The Best Classical Albums of 2021 (So Far)

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Featuring Hilary Hahn, Leif Ove Andsnes, Nathalie Stutzmann, Stephen Hough and many more – all of these outstanding albums were released in 2021 and all were selected as Editor's Choice in Gramophone

As you will see below, 2021 has already been an exceptional year for classical music on record. Gramophone subscribers can follow the links below each album to read the original review in Gramophone's Reviews Database (find out more) and Apple Music subscribers can listen to many of the albums here too.

Apple Music offers a three-month free trial to new subscribers and with its vast catalogue of recordings – plus the addition of lossless audio and Spatial Audio, offering an immersive audio experience from 44.1kHz/16-bit (CD quality) up to 192kHz/24-bit – it is the perfect music streaming platform for anyone who loves classical music. Find out more and start your free trial here: Apple Music 


Mahler Symphony No 7

Bavarian State Orchestra / Kirill Petrenko

BSO Recordings

A remarkable recording of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, Kirill Petrenko revealing detail as if new, presenting it with thrilling vividness and weaving it into a performance of stunning impact.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Brahms Symphony No 3. Serenade No 2

Budapest Festival Orchestra / Iván Fischer

Channel Classics

Iván Fischer leads his players in a richly expressive performance of both Brahms’s Third Symphony and Second Serenade, a beautiful orchestral sound wonderfully caught throughout.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Shostakovich Symphonies Nos 1, 14 & 15

Boston Symphony Orchestra / Andris Nelsons

DG

Andris Nelson’s cycle reaches a high point, with performances exploring and relishing Shostakovich’s drama and imagination.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


‘Magical Memories’

Tine Thing Helseth tpt Kåre Nordstoga org

LAWO

A programme of evergreen favourites – for trumpeter and audiences alike (though with many discoveries too!) – all played with a joyful sense of evident love for the repertoire.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


‘Roots’

Randall Goosby vn Zhu Wang pf

Decca

An excellent debut from a recent Decca signing – one taught by Itzhak Perlman no less – whose album shines a spotlight on neglected music, some new works, and most of all on a wonderful young violinist.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


JS Bach Six Keyboard Partitas, BWV825‑30

Mahan Esfahani hpd

Hyperion

Mahan Esfahani offers deeply thought-through interpretations presented with compelling conviction – added to that, he’s recorded them on a captivating modern instrument.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Bull. Byrd ‘The Visionaries of Piano Music’

Kit Armstrong pf

DG

Kit Armstrong brings a personal modern vision to this keyboard music of centuries past, gracing it with a sensitivity and affection that feels entirely of our time.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Granados Goyescas

Viviana Lasaracina pf

Dynamic

Enrique Granados’s atmospheric masterpiece Goyescas is offered here by Viviana Lasaracina in an entrancing album; she embraces the work’s colours and passion, and brilliantly brings it all to life. 

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


‘Summertime’

Isata Kanneh-Mason pf

Decca

Isata Kanneh-Mason follows her debut of Clara Schumann’s music by offering her advocacy to another well-chosen programme, this time of American composers, all played with great warmth. 

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Mouton ‘Ezekiel’s Eagle’

Cappella Pratensis / Stratton Bull

Challenge Classics

Cappella Pratensis prove themselves to be an ensemble of exquisite skill, voices steeped in both artistry and personality, Jean Mouton’s music shaped and sung superbly.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Brahms Piano Concertos

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment / András Schiff pf

ECM New Series

These beautiful period-instrument performances, directed by András Schiff from a restored 1859 Blüthner, bring a compelling freshness to Brahms’s much-loved piano concertos.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


JS Bach Orchestral Suites

Concerto Copenhagen / Lars Ulrik Mortensen

CPO

Prepare to dance, reviewer Mark Seow suggests of Concerto Copenhagen and Lars Ulrik Mortensen’s album of Bach suites – a brilliant example of this wonderful group at its best.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Schreker Der Geburtstag der Infantin Zemlinsky Die Seejungfrau

RLPO / Vasily Petrenko

Onyx

Vasily Petrenko and his superb Merseyside musicians reveal their rich rapport once again in two orchestral works of lush late Romanticism.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Barber. Beach. Price ‘American Quintets’

Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective

Chandos

A splendid debut from the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective of a fascinating programme, including the premiere recording of Florence Price’s Quintet.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Mozart Serenades Nos 10 & 11

Sols of the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin

Harmonia Mundi

Another new recording of the Gran Partita, and like all the best takes on this masterpiece it absolutely delights; period-performance Mozart at its most engaging.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Duruflé Complete Organ Works

Thomas Trotter org

King’s College

A riveting journey through Duruflé’s complete organ music from the ever-brilliant Thomas Trotter, who draws the most beautiful colours from the recently restored King’s College, Cambridge organ.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Vladigerov Piano Works

Nadejda Vlaeva pf

Hyperion

The richly Romantic sound-world of 20th-century Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov is brought to entrancing life by Nadejda Vlaeva on this splendid new addition to Hyperion’s catalogue.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


‘Melancholy Grace’

Jean Rondeau hpd

Erato

This is an entrancing offering from harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, one of at times almost otherworldly intensity as he takes us on a Europe-wide exploration of music of the most reflective nature. 

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


‘Tiranno’

Kate Lindsey mez Arcangelo / Jonathan Cohen

Alpha

Power, its corruption and corrosiveness, is the subject of this exquisite album from mezzo Kate Lindsey, joined by the brilliantly attentive artistry of Jonathan Cohen and Arcangelo.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Handel Rodelinda

Sols; The English Concert / Harry Bicket

Linn

A superb soloist line-up and perfect shaping of the drama by the conductor Harry Bicket makes for a new top recommendation of Handel’s Rodelinda for reviewer Richard Wigmore.

Read the review in Gramophone’s Reviews Database


Mozart ‘Momentum 1785’

Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Leif Ove Andsnes pf

Sony Classical

This is a beautifully performed and recorded album of Mozart music from Leif Ove Andsnes and his Mahler CO colleagues, one clearly created amid a spirit of warm collaboration.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


R Strauss Burleske. Ein Heldenleben

Bertrand Chamayou pf Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Antonio Pappano

Warner Classics

A glorious showcase of Pappano’s partnership with his Rome ensemble, and with Chamayou thrilling in the Burleske.   

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘The Moon & the Forest’

Miloš Karadaglić gtr

Decca

Miloš introduces us to two engaging new concertos for guitar by Howard Shore and Joby Talbot, both written and performed with a clear affection for the instrument’s sonority and soul.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Hindemith Wind Sonatas

Les Vents Français; Éric Le Sage pf

Warner Classics

Five superb woodwind soloists, paired with a perfect pianist partner in Éric Le Sage (and all captured in vivid sound), makes for a truly compelling album of Hindemith.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Franck Organ Works

Pétur Sakari org

BIS

Pétur Sakari’s album of Franck organ music on the fabulous sounding Cavaillé-Coll instrument of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Orléans (excellently recorded by BIS), is a wonderful sonic spectacular.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Ysaÿe Six Solo Violin Sonatas

James Ehnes vn

Onyx

A recording that owes much to our times, emotionally and practically – it was home-recorded during lockdown – this is a very fine survey of Ysaÿe’s solo violin sonatas from James Ehnes.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


JS Bach ‘Meins Lebens licht’

Collegium Vocale Gent / Philippe Herreweghe

PHI

An exquisite addition, rich in texture and colour, to the impressive Bach catalogue being created by Philippe Herreweghe and his superb Collegium Vocale Gent.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Chère nuit’

Louise Alder sop Joseph Middleton pf

Chandos

Evocative and splendid singing from Louise Alder, a soprano who embodies all the atmosphere and mystery of this gorgeous programme, just as does pianist Joseph Middleton in his playing. 

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Magnificat 2’

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge / Andrew Nethsingha

Signum

The contribution of Andrew Nethsingha and St John’s College, Cambridge to the Evensong tradition – both in the chapel and on record – deserves great praise; another fascinating album.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Bartók Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Sols; Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra / Susanna Mälkki

BIS

Exceptional soloists and a conductor who shapes the score brilliantly create a fine recording of Bartók’s dark opera, warmly welcomed by Edward Seckerson.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Proust, Le concert retrouvé’

Théotime Langlois de Swarte vn Tanguy de Williencourt pf

Harmonia Mundi

A truly delightful and lovingly performed recital, recreating a 1907 private concert held by Proust, and using two instruments of glorious character and colour held in Paris’s Musée de la Musique.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Carter The Minotaur. Pocahontas

Boston Modern Orchestra Project / Gil Rose

BMOP/sound

Another significant contribution to our understanding of modern and American music from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project under their conductor Gil Rose.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


JS Bach ‘The Well-Tempered Consort, Vol 2’

Phantasm

Linn

This is an album of completely compelling collaboration from the Gramophone Award-winning viol consort, a richly rewarding immersion into the complexity and beauty of Bach’s world. 

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Nordic Rhapsody’

Johan Dalene vn Christian Ihle Hadland pf

BIS

Violinist Johan Dalene – winner of the prestigious Carl Nielsen Competition in 2019 – and pianist Christian Ihle Hadland mesmerise in Nordic music old and new.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Stanchinsky Piano Works

Peter Jablonski pf

Ondine

Early 20th-century composer Alexey Stanchinsky’s music will be a discovery for many if not most, and it can ask for no better advocacy than that of Peter Jablonski in this wonderful recording.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Berg. R Strauss. Zemlinsky ‘Clair-obscur’

Sandrine Piau sop Orchestre ‘Victor Hugo’ Franche‑Comté / Jean‑François Verdier

Alpha

Soprano Sandrine Piau offers a beautifully crafted and movingly sung recital.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Monteverdi ‘Il delirio della passione’

Anna Lucia Richter sop Ensemble Claudiana / Luca Pianca

Pentatone

Anna Lucia Richter embodies all the drama and tragedy of these Monteverdi heroines with gripping immediacy, backed by equally expressive instrumental colleagues.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Pergolesi Stabat mater

Giulia Semenzato sop Lucile Richardot mez Ensemble Resonanz / Riccardo Minasi

Harmonia Mundi

There’s an incredible intensity and individuality to these performances – a Pergolesi Stabat mater of real poignancy.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘The Sweetest Songs’ Music from the Baldwin Partbooks, Vol 3

Contrapunctus / Owen Rees

Signum

An exquisite album of early music from Contrapunctus, concluding a superb survey of works from the Baldwin Partbooks, a major collection of Tudor church music.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Verdi Arias

Ludovic Tézier bar Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale, Bologna / Frédéric Chaslin

Sony Classical

Ludovic Tézier’s baritone voice and interpretative flair makes this a vivid journey through some of the key Verdi roles he’s thrilled opera houses with.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘French Duets’

Steven Osborne, Paul Lewis pf

Hyperion

Two of today’s most compelling soloists unite for this beautiful recital – from radiancy in Ravel to playfulness in Poulenc, via some sublime Debussy, this album is sheer joy from beginning to end.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Beethoven Triple Concerto. Symphony No 2

Isabelle Faust vn Jean‑Guihen Queyras vc Alexander Melnikov pf Freiburg Baroque Orchestra / Pablo Heras‑Casado

Harmonia Mundi

Collaborative music at its most brilliant.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Elgar Violin Concerto. Violin Sonata

Renaud Capuçon vn Stephen Hough pf London Symphony Orchestra / Simon Rattle

Erato

Refined and emotive Elgar from a violinist who deeply understands this music’s heart.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Mahler Symphony No 4

Anna Lucia Richter sop Bamberg Symphony Orchestra / Jakub Hrůša

Accentus

Moving and beautifully crafted Mahler, the symphony’s sweep superbly presented by an ever-impressive conductor and players deeply immersed in its idiom.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Occurrence’

Iceland Symphony Orchestra / Daníel Bjarnason

Sono Luminus

The Iceland Symphony Orchestra’s three-disc survey of new music linked to its homeland concludes, exploring landscape and soundscape with extraordinary imagination.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Ligeti Études

Danny Driver pf

Hyperion

Danny Driver’s fascinating reflections in the last issue on Ligeti’s Études perfectly paved the way for hearing the recording, and it’s one that brilliantly grasps and then conveys all the music’s inventiveness and virtuosity.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘(Re)Creations’

Zlata Chochieva pf

Accentus

Zlata Chochieva follows her recent splendid albums of Chopin and Rachmaninov with something as intriguing as it is compelling: transcriptions that reveal both the form and a formidable pianist at their very best. 

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Gesualdo Madrigals, Books 3 & 4

Les Arts Florissants / Paul Agnew

Harmonia Mundi

Les Arts Florissants follow the Award-winning initial instalment in their series of Gesualdo madrigals with a new volume that proves equally as intense in its intimacy and artistry.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Eccles Semele

Sols; Academy of Ancient Music / Julian Perkins

AAM Records

Remarkably, John Eccles’s final opera lay unperformed until 1964, and only now gets its second recording – but what entrancing and engaging advocacy it here receives.

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


Lise Davidsen Arias and Songs

Lise Davidsen sop London Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder

Decca

Few young artists have generated such a buzz as our cover artist, and her hugely impressive new album reveals exactly why. 

Read the review in Gramophone's Reviews Database


‘Paris’

Hilary Hahn vn Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra / Mikko Franck

DG

From the late lyricism of Rautavaara to the urgent intensity of Prokofiev, Hilary Hahn’s captivating tribute to the city of Paris is imaginatively programmed and brilliantly performed.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Locatelli ‘Il labirinto armonico’

Finnish Baroque Orchestra / Ilya Gringolts vn

BIS

From the opening track onwards, elegant playing launches a programme rich in charm from Ilya Gringolts and the Finnish Baroque Orchestra, all on sparkling form.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


D Matthews A Vision of the Sea

BBC Philharmonic Orchestra / Jac van Steen

Signum

David Matthews’s sound world draws you in with expressive orchestral writing, whether evoking the sun or sea, or in his beautifully crafted Eighth Symphony.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Holmboe String Quartets, Vol 1

Nightingale Quartet

Dacapo

The Nightingale Quartet’s survey of Danish composer Vagn Holmboe’s string quartets couldn’t have a more auspicious start: performed with a gripping sense of drama and caught in richly vivid sound.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Liszt Piano Works

Benjamin Grosvenor pf

Decca

The superb pianist Benjamin Grosvenor continues to compile a richly varied discography, the repertoire always carefully chosen and the playing always deeply engaging, with an impressive recital of Liszt.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


‘Piazzolla Reflections’

Ksenija Sidorova accordion

Alpha

What better way to mark the centenary of Piazzolla’s birth than this programme from accordionist Ksenija Sidorova steeped in the soul and spirit of the tango master’s music?

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Purcell Royal Odes

The King’s Consort / Robert King

Vivat

An excellent album of Purcell Odes and Welcome Songs from The King’s Consort, Robert King’s impressive selection of singers and instrumentalists alike all on brilliant form throughout.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


‘And Love Said …’

Jodie Devos sop Nicolas Krüger pf

Alpha

Following her thrilling Offenbach album two years ago, Jodie Devos reveals herself just as compelling and communicative in this personal programme of English-language song.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Salieri Armida

Sols; Les Talens Lyriques / Christophe Rousset

Aparté

Another beautifully performed and prepared recording from conductor Christophe Rousset, the singing and playing – from Les Talens Lyriques – exquisite throughout.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


‘Contralto’

Orfeo 55 / Nathalie Stutzmann contr

Erato

Nathalie Stutzmann invites us to rethink the repertoire of contraltos written at a time when castratos and sopranos were their era’s stars: the case couldn’t be better made than here.

Read the review in the Gramophone Reviews Database


Rachmaninov Symphony No 1. Symphonic Dances

The Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nézet-Séguin

DG

Last issue, we explored the legacy of Rachmaninov and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin proves himself not just a brilliant custodian, but a conductor creating an era of his own.

Read the Gramophone review


‘English Music for Strings’

Sinfonia of London / John Wilson

Chandos

Once again John Wilson draws the most glorious sound from his hand-picked orchestra, lavishing care and devotion on repertoire that could have been written for him.

Read the Gramophone review


JS Bach Das wohltemperirte Clavier, Book 2 – selections

Piotr Anderszewski pf

Warner Classics

Thoughtful and thought-provoking programming by Piotr Anderszewski is paired with sensitive interpretation throughout, making for a compelling Bach album.

Read the Gramophone review


‘Vida breve’

Stephen Hough pf

Hyperion

Stephen Hough follows his Beethoven concerto album with a more intimate, personal meditation on life and death, a journey bookended with Bach-based reflections, and all performed with his usual intelligence and flair.

Read the Gramophone review


‘Tyrannic Love’

Ensemble Les Surprises / Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas

Alpha

A vibrant step into 18th-century English music from Ensemble Les Surprises sees the French group shine in works both familiar and lesser known from Purcell and peers.

Read the Gramophone review


 

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