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Zoe Madonna and Jeremy Eichler’s Top 10 classical albums of 2019

Conrad TaoBrantley Gutierrez


Tailor-made for Atlas Ensemble, a Netherlands-based confluence of musicians from across Europe and Asia, the 2019 Grawemeyer Award winner “Nomaden” is a joyful, bright-eyed odyssey through musical traditions of the vast continent. It’s worth picking up this recording, which features cello soloist Jean-Guihen Queyras; considering the variety of virtuosi the score calls for, we Yankees may never hear it live. (Paging Yo-Yo . . .) — Zoë Madonna

“FOR LOVE OF YOU” Lara Downes

Pianist Lara Downes opens up an elegant time capsule with pieces by Robert and Clara Schumann written during their dramatic courtship. Come for a heart-racing tour through Robert’s famous Piano Concerto in A minor with the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra backing Downes up, then stay for the finely tuned renditions of Clara’s “3 Romances” and Robert’s “Fantasiestucke.” — ZM


“IN MANUS TUAS” Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

On her captivating debut disc, violist and composer Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti takes music intended for other or more instruments into her own hands. Featuring solos and duets by Andrew Norman, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Caroline Shaw, and herself. — ZM

WINTERREISE Peter Mattei, Lars David Nilsson

The formidable operatic baritone Peter Mattei traverses the frozen fields of Schubert’s wrenching song cycle alongside pianist Lars David Nilsson. Through grief and anger, glimmers of hope, and crushing despair, this journey haunts long after the last notes of “Der Leiermann” fade into the mist. — ZM

FLORENCE PRICE: SYMPHONIES NOS. 1 and 4 Fort Smith Symphony

So continues the long overdue rediscovery of 20th-century composer Florence Price, the pioneering African-American woman symphonist. Under the baton of John Jeter, Arkansas’s Fort Smith Symphony offers a vibrant accounting of symphonies by the Little Rock native. — ZM


December marks the centenary of the extraordinary yet little-known Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, whose vast musical estate is still emerging from the shadows. This release of his deeply moving Symphony 21, among his final works, is the grand prize of the Weinberg year. Led by Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and dedicated “to the memory of those murdered in the Warsaw ghetto,” it is a work of great expressive breadth and tragic power. — Jeremy Eichler


WEINBERG PIANO QUINTET Olga Scheps and the Kuss Quartet

Weinberg’s capacious and haunting Piano Quintet of 1944 is becoming one of the most frequently recorded works of his early mature chamber music. This account, by the German-Russian pianist Olga Scheps and the Kuss Quartet, rises to match the intensity and sincerity of the music itself. — JE

“PRISM II” Danish String Quartet

As the Beethoven year approaches, prepare for many takes on the otherworldly late string quartets. Yet few will be as rewardingly conceptualized as the Danish String Quartet’s ongoing “Prisms” series pairing one late quartet (here Op. 130, with the “Grosse Fuge”) with a forebear by Bach (the B-minor Fugue from the first book of “The Well-Tempered Clavier”) and a spiritual descendant (Alfred Schnittke’s time-warping Third Quartet). The playing is deeply committed from first note to last. — JE


The Oslo Philharmonic expertly serves up a rewarding collection of this Finnish composer’s music, known for its exquisitely glittering surfaces and surprising halos of color. This album includes the Rumi-inspired “Circle Map,” given its US premiere by the BSO. — JE


SCHUMANN’S “MYRTHEN” Christian Gerhaher and Camilla Tilling

In this striking second album of his ongoing Schumann project, the distinguished German baritone lends his burnished vocal suavity to a song cycle offered as a wedding present from Robert to Clara Schumann. He is joined by Camilla Tilling, in crystalline voice. — JE


Conrad Tao

Coming of age in the late ’00s and early ‘10s as a celebrated concert-hall wunderkind, pianist and composer Conrad Tao also spent countless hours jacked into the Internet’s carnival of memes and mixed media, where he picked up a playful, somewhat anarchic (but never trollish) attitude toward music. Now, whether pinch-hitting as soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, playing a barefoot recital at Carnegie Hall, helping choreographer Caleb Teicher tear up the floor at Jacob’s Pillow, releasing an album of “American Rage,” or creating chamber-music alchemy with the JCT Trio, he faces the world with open mind and heart.


Jeremy Eichler can be reached at jeremy.eichler@globe.com, or follow him @Jeremy_Eichler. A.Z. Madonna can be reached at az.madonna@globe.com. Follow her @knitandlisten.