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 Awards, BBC Music Magazine Awards 2021: Shortlist

BBC Music MagazineThe 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 by 18th March. The winners will be announced in April (exact details to be confirmed).


Sinfonia of London, John Wilson

'The Triton Fountain sparkles with vitality…There are dozens of versions of Respighi’s ‘Roman Trilogy’ available, but I’ve heard none better than this. The orchestral playing is magnificent, and its joy and exuberance are a tonic at this anxious, isolated period.'

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

Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi

'Järvi is an almost ideal interpreter of this composer, not only managing to bring transparency and luminosity to Schmidt’s often thickly textured orchestration, but also keeping a tight rein on the structural direction of works that in lesser hands can seem to meander…Best of all is his deeply committed account of the Fourth'.

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

Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Bernhard Forck (Konzertmeister)

'This recording is designed to show how CPE’s symphonies may have been distant models for Beethoven’s first essays in the genre...Bernhard Forck leads the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin in these performances with springy tempos and a fine clarity of texture.'

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


Alina Ibragimova (violin), State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia 'Evgeny Svetlanov', Vladimir Jurowski

'Ibragimova is the latest to make you think you’ve never heard [the First Concerto] played better, and her intense relationship with Vladimir Jurowski and the current incarnation of Yevgeny Svetlanov’s ‘orchestra with a voice’, making just as compelling a case for the sequel concerto, is supernaturally fine-tuned.'

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

Kevin Kenner (piano), Apollon Musagète Quartett

'The opening of the F minor Concerto sets the tone with transparency and lightness...These are performances of greater spontaneity than a conductor and orchestra would normally allow...once you’ve heard this, you may well prefer to think of these masterpieces as chamber music.'

Available Format: CD

Antje Weithaas (violin), Maximilian Hornung (cello), NDR Radiophilharmonie, Andrew Manze

'Here’s a performance of Brahms’s Double Concerto that has purged the music of much of its accustomed heaviness and astringency, offering instead something that at times feels more like a chamber concerto – especially in the lovely dialogue at the heart of the slow movement.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC


Joyce DiDonato, Elsa Benoit, Luca Pisaroni, Franco Fagioli, Jakub Józef Orliński; Il Pomo d'Oro, Maxim Emelyanychev

'This Agrippina jostles for top place among the opera’s complete recordings. Joyce DiDonato is matchless in the title role, most other cast members likewise outstrip their rivals and their vocal qualities are ideal for their dramatis personae.'

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

Eve-Maud Hubeaux, Ambroisine Bré, Bénédicte Tauran, Cyril Auvity, Edwin Crossley-Mercer; Chamber Choir of Namur, Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset

'Standout cast members are Eve-Maud Hubeaux, whose grace sincerity and vocal radiance make Io wholly credible, and Bénédicte Tauran, whose persistent re-setting of pulse broadcasts Juno’s impetuous nature…Truly an Olympian event.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Mark Wilde, Ed Lyon, Fiona Kimm, Graeme Broadbent, Catherine Carby, Eleanor Dennis; BBC Concert Orchestra, John Andrews

'This premiere recording from conductor John Andrews, a vivacious cast and BBC Concert Orchestra is dollops of fun, and more besides. Arnold’s inventive, eclectic score is vividly brought to life...this is no dismissible pastiche, but a seriously worthwhile addition to the repertoire.'

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


Sabine Devieilhe (soprano), Alexandre Tharaud (piano)

'Devieilhe has the ideal voice for the Ariettes oubliées, with a creamily dreamy opening to ‘C’est l’extase’. Her iridescent clarity is to the fore throughout...matched by Alexandre Tharaud’s ever-nuanced, passionately intelligent pianism...A deeply rewarding recital guaranteed to melt the heart.'

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

Fatma Said (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano), Burcu Karadag (flute), Rafael Aguirre (guitar), vision string quartet

'There’s no tacky Orientalism here...AbdelRahim’s Ana bent el sultan is huge fun, offering an Arabic soundscape with modernist touches...Recitals which combine innovation and appeal at this standard are a rarity. This is one to give all your friends.'

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

Sarah Connolly (mezzo), Robert Dean Smith (tenor) Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski

'[Connolly] makes the perfect case for pulling the lustrous stops out at each death-transcending release in the ‘Farewell’...Above all it’s her perfect fusion with the many vocal woodwind solos – every trill and turn strikingly vivid – that places Jurowski’s ‘Song of the Earth’ amongst the greatest.'

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


'Phillips’s reading of the Ferrarese work is fluid and supple, and there’s a gentle momentum even in the more contemplative sections...The Scholars’ sound is lean and clear: every strand of the musical web is beautifully illuminated, and the text is carved with a sculptural sharpness...a mesmerising final chapter to this unforgettable musical odyssey.'

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

Joshua Ellicott, Sophie Bevan, Fflur Wyn, Mary Bevan, Jess Dandy, Hugo Hymas, Matthew Brook, Vitali Rozynko; Dunedin Consort, John Butt

'Butt has created the best Samson ever...These choral forces make for a vibrancy unique among Samson recordings…Butt’s deep grasp of both Handel’s rhetoric and of large-scale structure turns the work’s patchwork quality into a virtue, bringing intimacy to each character’s reflections and urgency to crowd reactions.'

Available Format: 3 CDs

Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Klava

'Here is choral singing of beguiling sophistication, beautifully recorded, that captures the score’s full range of expression, from hushed moments of introspective awe to rolling climaxes of intense celebration...The icing on the cake is provided by four choral rarities dating from the 1880s.'

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


Garrick Ohlsson (piano), Takács Quartet

'The ensemble brings an extraordinary range and depth of sound to Beach’s closely-worked score…This is a performance every bit as imaginative and expressive as Elgar’s remarkable score, rich in contrast and daring but never overblown and always precise…This is in every respect an outstanding disc.'

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

Tasmin Little (violin), Piers Lane (piano)

'The performers respond to both aspects of [Bowen's] music with muscular virtuosity and affection. Especially in the high tessitura of the slow movement, Tasmin Little’s tonal variety and rhythmic freedom capture the romantic outpouring...[The Ireland] receives a performance which mirrors the conviction of the composer.'

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

Raphaela Gromes (cello), Julian Riem (piano)

'In this persuasive performance by Raphaela Gromes and Julian Riem, the early work bursts into irrepressible life…There are moments in the first version one wouldn’t be without…Beautifully detailed performances combine with a powerful sense of music cherished. Recommended.'

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


Tabea Zimmermann (viola)

'Zimmermann’s playing is profoundly thoughtful, leading to flawlessly structured readings...Perhaps most remarkable is Zimmermann’s breathtakingly skilful performance of the Sarabandes...Superbly recorded in a richly resonant ambience, this is an unusual and compelling release.'

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC

Steven Osborne (piano)

'From first electrifying note-punch to last, with so much poetry and poignancy in between, this is a tour de force of pianism highlighting what seems more than ever like the great sonata sequence of the twentieth century. There are so many towering performances of these harrowing works…but I believe Steven Osborne caps them all…This is legendary stuff.'

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

Elisabeth Leonskaja (piano)

'The pianist’s seemingly spontaneous rubato sends the waltz-like ‘butterflies’ spinning deliciously, while the more rugged side of her Janus-faced technique gives a special resonance to the lower register; only Leonskaja could make bass chords sound as brillante as Schumann asks for them to be in the seventh of the official Etudes. The Ghost Variations are exquisite.'

Available Formats: MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC