Best of Classical 2021


Contemporary classical is a Pandora’s box. You don’t know what you’ll find, and you have no idea how it could affect you! The new classical composers are always after something new, on the brink of knowledge and theory, they’re like post-doctorate fellows, and I’m sure some of them actually are! So, new compositions are fascinating, but new recordings of modern composers or even older ones can be truly satisfying as well. And on top of that, there’s another branch of composers; they might not be after a new sound, and don’t tread old ground either, but rather make new music of any genre for classical instruments. On the other hand, you’ve also got those who write classical music for non-classical instruments! Really, you cannot get bored! If you want to get into this genre, might I suggest a few of my favourites from this year?


Number Five: Alora Crucible – Thymiamatascension


Closer to post-rock than to Ben Johnston, Toby Driver’s Alora Crucible is nonetheless an outstanding soundtrack inspired by classical music. A beautiful and atmospheric journey. Take your time with it, because the next albums are not going to be so calming.


Number Four: Ensemble Dal niente – Confined. Speak.


Confined. Speak is a byproduct, in many ways, of the global pandemic that hit in 2020 and that is still ongoing. Taking compositions from all around the world, the Chicago ensemble recorded them for that album. And what an impressive bunch of compositions! A superb album!


Number Three: Anna Gadt, Zbigniew Chojnacki, and Krzysztof Gradziuk – Renaissance Gesualdo


Renaissance Gesualdo is an almost daunting experience for the listener. On that double album, Anna Gadt adapted some works of ⅩⅥ century composer Carlo Gesualdo into modern European jazz. So, this isn’t so much a classical album as a jazz album, but it’s important for me that it features in the classical category. Indeed, if classical music can be interpreted note for note just as it was written and intended, it can also serve as inspiration for new music, and be warped into something new, even unrecognizable, and this is a perfect example of this!


Number Two: Patricia Kopatchinskaja – Pierrot lunaire


Patricia Kopatchinskaja is a formidable violinist, musician, and composer. However, amidst all her releases this year, I’ve chosen her rendition of Arnold Schönberg. Why? Pierrot lunaire has a special place for me. It’s a piece I was introduced to when I was far from ready for it, but I kept being pulled back to it, like a moth to a lamplight, not knowing what attracted me so. When it finally clicked, it felt like a realization, and Patricia’s recording is just another opportunity for me to recommend this life-changing piece!


Number One: Taylor Brook & Tak Ensemble – Star Maker Fragments


Since early this year, I doubted any album could dislodge Star Maker Fragments from its lofty place as classical music AOTY. Well, it seems that, no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find another album that worked so perfectly for me… Using extended composition and playing techniques, well beyond my knowledge or capacity, Taylor Brook & the Tak ensemble have crafted a truly fascinating alien soundtrack. It is just the best!


Notable Releases

Hover over foreign scripts for pronunciation and romanization.

Friday, 8 January

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Sol Gabeta, Francesco Coll, and Camerata Bern – Plaisirs illuminés

74:10
contemporary classical
Switzerland
α


Tracklist (click to display)


Wednesday, 3 February

Utsav Lal & Nitin Mitta – Visangati

76:16
Indian classical
New York, New York
Independent

Tracklist (click to display)


Tuesday, 2 March

Ensemble Super Musique – Commutation

55:42
contemporary classical
Montréal, Québec
Ambiances Magnétiques

Tracklist (click to display)


Wednesday, 3

Taylor Brook & Tak Ensemble – Star Maker Fragments

55:23
contemporary classical
New York, New York
Tak Editions

Read our review.

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 5

Pat Metheny – Road to the Sun

56:19
contemporary classical
United States
Modern


Tracklist (click to display)


Monday, 29 March

Astragalo –

54:27
contemporary classical, free improvisation
Siena, Italy
Fonterossa

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 9 April

Patricia Kopatchinskaja – Pierrot lunaire

72:18
contemporary classical
Switzerland
α


Tracklist (click to display)


Wednesday, 5 May

Sean Hayward – Inquiline

49:33
contemporary classical
Los Angeles, California
Independent

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 21

Christopher Cerrone – The Arching Path

52:18
contemporary classical
Brooklyn, New York
In a Circle

Tracklist (click to display)


Wednesday, 26

Sissel Vera Pettersen & Randi Pontoppidan – Inner Lift

38:22
contemporary classical
Copenhagen, Denmark
Chant

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 28 May

Wavefield Ensemble – Concrete & Void

69:56
contemporary classical
New York, New York
New Focus

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 4 June

MMMD & Alem – L’Âge de l’absolutisme

31:37
contemporary classical
Athens, Greece
Antifrost

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 11

Ofer Pelz & Meitar Ensemble – Trinité

52:00
contemporary classical
New York, New York
New Focus

Tracklist (click to display)


Wednesday, 30 June

Augustin Lusson – Playback

63:55
classical
Poitiers, France
Bathos

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 23 July

Elisabeth Harnik – Superstructure: Holding Up a Bridge

45:41
contemporary classical
Vienna, Austria
Trost

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 20 August

Alora Crucible – Thymiamatascension

40:43
post-classical
Connecticut
House of Mythology

Tracklist (click to display)


Saturday, 18 September

Vincenzo Castaldo – Kairos

53:25
contemporary classical, opera
Salerno, Italy
Independent

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 8 October

Sol Gabeta & Patricia Kopatchinskaja – Sol & Pat

80:10
classical
Poland
α


Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 15

Luís Lopes’s Love Song – Emmentes

34:50
contemporary classical
Lisboa, Portugal
Shhpuma

Tracklist (click to display)


Saturday, 23 October

Anna Gadt, Zbigniew Chojnacki, and Krzysztof Gradziuk – Renaissance Gesualdo

125:46
classical, jazz
Warsaw, Poland
Fundacja Słuchaj

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 5 November

Ensemble Dal niente – Confined. Speak

63:30
contemporary classical
Chicago, Illinois
New Focus

Tracklist (click to display)


Friday, 19

Resina – Speechless

51:30
classical
Warsaw, Poland
Fatcat

Tracklist (click to display)


Monday, 22 November

Karl Naegelen, Sylvain Darrifourcq, and Toma Gouband – Cartographie de rythmes #1 : Vitesses approchantes

33:30
contemporary classical
Paris, France
Umlaut

Tracklist (click to display)


Best of 2021

01/01 – Best of Afrobeat
01/02 – Best of Atmospheric Black Metal
01/03 – Best of Avant-Garde Black Metal
01/04 – Best of Brutal Death Metal
01/05 – Best of Classical

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