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 Awards, BBC Music Magazine Awards 2020: Shortlist

Christopher PurvesThe nominations for this year's BBC Music Magazine Awards have just been announced, with a potential long-list of over 200 five-star recordings from the past twelve months pared down to 21 finalists (three contenders spread over seven categories).

You can browse the short-list and listen to snippets of the discs below; to place your votes, visit the magazine's website here. The winners will be announced in a ceremony at Kings Place in London on Wednesday 22nd April.

Orchestral

Gidon Kremer (violin), Kremerata Baltica, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

'Weinberg’s centenary year was truly crowned with this release. Both conductor and violinist are passionate about the Polish composer’s music and that shines through in this beautifully engineered recording. Orchestral technical brilliance is matched by high emotion in the performances of these two symphonies from either end of the composer’s career.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

'John Wilson has reformed the Sinfonia of London, and, boy, does it sound good. There’s heart and soul in every note of Korngold’s remarkable Symphony in F sharp, the composer’s only symphony and one of his finest scores. Rarely has the Adagio packed such a powerful emotional punch.'

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

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu

'You could hardly wish for a more rounded portrait of the modernist Polish master than this exciting release, which contrasts a young man’s energy in the First Symphony with muscular maturity in the Fourth. Nor could you reasonably wish for more powerfully played performances of these works than is delivered here.'

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

Concerto

Kirill Gerstein (piano), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Men of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Sakari Oramo

'Simply playing Busoni’s Piano Concerto is a feat, but Gerstein does more than get through this mesmerising behemoth. Alongside Oramo and his Boston forces, Gerstein owns and makes sense of every bar in this endearing, enthralling 70-minute extravaganza.'

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

Markus Maskuniitty (horn), Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

'Schumann’s exuberant Konzertstück introduces us to Maskuniitty and fellow Stockholm horn players, before he performs Saint-Saëns and Glière with a sound like a smooth malt: warm, smoky, with a hint of fire. Consummate artistry; superb recording.'

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

Ivo Kahánek (piano), Bamberger Symphoniker, Jakub Hrůša

'Dvořák’s still underappreciated Piano Concerto comes across with exhilarating warmth under Kahánek’s fingers. He is equally convincing in the Martinů, and with Hrůša and the Bamberg Symphony makes this recording an essential part of any Czech music collection.’

Available Format: CD

Opera

Ermonela Jaho (Anna), Arsen Soghomonyan (Roberto), Brian Mulligan (Guglielmo); Opera Rara Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Mark Elder

‘’Little-known Puccini’ sounds like a contradiction in terms, but chances are you won’t know his first opera, performed here in its original one-act version. And what a treat it turns out to be, packed full of ravishing melodies, performed here with ardour by an emotionally committed cast and orchestra. Earworms guaranteed.'

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

Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce, Carolyn Sampson (sopranos), Jeremy Budd (high tenor), James Way (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Ashley Riches (bass-baritone); Gabrieli Players, Paul McCreesh

'Twenty-five years’ experience of performing the Arthurian legend infuses this stellar recording. Packed with historical detail from its bespoke performing edition, the ensemble reveals new textures alongside vivid characterisation. It’s a tightknit team that deftly flits between contexts, capturing earthy dances, blissful delicacy and more than the odd wry smile.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Benjamin Bernheim (Faust), Véronique Gens (Marguerite), Andrew Foster-Williams (Méphistophélès); Les Talens Lyriques, Flemish Radio Choir, Christophe Rousset

'In a performance bursting with character and verve, Les Talens Lyriques presents the less familiar 1859 version of Gounod’s score, with lively spoken dialogue and ‘new’ musical numbers. The stand-out attraction, however, is rising star Benjamin Bernheim in the title role. If you haven’t yet heard his exquisite voice, you must.'

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

Vocal

Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Léa Desandre (mezzo); Le Concert d'Astrée, Emmanuelle Haïm

'Composed during Handel’s Italian sojourn, these highly-charged cantatas depict the fluctuating emotional states of their tormented female characters, brought to life with thrilling energy by these two singers. The orchestral playing is also exceptionally vivid. As dramatic as any opera.'

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Sandrine Piau (soprano), Le Concert de la Loge, Julien Chauvin

'The title may be Si J’ai Aimé ('If I loved'), but there is no ‘if’ about it, for this colourful bouquet of nineteenth-century French orchestral songs is utterly adorable throughout. With soprano Sandrine Piau in sublime voice, you will want to play this disc of little-known gems again and again.'

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

Nicky Spence (tenor), Julius Drake (piano), Václava Housková (mezzo), VOICE, Victoria Samek (clarinet)

'Janáček’s song-cycle tells of forbidden love with an immediacy that demands extraordinary responses, and Nicky Spence offers all the ardent urgency, obsessive desperation and sweet vulnerability it needs. Julius Drake’s piano playing communicates with just as much power, beauty and subtlety.'

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

Choral

'That JS Bach didn’t emerge from a vacuum is thrillingly clear from these vibrant performances of cantatas by the composer’s forebears Heinrich, Johann Michael and Johann Christoph. At the end of this compelling journey, JS’s early cantata Christ lag in Todesbanden shows his considerable debts to his talented family.'

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

Robert Murray, Cody Quattlebaum, Elizabeth Watts, Ruby Hughes, Tim Mead, Gwilym Bowen, Nicky Spence; Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr

'There’s a shocking immediacy in a first hearing of Handel’s Brockes-Passion. The potent, often brutal, imagery and dramatic tension requires a meeting of hearts and minds, and that’s exactly what AAM bring. Be prepared to be swept up in the raw emotion from start to finish.'

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

Guy Cutting (tenor), Emma Tring (soprano), Choir of Merton College, Oxford, Benjamin Nicholas

'Jackson’s 2014 telling of the Passion story has the feel of an instant classic. Bright, imaginative instrumental colours are twinned with vivid word-setting, the texts either from the Gospels or by poets associated with the Oxford college. The result immediately engages the ear and lingers in the mind.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Chamber

Alina Ibragimova (violin), Cédric Tiberghien (piano)

'This is simply superb in every way. Ibragimova and Tiberghien’s nuanced performance of Franck’s evergreen Violin Sonata is among the finest, balanced in this impeccable programme by Vierne’s equally captivating Sonata, the disc exquisitely framed by Ysaÿe’s intense Poème elégiaque and Lili Boulanger’s entrancing Nocturne.'

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

Attacca Quartet

'The Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer takes a classic musical form and reimagines it for the twenty-first century in this stunning collection of short works for string quartet. Immediate and sophisticated, Shaw’s music remains wholly accessible. The Attacca Quartet’s performance is superb, revealing the music’s poetic heart.'

Available Format: CD

Vilde Frang (violin), Barnabás Kelemen (violin), Lawrence Power (viola), Nicolas Altstaedt (cello), Alexander Lonquich (piano)

'Combining the lush Romanticism of early Bartók and a hauntingly applied brand of serialism from the little-known composer Sándor Veress, some of today’s leading young chamber players draw together a spellbinding programme from the byways of Hungarian chamber music. Once again Vilde Frang works curatorial miracles.'

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

Instrumental

Olivier Latry (Cavaillé-Coll organ of Notre-Dame de Paris)

'Released three weeks before the devastating fire, this thrilling recital is as much a celebration of Notre Dame’s Cavaillé-Coll as it is of Bach. With great artistry, Latry displays the instrument’s incredible sonic range, brings glorious Romantic excess to the G minor Fantasia and creates a compelling crescendo through the Passacaglia.'

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

Elizabeth Kenny (theorbo)

'This intoxicating take on ancient and modern is a tour de force. Kenny has inspired vital, new commissions, and when they’re woven into a programme with little-known Baroque gems, the five centuries that separate them fall away in a cascade of experimental harmonies and aching melodies.'

Available Format: CD

'Moscow-trained Andrey Gugnin’s name will be seared into your brain after hearing his Shostakovich. The Op. 34 Preludes are electrifying: mercurial brilliance, stunning articulation and an astonishing range of colour and dynamics. The ferocious energy and bleak, haunting poetry of the Sonatas is compelling. Shostakovich for the ages, utterly outstanding.'

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