The 2021 “What a Performance!” Awards


Well, here we are again, at the end of another year of reviewing, and these are my 50 picks out of the hundreds of reviews I’ve written in 2021. If that seems an excessive amount when compared to what Gramophone, Jazz Times or the New York Times would select, remember that I review both jazz and classical and they don’t, and 10 of these awards went to jazz CDs. Also remember that I review a LOT of modern and offbeat music that classical magazines either don’t review at all or, if they do, don’t give awards to (I’d say at least 20 of the classical CDs in this list fit that category).

But most importantly, remember that my awards are based sheerly on musical merit. I don’t play politics. I’m not swayed by what other reviewers or publications give awards to. When I put this image on a review, I really mean it; these are recordings you need to have in your collection because they’re really great in terms of both repertoire and performance quality.

So here is my 2021 list, ten days before Christmas:

  1. Ivan Ilić Rediscovers Reicha (Chandos)
  2. Cruz Montero’s Rapsodia Cubana (Naxos)
  3. Holloway’s & Seabourne’s “Moments of Vision” (Sheva Contemporary)
  4. Friedrich Gulda’s Lost Symphony (SWR Music)
  5. Clare Hammond Plays Variations (Bis)
  6. The Invisible David Angel Emerges (Basset Hound Music)
  7. Will Liverman’s Dreams of a New Day (Çedille)
  8. Richter’s Lively Monteverdi (Pentatone Classics)
  9. Levental Sings Medtner, Vol. 2 (Brilliant Classics)
  10. Schapiro 17’s “Human Qualities” (Summit)
  11. Moreno Valiente’s Mahler Fifth (IBS Classical)
  12. Contemporary Music from…Luxembourg! (Naxos)
  13. Petri & Friends Play “Territorial Songs” (OUR Recordings)
  14. Catriona Morison’s First Lieder Recital (Linn Classics)
  15. The Piano Music of de Hartmann (Nimbus Alliance)
  16. De Hartmann’s Chamber Music (Nimbus Alliance)
  17. Oppens Plays Kaminsky (Çedille)
  18. Kopatchinskaja Speaks & Plays Schoenberg (Alpha Classics)
  19. Yet Another Perelman-Shipp Album
  20. Frank Huang Plays Medtner (Centaur)
  21. Wadada Leo Smith’s Solo Trumpet Recital (Tum Records)
  22. Fredrik Malmberg’s Excellent “Orfeo” (Bis)
  23. Karol Rathaus’ Piano Trios (Dux)
  24. Sochaka Plays Bacewicz (Dux)
  25. Martial Solal’s Last Concert (Challenge)
  26. Miles Osland’s “Collaborations,” Vol. 2 (Mark Masters)
  27. Marek Janowski’s Great New “Fidelio” (Pentatone Classics)
  28. Dunér & Pritsker’s “Eclectic Songs” (self-produced)
  29. Coburn & Brownlee Star in “I Puritani” (Delos)
  30. Get Ready for Duo Della Luna! (New Focus)
  31. Beverly Beirne’s “Dream Dancer” (33 Jazz Records)
  32. Ingolfsson Plays Rathaus, Tiessen & Arma (Oehms Classics)
  33. Jonah Kim Plays Kodály, Abel & Grieg (Delos)
  34. Jon Gordon’s “Stranger Than Fiction” (self-produced)
  35. Lupu “Rediscovers” Ysaÿe (Divine Art)
  36. Dupree Plays (and Conducts) Kapustin (Capriccio)
  37. Sol & Pat Hit the Music Trail (Alpha Classics)
  38. The Dover Quartet Plays Schumann (Azica)
  39. Korstick’s Lively Scarlatti (CPO)
  40. Claire Booth Sings Unorthodox Mussorgsky (Avie)
  41. Winterberg’s Unusual Songs (ArcoDiva)
  42. The Alexander Quartet Plays Brahms (Foghorn Classics)
  43. Gaia Sokoli Plays Fanny Mendelssohn (Piano Classics)
  44. A Stunning French “Macbeth” (Dynamic)
  45. Barone Plays Crumb (Bridge)
  46. Quilico Plays American Works (Navona)
  47. Darrell Katz Introduces Oddsong
  48. Smith’s Superb “Chicago Symphonies” (Tum Records)
  49. Dausgaard Conducts Mendelssohn (Bis)
  50. Tania Gill’s Disappearing Curiosities (self-produced)

And that’s it until next year!

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

Follow me on Twitter (@Artmusiclounge) or Facebook (as Monique Musique)

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