Need a gift for the music lover in your life? Don’t miss KDFC’s My Favorite Things week! We’re sharing our favorite albums from the past year, hand picked from each host. It’s music we don’t want you to miss! See the lists below.
Alan Chapman's Favorite Things
I’m a big, big fan and I’m delighted to hear her play such a wide range of material.
Young, talented, and had to cancel on the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to play at the royal wedding.
I’m a follower of Hough (both on recordings and on Twitter). This is a thoroughly delightful recording and I truly enjoy his transcriptions and original compositions.
Daniel Barenboim/Berlin Staatskapelle
Brahms: The Symphonies
It’s been said that if you’re a true lover of Brahms, your favorite Brahms symphony is whichever one you’ve heard most recently. And this set is a fine way to hear them all.
“Iceland’s Glenn Gould” earns his title with a collection of works by Bach as well as his own transcriptions of Bach chorales.
Dianne Nicolini's Favorite Things
He made a splash performing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, (and before that, apparently, on Britain’s Got Talent). He is the young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a musician to watch. His debut album, Inspiration, gave us a lot of great moments, from Saint-Saens’ The Swan to Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry.
Subtitled “An intimate tribute to Leonard Bernstein and his American legacy,” Lara Downes’ 2018 release For Lenny is a kind of family-and-friends effort, featuring opera legend Thomas Hampson, roots singer Rhiannon Giddens, superstar beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola (a member of the a cappella group Pentatonix), and Mexican/American clarinet prodigy Javier Morales-Martinez.
When the man who is arguably the most famous violinist of our time releases a new album, it’s a big deal. I was surprised that this was Bell’s first go at the super-popular Scottish Fantasy. He says he’s “only” been playing it for ten years, and it’s time to record it! Paired with the Fantasy is the other work for which Max Bruch is best known, the Concerto #1. This disc represents the second time Joshua Bell has recorded this work, but his insights into why it’s a different piece to him now are fascinating.
I’m a sucker for the contemporary choral sound, coming mostly from Scandinavia. Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s music really embodies this ethereal aesthetic. This album has some of his own music, but also his arrangements of seasonal songs for the Winter Solstice.
The Celtic Lute
American master lutenist, Ronn McFarlane celebrates his Scottish heritage with a new album of Celtic music for lute. The album makes for a lovely journey through Ireland and Scotland thanks to the “vivacity and delicacy” of the lute. Lovely!
Ray White's Favorite Things
The French pianist has released a set of ethereal, nostalgic and melancholy works for solo piano called “Memory”. Start to finish it’s a set that’s just perfect for a reflective mood. Grimaud admits she’s never performed these mostly French miniatures but loved presenting and recording this program.
This is the Mt. Everest for cellists. Yo-Yo Ma has played, recorded, studied and interpreted this major work for the cello for years. It’s his third recording of the complete Cello Suites from Bach. Listening to this collection is like visiting an old friend.
Martha Argerich and Sergei Babayan
Prokofiev for Two
Prokofiev’s musical magic with plenty of chemistry and vision. These are fresh new piano arrangements for 2 pianos (courtesy of Sergei Babayan) of Romeo and Juliet as well Hamlet and Eugene Onegin.
Here is someone who knows all about winter: a Norwegian. A year ago, contemporary composer Ola Gjeilo released an album of stirring vocal music. A blend of new works and traditional carols that don’t feel too much like holiday music.
Berlin State Orchestra / Daniel Barenboim
Here are all four of Brahms’ romantic symphonic giants conducted by Daniel Barenboim. It’s quite a task and the legendary pianist and conductor was up for the challenge as he joined the Staatskapelle Berlin Orchestra recently. A stellar recording and performance.
The Celtic Lute
American lutenist Ronn Macfarlane found the lute after a journey in the 60s that began with the electric guitar and then classical guitar and the conservatory. Eventually, an eclectic calling took him to the Renaissance stringed instrument. His latest goes deep into the Celtic (Scottish and Irish) lute songbook.
It’s always exciting to have someone come along and adds something different or energetic to tried and true works we’ve been embracing for years or even centuries. Ólafsson has been called the Glenn Gould of Iceland. If you’re discovering or rediscovering J. S. Bach, this is worth a listen.
Rich Capparela's Favorite Things
Daniil Trifonov, piano / Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Destination Rachmaninov – Departure
Trifonov has the touch: he seems to excel in music by any composer he chooses to tackle. And how cool that he decided to record the seldom heard 4th Rachmaninoff piano concerto.
Buffalo Philharmonic / JoAnn Falletta
Kodaly: Concerto for Orchestra
Faletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic have been coming out with some of the most provocative albums of the past couple of years. This is one their tamer efforts, but no less dazzling.
New York Philharmonic / Jaap van Zweden
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7
The thing about the Beethoven symphonies is that conductors and orchestra keep finding ways to make them fresh. The seventh, especially, is, in spite of its overwhelming popularity, a treasure trove of discovery.
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites
Yo-Yo Ma. Bach. Case closed.
Baltimore Symphony / Marin Alsop
Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet
It could be argued that Prokofiev’s take on Shakespeare’s tragedy is one of the Top 10 ballet scores of all time. Marin Alsop focuses on the lyrical aspects of the score and the result brings tears to one’s eyes – in the very best way possible.
Rik Malone's Favorite Things
The Golden Age
Magnificent playing with a real sense of style.
Shunske Sato & Il Pomo d’Oro
Bach Violin Concertos
Joyful, lively performances and great, clean sound that fills the room and pulls you in at the same time!
Some familiar favorites and some great moments from less-familiar scores as well, in very tasty arrangements that highlight the beautiful melodies while downplaying the potential for schmaltz.
Everything Beethoven wrote for solo piano – what’s not to like? Stylish and insightful live performances.
The Celtic Lute
This disc grabbed me from the first track – it’s recorded up-close so it doesn’t vanish into the boggy mists, and you get a great sense of McFarlane’s superior playing.
Robin Pressman's Favorite Things
Anne Akiko Meyers
Mirror in Mirror
Meyers collaborated with all of the composers on this album (except Ravel!) to make this reflective and spiritual collection. Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Morten Lauridsen… it’s a meditative journey. Plus, two of the selections are the lullaby choices of her two young daughters.
“A piece I record is a piece I love.” So says Hilary Hahn as she revisits some of her favorites: Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Bach’s Double Concerto, Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto written for her; and includes three new live recordings including Max Richter’s Mercy. Hahn built her huge fan base beginning in 1996 at the age of 16 as she toured radio stations with her Dad in tow (posting photos on her web diary). Along the way from then to now, fans from around the world sent in their own original Hilary portraits which are included in the album cover art and booklet.
Rachel Barton Pine and Jory Vinikour
J.S Bach: Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord
Rachel Barton Pine says she loves these pieces because they are duos that actually function as trios. That is, Bach wrote them for violin, the harpsichordist’s right hand, AND the harpsichordist’s left hand. “I am essentially 1/3 of the duo,” she explains.
Anderson and Roe
Mother: A Musical Tribute
Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson take a whimsical approach to motherhood with a collection that includes Brahms’ Lullaby and Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, but adds Paul Simon’s Mrs. Robinson, and Freddie Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody! Great gift for the moms on your list, just sayin’.
Kirill Gerstein, piano / St. Louis Symphony Orchestra / David Robertson
The Gershwin Moment
George Gershwin, in his short life was never considered a serious classical composer, though after his death at age 39, Jascha Heifetz said, “We should be ashamed we did not appreciate [Gershwin] when he was in our midst.” Pianist Kirill Gerstein grew up in Russia listening to his parents’ jazz records, studied jazz at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, and sometimes experienced a bit of a cold shoulder from later classical teachers. Seems this album was meant to be: a meeting of the minds of two outside-of-the-box musicians.