Gramophone's Recordings of the Year: 1990-1999

Gramophone Thu 21st May 2015

The most outstanding classical music recordings from the 1990s, alongside the original Gramophone reviews

The group of discs to be afforded Gramophone's ultimate accolade – Recording of the Year – were notably diverse this decade, from Beethoven to Prokofiev, and Scharwenka to Puccini. Nikolaus Harnoncourt's recording of Beethoven's symphonies with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe remains a leading choice for the cycle (perhaps sharing the honours with Emmanuel Krivine and Mariss Jansons) and violinist Maxim Vengerov seized the world's attention with his stunning recording of the Prokofiev and Shostakovich first violin concertos with conductor Mstislav Rostropovich.

1990

Prokofiev The Love for Three Oranges

Sols; Chorus and Orchestra of Lyon Opera / Kent Nagano

(Virgin/Erato)

'By one of those rare concatenations of circumstances absolutely everything - performance, production, recording, presentation - has come out right. The new musical director of Lyon Opera, Kent Nagano, conducts with zest and finesse and is admirably served by his orchestra.' Read review

1991

Beethoven Missa solemnis

Sols; Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists / John Eliot Gardiner

(Archiv)

'Beethoven seems to be reaching beyond human grasp, and one of Heaven's good works must surely be to give the Missa solemnis its ideal performance, liberated from all constraints of matter. Well, it now appears we do not need to wait that long.' Read review

1992

Beethoven Symphonies

Sols; Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt

(Teldec)

'Listening to this set I was reminded over and over again how exciting it was to discover Beethoven's symphonies for the first time – I'm not exaggerating.' Read review

1993

Grieg Songs

Anne Sofie von Otter mez Bengt Forsberg pf

(DG)

'I shall be lucky if I review a more satisfying disc this year. Here we have a singer at the peak of her career glorying in what she can accomplish with her voice and deploying it in repertory she knows well and obviously loves.' Read review

1994

Debussy Préludes

Krystian Zimerman pf

(DG)

'Zimerman is the very model of a modern virtuoso. His overrriding aim is vivid projection of character. His quasi-orchestral range of dynamic and attack, based on close attention to textual detail and maximum clarity of articulation, is the means to that end.' Read review

1995

Prokofiev. Shostakovich First Violin Concertos

Maxim Vengerov vn LSO / Mstislav Rostropovich

(Teldec)

'Lacking Oistrakh’s authenticity of experience, Vengerov displays similarly boundless technical assurance plus an extra edge of youthful adrenalin and excitement. His Prokofiev is scarcely less fine, the tone gloriously rich, every note hit dead centre. However committed you are to alternative interpretations, these demand to be heard.' Read review

1996

Sauer. Scharwenka Piano Concertos

Stephen Hough pf CBSO / Lawrence Foster

(Hyperion)

'Here, surely, is the jewel in the crown in Hyperion's absorbing series, "The Romantic Piano Concerto"; a flawless marriage of composer, performance, recording and presentation.' Read review

1997

Puccini La Rondine

Sols; London Voices, LSO / Antonio Pappano

(EMI/Warner Classics)

'Pappano consistently brings out the poetry, drawing on emotions far deeper than are suggested by this operetta-like subject, thanks also to Gheorghiu’s superb performance, translating her mastery as Violetta to this comparable character.' Read review

1998

Martin. Pizzetti Sacred Choral Works

Westminster Cathedral Choir / James O'Donnell

(Hyperion)

'It is a measure of James O’Donnell’s achievement with Westminster Cathedral Choir that the gain in purity and beauty is at no time at the expense of depth and fervour. This is an altogether moving and eloquent performance, often quite thrilling and always satisfying.' Read review

1999

Dvořák Rusalka

Sols; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

(Decca)

'The joy of this magnificent set is that in almost every way it fulfils every expectation and more, offering a recording with glowing sound that more than ever before reveals the richness and subtlety of Dvořák’s score.' Read review

Further reading Gramophone's Recordings of the Year: 2000-2014

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