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Top 10 Classical Albums, December 2013

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 10 Classical Albums, December 2013


In a couple weeks, we'll unveil our favorite classical albums of 2013, but for now, there's still the monthly fire-hose of new releases from which to drink. Ken Thomson's debut as a composer on the Cantaloupe label, Thaw, has been on repeat on my phone and laptop. His three-movement string quartet-plus-bass clarinet piece, "Perpetual," has mysterious harmonies, a great range of technique (thanks to the JACK Quartet players) and some hard-riffing parts, too (if you want the latter, go straight to "Bad Idea").

We've also got Lang Lang tackling Bartok and Prokofiev with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic. Christian Tetzlaff offers some sleek new approaches to Schumann's violin concertos. And since this is the holiday season, it would be a shame to miss out on violinist Janine Jansen's latest recording of some gorgeous Bach concertos.

It's been a strong few weeks for brand-new classical pieces, too. Hilary Hahn's latest ambitious project, In 27 Pieces, is the result of the violinist's commissioning frenzy. Composers such as Mason Bates ("Ford's Farm"), David Del Tredici ("Farewell") and Avner Dorman ("Memory Games") are among those who whipped up fascinating new encore-style pieces for Hahn to tour around the world.

Meantime, Bryce Dessner, the guitarist from The National, debuted some new material (mostly for strings) on the album Aheym, recorded by the Kronos Quartet. Flautist Claire Chase plays Steve Reich's "Vermont Counterpoint" and Mario Diaz de Leon's wondrously ominous "Luciform" on her album Density. And early minimalist composer Rhys Chatham adds to his legacy with Harmonie du soir. So click play and get started checking out all these releases over in the appended playlist. And refer to the composer track list below in order to keep track of who wrote which piece. Enjoy!

Track 1: Steve Reich, "Vermont Counterpoint"
Track 2: Mason Bates, "Ford's Farm"
Tracks 3-6: J.S. Bach, Sonata No. 4 in C minor, for harpsichord and violin, BWV 1017
Tracks 7-9: Ken Thomson, "Perpetual"
Tracks 10-12: Bela Bartok, Piano Concerto No. 2
Track 13: Bryce Dessner, "Aheym"
Track 14: David Del Tredici, "Farewell"
Tracks 15-17: Robert Schumann, Sonata No. 1 in A minor, for violin and piano, Op. 105
Tracks 18-20: Ned Rorem, piano works (selected)
Track 21: Dessner, "Tour Eiffel"
Track 22: Avner Dorman, "Memory Games"
Track 23: Mario Diaz de Leon, "Luciform"
Tracks 24-27: Paul Hindemith, Kammermusik No. 2
Tracks 28-30: Bach, Violin Concerto in E major, BWV 1042 Track 31: Rhys Chatham, Harmonie de Pontarlier: The Dream of Rhonabwy

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