1. SCHUBERT: WINTERREISE
Matthias Goerne, baritone; Christoph Eschenbach, piano Goerne's fearsome dramatic range and his remarkable command of nuance — of the music's charged meeting point with the text — are both on full view in this grippingly intense recording, the final release in his Schubert Lieder series.
Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo-soprano. Greanleaf Chamber Players Newly released by Winsor Music, this live 1996 recording features the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in a hauntingly beautiful solo cantata, with oboist Peggy Pearson and colleagues. It's a poignant snapshot of a revered singer still finding her way toward the timeless heart of Bach.
3. LOU HARRISON: WORKS FOR CHORUS AND VIOLIN WITH AMERICAN GAMELAN
Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor On this hypnotic album the Providence Singers glide serenely through Harrison's undulating "Koro Sutro," supported by the majestic plink and rumble of the composer's American gamelan. The Suite for Violin plays out like a languid 1970s West Coast daydream, with soloist Gabriela Diaz soaring through warm cerulean skies.
4. BRAHMS STRING QUINTETS
Takacs Quartet, Lawrence Power Many a lifelong love affair with chamber music have been kindled by these two viscerally thrilling string quintets (Opp. 88 and 111), here in a freshly conceived recording by a top-flight ensemble.
Seattle Symphony; Ludovic Morlot, conductor John Luther Adams has an uncanny ear for the old-fashioned sublime, the extremes of nature both beautiful and terrifying. These adjectives could also sum up the vast and deep sonic seascape conjured in this Pulitzer Prize-winning work, as grandly unfurled by Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony.
6. MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: COMPLETE STRING QUARTETS
Quatuor Danel The prolific Soviet-era composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg made headlines this year thanks to his opera, "The Passenger," but it is his striking chamber music that most eloquently distills why his lost musical voice is worth recovering. His catalog of 17 string quartets — which the Quatuor Danel plays with warmth and conviction — is studded with gems still awaiting their moment. These works share many secrets with the quartets of Shostakovich, Weinberg's close friend. It's only a matter of time before a wise locally based ensemble programs both cycles together. Who will it be?
7. BRUCKNER: SYMPHONY NO. 9
Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, conductor
A moving memento few Abbado fans will want to be without. Here is the final live performance by the revered Italian conductor, who died in January of this year. The Ninth emerges charged by his poetic intelligence, yet still with a surprising lightness of being.
8. MOZART: PIANO CONCERTOS NOS. 18 AND 19
Mitsuko Uchida, piano. Cleveland Orchestra This latest in Uchida's ongoing series, in which she directs the superbly subtle Cleveland Orchestra, brings all the sparkle and exquisite sensitivity we've come to expect from this pairing. And then some.
9. HARRISON BIRTWISTLE: CHAMBER MUSIC
Lisa Batiashvili, Adrian Brendel, Till Fellner, Amy Freston, Roderick Williams Here is a bewitching sampler of some (mostly vocal) chamber music by this uncompromising high-modernist, works that are not easily encountered in live performance. All the more reason to appreciate these exacting performances, in which Birtwistle's fiercely compressed idiom unfolds with a force that belies the music's slender frame.
10. SCHUBERT: LATE PIANO SONATAS
Paul Lewis, piano This is the final installment of Lewis's acclaimed series, featuring D. 784 and D. 958 along with previously recorded accounts of D. 959 and D. 960. The newer renditions in particular convey the structural grasp, refinement of touch, and understated eloquence through which Lewis has earned his reputation as a master in this repertoire.
Maurice Steger, recorder; I Barocchisti, Diego Fasolis Why not take a well-earned vacation from the "Four Seasons"? En route, you can toss all of your assumptions about the recorder out the window. Maurice Steger plays these Vivaldi recorder concertos with a panache and virtuosity that is nothing short of astounding. And the electric playing of I Barocchisti dances and thunders with him at every turn.