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 Awards, Recordings of the Year 2019 - Special Category Nominees

Special Awards 2019As the Presto Awards panel embark on a final round of detailed listening and heated discussion to decide on our Top 10 Recordings of 2019, we reveal the shortlists for the six special category awards: Conductor of the Year, Debut Solo Album, two species of Premiere Recordings, Archive Collection, and Deluxe Presentation. The winners will be revealed alongside the Top 10 next Friday morning…

Conductor of the Year

Paavo Järvi

The Estonian conductor has been busy in the studio with several of his European orchestras, and kicked off 2019 with something of a landmark – the Orchestre de Paris’s first-ever recording of the complete Sibelius symphonies, many of which hadn’t featured in the orchestra’s concert repertoire until his tenure. An all-Hindemith programme with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony on Naïve followed in March, and October brought a luminous quartet of works by Messiaen with the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich on Alpha.

Browse the full list of his currently available recordings here.

Orchestre de Paris, Paavo Järvi

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Paavo Järvi

Available Format: CD

Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Paavo Järvi

Available Format: CD

Ádám Fischer

At 70, the Hungarian conductor seems to be hitting his absolute prime at the moment, with his ongoing Mahler symphonies series from Düsseldorf on Avie going from strength to strength and a thrilling, occasionally controversial, Beethoven cycle with the Danish Chamber Orchestra on Naxos appearing in July; he also drew luxurious, deliciously idiomatic support from the Wiener Philharmoniker on Jonas Kaufmann’s tribute to Vienna in October.

Browse the full list of his currently available recordings here.

Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Ádám Fischer

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Anna Larsson (contralto), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, Ádám Fischer

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Danish Chamber Orchestra, Danish National Concert Choir, Ádám Fischer

Available Formats: 5 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Rachel Willis-Sørensen (soprano), Wiener Philharmoniker, Ádám Fischer

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

John Wilson

His debut recording of Korngold with the newly-resurrected Sinfonia of London in August has been one of the runaway successes of the year, but Wilson’s affectionate championing of Eric Coates (in the first of a projected series on Chandos) with the BBC Philharmonic has also established itself as a Presto office favourite, and his advocacy of the orchestral music of his late friend and mentor Richard Rodney Bennett with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra has also continued in style.

Browse the full list of his currently available recordings here.

Sinfonia of London, John Wilson

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

BBC Philharmonic, John Wilson

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, John Wilson

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Debut Solo Album

Martin James Bartlett (piano)

The 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year winner's imaginatively-designed recital on Warner Classics is inspired in part by his love of vocal music, and he truly makes the piano sing in a programme which includes Liszt’s Petrarch Sonnets and paraphrases of Wagner’s Liebestod and Schumann’s Widmung, Bach chorale transcriptions by Myra Hess and Busoni, El amor y la muerte from Granados’s Goyescas, and Prokofiev’s Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Benjamin Bernheim (tenor), PKF Prague Philharmonia, Emmanuel Villaume

In the wake of a seriously impressive Faust for Christophe Rousset on Bru Zane (a Gramophone Editor's Choice earlier this year), the young lyric tenor emerges as a versatile, superbly stylish singer on his debut on Deutsche Grammophon, and is particularly compelling in his native French repertoire; the programme includes arias by Donizetti, Massenet, Verdi, Puccini, Gounod, Tchaikovsky and Godard.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Ed Lyon (tenor), Theatre of the Ayre

At 40, this distinctive English tenor is already well-established as one of the finest baroque singers around and has a substantial oratorio discography to his name, but this hugely attractive and accessible collection of French, English and Italian songs is his first solo album - the quirky programme includes some absolute gems, and is performed with just the right balance of historical awareness and audacious anachronism.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Premiere Recording (Rediscovery/Reconstruction)

Though the French Renaissance composer’s Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday have been recorded and performed for many years in a heavily abbreviated form, this recording presents them complete after musicologist and conductor Laurie Stras discovered an additional seventeen verses hiding in plain sight in a sixteenth-century manuscript; you can read David’s extensive interview with Stras about the research process here.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Joyce El-Khoury (Mirra), Airam Hernández (King), Oleksandr Pushniak (Beleso); Weimar Staatskapelle, Kirill Karabits

Reconstructed by the musicologist David Trippett, the single completed act of Liszt's abandoned opera on a subject by Byron reveals what the composer's son-in-law Wagner described as 'the claw of a lion'; the score is a fascinating, at times disconcerting melange of Italianate and Germanic elements, with long stretches of bel canto melody punctuated by darker, proto-Wagnerian outbursts, and Kirill Karabits and the Weimar Staatskapelle revel in the Lohengrinesque writing of the final scene in particular.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Laquita Mitchell (soprano), Lucia Bradford (mezzo-soprano), Noah Stewart (tenor), Malcolm J. Merriweather (baritone/conductor), Ashley Jackson (harp); The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra

First performed in December 1954 and subsequently broadcast in an extended version on CBS six years later, the American composer’s Christmas cantata focuses on the African king Balthazar and incorporates elements of neo-Classicism, calypso and jazz. Read more about its genesis and reception here.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Premiere Recording (new work)

Nicola Benedetti (violin), Philadelphia Orchestra, Cristian Măcelaru

Drawing on influences as diverse as Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Scottish folk music and Stravinsky, the jazz legend’s four-movement concerto for Benedetti practically bursts at the seams with energy and imagination, and was described by its dedicatee as ‘a representation of Wynton and who he is, as well as the mixture of his personality and mine – my heritage, my influences and my relationship with the violin.’

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Gerald Finley (bass-baritone), Xavier de Maistre (harp) Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu

Premiered by Finley in 2014, the Finnish composer's song-cycle True Fire sets texts by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Seamus Heaney and Mahmoud Darwish which explore man’s connection with nature, and fits the Canadian baritone like a glove as well as featuring some strikingly atmospheric orchestration; Ciel d’Hiver (an arrangement of part of the 2002 orchestral work Orion) and the harp concerto Trans also receive their first recordings here.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Seattle Symphony, Ludovic Morlot

Inspired by anxiety regarding climate change, John Luther Adams’s Become Ocean (the sequel to Become River from 2010) won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 2015; commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the third part of the triptych was premiered in 2017 and described as ‘packed with drama in microcosm’ by The New York Times.

Available Formats: CD + DVD Video, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Archive Collection

Released to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Czech pianist’s death, this 18-CD set brings together the recordings which he made for American Columbia and RCA Red Seal between 1949 and 1993; Czech repertoire features prominently, including Martinů’s Piano Concertos and Cello Sonatas, Dvořák chamber works with the Juilliard Quartet, and Janáček’s In the Mists, On an Overgrown Path, and Piano Sonata No. 1.

Available Format: 18 CDs

Dating from the first half of the 1970s, most of the recordings on this 7-disc set are new to CD and much of the repertoire is music which Ousset never re-recorded – highlights include Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies, Schumann’s Carnaval, numerous sets of Beethoven variations, and music by Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.

Available Formats: 7 CDs, MP3, FLAC

This 8-CD anthology marking the thirtieth anniversary of the maverick American virtuoso’s death includes concertos by Henselt, Rubinstein and Scharwenka with the London Symphony Orchestra, two recital-discs of Alkan, The Operatic Liszt, the Italiana and Swiss chapters of Années de pèlerinage, and previously unreleased recordings of him discussing this repertoire at the keyboard.

Available Format: 8 CDs

Deluxe Presentation

Berliner Philharmoniker, Wilhelm Furtwängler

Remastered in 24-bit resolution, these historically significant recordings are supplemented with a 184-page hardback book including an essay on Furtwängler by Richard Taruskin, numerous articles on the history behind the recordings, and rare photographs from the orchestra’s archives – it looks every bit as good as it sounds, and given the quality of the interpretations and transfers that’s really saying something.

Available Format: 22 SACDs

Vladimir Horowitz (piano)

This 15-disc collection includes previously unreleased recordings taken from a series of rehearsals and private recitals for close friends and family which Horowitz gave in the run-up to his 1965 comeback at Carnegie Hall, following a twelve-year absence from the concert-platform; the extensive supporting documentation includes previously unreleased photographs, new essays by Jed Distler, Tim Page and Bernard Horowitz, and full transcriptions of the conversations between Horowitz and his friends and family which are included in the audio footage.

Available Format: 15 CDs

Benjamin Bernheim, Véronique Gens, Andrew Foster-Williams, Jean-Sébastien Bou; Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

At a time when there’s no guarantee that a new opera recording will include so much as a printed libretto, Bru Zane have pulled out all the stops again for this devilishly good first recording of the original opéra comique version of Gounod’s masterpiece, which comes complete with an (appropriately gilded) hardback book including the full text and English translation, several engaging scholarly articles about the work’s evolution, and a handy built-in ribbon bookmark.

Available Formats: 3 CDs + Book, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC