It's time for our annual list of our favorite CD of the Week picks of the past year!
We asked members of our staff for their favorites, and here's what they had to say:
Kendall Todd: It’s no secret that I love Clara Schumann. I’ve been stopped more than once from calling her “the best Schumann” on WCRB’s official social media accounts, but I keep trying – I’d go to bat for her and her music any time, anywhere. On this subject, I feel that I’ve found a kindred spirit in pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, whose absolutely gorgeous debut album is dedicated to Clara Schumann’s (criminally underplayed) compositions. Kanneh-Mason’s playing is so tender and so dynamic, she could convince you that any music is great – so it’s especially lucky for all of us that this music is so good already.
It's always exciting when two of us pick the same album, and this time...
Emily Marvosh: This is the album to buy for that person in your life who says they don’t like Bach – it’ll change their mind. Emi’s brilliant arrangements and mashups make this a thoroughly enjoyable listen...and then another listen! She’s a native Bostonian and the principal flutist with the Handel and Haydn Society, so you might have a chance to tell her in person how much you love this surprising and masterful disc.
Alan McLellan: My pick for CD of the Week of the Year has to be flutist Emi Ferguson and her ensemble Ruckus, making Bach’s music sound so hip you just have to get up and dance! These players are experts in historically accurate performance, but they also understand improvisation, incorporating a freewheeling spirit into every one of the tracks on this album. Bach was a master improviser – he would have been proud!
Laura Carlo: I was so happy to see Lang Lang’s choices for his CD, Piano Book. They were pieces that sparked his childhood interest in piano, and so many were the same ones that sparked mine, like “Für Elise” and “Clair de Lune.” He plays these pieces we sometimes casually think of as “just old chestnuts” with the same grace and passion pianists reserve for Grieg’s Piano Concerto or Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. And students can also buy a companion printable sheet music book, another way he’s hoping to ignite and foster the love for this music. Winner all around.
Chris Voss: There is so much beauty in this album, and this combination of brilliant musicians is the stuff dreams are made of. I was excited about it before it became a CD of the Week back in June, and I continue to turn to it for uplift, reflection, and grace. Particularly enjoyable: the Brahms Intermezzo that opens the album, and the arrangements for clarinet and piano of some of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words sprinkled throughout. I hope you enjoy as well!
Cathy Fuller: It’s so difficult to choose just one from a year’s worth of great recordings! But I will say that virtually any project that violinist Isabelle Faust takes on tends to glow. Earlier this year, she released the most recent installment in her nine-year Bach adventure, teaming up with the brilliant musicians of the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin for the three violin concertos and more. The result goes directly to the heart, and it proves that conductor Daniel Harding was right when he described Isabelle Faust’s playing as “uncluttered honesty.” If ever there were a time that the world needed some of that – along with the humane wisdom of Bach – it’s now.
Brian McCreath: This is a sort of choose-your-own-adventure from the always brilliant Jeremy Denk. There’s absolutely nothing wrong – and in fact, there’s a lot right – in listening to these two CD’s beginning to end, allowing the passage of music that starts around the year 1300 and proceeds to the present day to unfold before your ears. But I also love the idea of jumbling the order of these 25 tracks as they talk directly to each other across centuries. You might try hearing what Stockhausen has to say to Gesualdo, or how Machaut illuminates Stravinsky, all of it distilled through the piano keyboard and Denk’s imagination.
Rani Schloss: I love a good story. I find obsessions fascinating. And I love Scarlatti sonatas for their beautiful simplicity. How could I pick anything for CD of the Week of the Year other than Lucas Debargue's new collection of Domenico Scarlatti sonatas? Debargue once locked himself away with a complete score of all 550 Scarlatti sonatas and played through all of them, and this collection shines with a carefully selected fifty-two, in brilliant performances, recorded in a perfect space. I could listen to this collection all day.
Colin Brumley: Welcoming in new listeners can be one of the trickier aspects of classical music. The most effective way that I’ve found is what happened to me: bringing someone into the world of classical music through other genres, whether that be rock, metal, jazz, pop, whatever. This year, we featured Montenegrin guitarist Miloš’s album Sound of Silence – the title an allusion to Simon & Garfunkel’s timeless song, and the lead-off track on this very album. Alongside that track is everything from Radiohead to classical pieces by Manuel de Falla and Francisco Tárrega, and it’s this classical-through-rock album that blurs the “lines” of modern and classical, making that welcome all the more comfortable.
Tyler Alderson: Listening to Sally Pinkas’s great collection of Filipino miniatures, many never before recorded, was bittersweet for me. On one hand, it’s wonderful to learn about a whole musical scene that I didn’t know existed. On the other, why have these been hidden for so long? My Filipino grandfather (an avid WCRB fan) would have loved them! Hopefully, Pinkas’s lovely playing will inspire others to pick up these fun little pieces.