percussion; Mingzhe Wang, clarinet
(In a Circle)

In his song cycle “I Will Learn to Love
a Person,” Christopher Cerrone combines minimalism and a casually profane
confessional text by Tao Lin, initially suggesting a certain ironic detachment.
But then Lindsay Kesselman’s anguish wells forth, spilling over the song’s
brim. As in much of Cerrone’s best work, this unraveling is too exposed to be
blasé and turns the piece into a genuine weeper, worthy of early opera. — SETH
COLTER WALLS

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Debussy: ‘En Bateau’

“French Duets”; Steven Osborne and Paul
Lewis, pianos (Hyperion)

At first glance, this album of four-hand
piano pieces might seem like a middlebrow lark coming from two pianists capable
of — and known for — much more difficulty and depth. But it’s one of the year’s
most disarmingly lovely recordings, elevating amateur-level scores like
Debussy’s Petite Suite with unwavering sensitivity and grace. — JOSHUA BARONE

Philip Glass: ‘Evening Song’

“Satyagraha”; Richard Croft, tenor;
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Dante Anzolini, conductor (Orange Mountain Music)

For more than a decade, you had to trust
the people who said that Phelim McDermott’s production of “Satyagraha” was one
of the best things at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this century. Now we
have proof in this, the first complete recording of the work — captured in 2011
and finally released — whose ending exemplifies Philip Glass’ operatic writing
at its finest: mysterious, meditative, endless beauty. — JOSHUA BARONE

Charlotte Greve: ‘Sediments We Move,’
Part II

“Sediments We Move”; Wood River; Cantus
Domus (New Amsterdam Records)

This ambitious suite from saxophonist
and composer Charlotte Greve contains guitar parts that might appeal to fans of
jazz musician Nels Cline. And its choral writing should excite devotees of
Roomful of Teeth. Yet it’s the effortless feel of Greve’s fusion that feels
most notable — and capable of creating new audiences of its own. — SETH COLTER
WALLS

Handel: ‘Tu del ciel ministro eletto’

“Bach/Handel”; Sabine Devieilhe,
soprano; Pygmalion; Raphaël Pichon, conductor (Erato)

Time seems to stand still when Bellezza
— Beauty — cleanses herself of “faithless yearning” and “vain passion” as she
peers toward God at the end of Handel’s “Il Trionfo del Tempo e del
Disinganno.” It’s a moment that Sabine Devieilhe sings with apt simplicity, as
lutenist Thomas Dunford, violinist Sophie Gent and conductor Raphaël Pichon
cast a spell around her, as if to lift her heavenward. — DAVID ALLEN

Sigismondo d’India: ‘Io viddi in terra
angelici costumi’

“Lamenti e Sospiri”; Julie Roset,
soprano; Cappella Mediterranea; Leonardo García Alarcón, director (Ricercar)

At the dawn of the 17th century,
composer Sigismondo d’India was a master of intimate chamber madrigals of
luminous clarity, unexpected harmonies and startling evocations of emotional
extremity. In “Io viddi in terra angelici costumi,” a setting of Petrarch, both
the piece and soprano Julie Roset’s performance on a new d’India compilation
reach hypnotic heights. — ZACHARY WOOLFE

Nikolai Kapustin: Piano Concerto No. 4

“Kapustin: Orchestral Works”; Frank
Dupree, piano; Württemberg Chamber Orchestra; Case Scaglione, conductor
(Capriccio)

Star pianists have long championed the
piano solos of Nikolai Kapustin, a jazz-inspired Russian maverick. But we
haven’t had many recordings of his concertos for the instrument. Frank Dupree
offered redress this year, with a fizzy, addictive performance of the Fourth.
The performance was a reminder of the productive (if underexplored) sway
American jazz has had over global classical culture. — SETH COLTER WALLS

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Liszt: Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad Salutarem Undam’

“Jeanne Demessieux: The Decca Legacy”;
Jeanne Demessieux, organ (Eloquence)

Archival releases have proceeded
unabated this year, as record companies continue to mine their catalogs in the
name of more or less worthy causes. Jeanne Demessieux is certainly the former,
an organist of staggering ability whose reputation unfairly dimmed after her
untimely death in 1968. This Liszt, from 1952, is ample proof of her talents, a
ferocious assault on a work of frightening difficulty, yielding intensely musical
results. — DAVID ALLEN

Liszt: ‘Der König von Thule’

“Freudvoll und Leidvoll”; Jonas
Kaufmann, tenor; Helmut Deutsch, piano (Sony Classical)

In recent years charismatic,
smoky-voiced Jonas Kaufmann has been in demand as a heldentenor in roles now
including Wagner’s Tristan. But on this marvelous album, with fine pianist
Helmut Deutsch, devoted to Liszt’s imaginative (and still-neglected) songs,
Kaufmann is often in his more tender, intimate mode, as in his alluring
performance of “Der König von Thule.” — ANTHONY TOMMASINI

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22, Allegro

“Mozart Momentum: 1785”; Leif Ove
Andsnes, piano; Mahler Chamber Orchestra (Sony Classical)

On this fascinating album, pianist Leif
Ove Andsnes presents works that Mozart wrote during the artistically
transformative year of 1785, including three piano concertos, a piano quartet
and other scores. This spirited and crisp yet elegant account of the finale
from the Concerto No. 22 may be my favorite track. — ANTHONY TOMMASINI

Angélica Negrón: ‘Cooper and Emma’

“Alone Together”; Jennifer Koh, violin
(Cedille)

When the pandemic made in-person
performances impossible, superb violinist Jennifer Koh began an inspiring
project to commission short solos, which she premiered online from her New York
apartment. “Alone Together” offers the results: 39 strikingly diverse pieces,
among them Angélica Negrón’s playful, inventive “Cooper and Emma.” — ANTHONY
TOMMASINI

Salieri: ‘Dilegua il tuo timore’

“Armida”; Les Talens Lyriques;
Christophe Rousset, conductor; Lenneke Ruiten and Florie Valiquette, sopranos;
Choeur de Chambre de Namur (Aparté)

In Salieri’s opera “Armida,” given a
taut, elegant recording this year, the two lovers — Armida, a sorceress of
Damascus, and enraptured Christian crusader Rinaldo — are both sopranos, which
lends a “Rosenkavalier” feel to their early idyll. This duet shows both their
passion and their mutual suspicion as their spell begins to break. — ZACHARY
WOOLFE

David Sanford: ‘Subtraf’

“A Prayer for Lester Bowie”; David
Sanford Big Band (Greenleaf Music)

Aside from writing chamber and
orchestral music, David Sanford also runs a big band. That group’s latest
release reveals some of Sanford’s current enthusiasms. On this track, a
strangled-gasp sound reminiscent of Helmut Lachenmann’s music provides some
initial kindling. Later, the bonfire climax is indebted to the experimentalism
of Miles Davis circa “Agharta.” — SETH COLTER WALLS

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Kamala Sankaram: ‘Ololyga’

“Resonant Bodies”; Kamala Sankaram,
voice (New Focus Recordings)

From 2013-19, the Resonant Bodies
Festival explored experimental vocal music at the start of each New York fall
season. The use of electronics — as canvas for, and distortion of, the voices —
was widespread. Texts were far rarer than squawks, moans, clicks and wails. The
prevailing style was agile expressionism, as in this 2017 piece by Kamala
Sankaram, a highlight of a memorable compendium of festival highlights. —
ZACHARY WOOLFE

Schumann: ‘Requiem’

“Schumann: Alle Lieder”; Christian
Gerhaher, baritone; Gerold Huber, piano (Sony Classical)

If there is a finer match of musician
and composer than Christian Gerhaher and Robert Schumann, I would be surprised.
The 11-disc box from which this track comes fulfills Gerhaher’s mission to
record the complete songs of his idol, and it ends with this “Requiem,” a song
“so full of feeling, a coming-together of spirituality and sensuality,” as the
baritone has put it. It is the perfect demonstration of Gerhaher’s surpassing
art. — DAVID ALLEN

Shostakovich: Prelude No. 14 in E flat
minor

“On DSCH”; Igor Levit, piano (Sony
Classical)

The latest essential release from
formidable pianist Igor Levit is a three-disc album pairing commanding accounts
of Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues with Scottish composer Ronald
Stevenson’s daunting, fantastical “Passacaglia on DSCH,” a 90-minute suite
paying homage to Shostakovich. Listen to Levit’s probing performance of this
fugue, and you will want to hear them all. — ANTHONY TOMMASINI

Gabriella Smith: ‘Bard of a Wasteland’

“Lost Coast”; Gabriella Smith and
Gabriel Cabezas (Bedroom Community)

This radio-ready opener to Gabriella
Smith and Gabriel Cabezas’ album “Lost Coast” is difficult to categorise. Art
song, political anthem, pop — all or none of the above? Regardless, it’s a work
of affecting counterpoint: the rage that accumulates in the layered sounds of
Cabezas’ extended cello technique against the resignation of Smith’s elegiac
vocals. — JOSHUA BARONE

Tyshawn Sorey: ‘For George Lewis’

“For George Lewis/Autoschediasms”; Alarm
Will Sound (Cantaloupe Music)

Tyshawn Sorey has long worked with a
stretched-out scale of time that can invite comparisons with Morton Feldman.
But here, across 53 minutes of material — patiently arranged for subgroups
within chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound — the wide variation of instrumental
colours and harmonic material serves as a clear encomium to another composer:
George Lewis, a mentor of Sorey’s who is also still in rude creative health. —
SETH COLTER WALLS

Anna Thorvaldsdottir: ‘Enigma,’ I

“Enigma”; Spektral Quartet (Sono
Luminus)

Listening to Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s
music, I often feel like I’m hearing the earth through a stethoscope. But her
debut string quartet more resembles dispatches emerging from the white noise of
another world. It’s a masterly entrance to the genre and a deceptively vast
soundscape conjured with just four acoustic instruments. — JOSHUA BARONE

© 2022 The New York Times Company

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