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Top 8 Classical Albums, October 2012

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 8 Classical Albums, October 2012


Eight releases may not seem like a lot to digest in a single month - but the top classical albums selected here for October contain enough surprises and textures to delight for a considerably longer span of time.

Leif Ove Andsnes kicked off his "Beethoven Project" with sharp readings of two piano concertos. Meantime, the pioneering computer/electronic compositions of Laurie Spiegel - long lost to the realms of out-of-print vinyl -- were just remastered this season. They provide listeners with a timeless portal through which one may consider 70s-era minimalism and Renaissance motets simultaneously. Cecilia Bartoli brought us another album of forgotten-but-excellent baroque music. And the New York Philharmonic's push for Carl Nielsen's idiosyncratic symphonies crashed the party with a pleasing noise (particularly his Symphony No. 3). A new violin concerto from Esa-Pekka Salonen revealed how far he's traveled from the stark influences of fellow Finnish composers like Kaija Saariaho (who was also well-represented with a new chamber album).

For sustained energy and virtuoso technique, go to "Formations" -- a piece for cello and 1-bit electronics by Tristan Perich. As played by Mariel Roberts, it's a marathon of buzzing, blizzard-like textures that equals anything put forward by modern hardcore bands like Converge. For greater poise and reflection, turn to an obscure song cycle by Benjamin Britten, recorded by the young tenor Nicholas Phan (with a poetry-recitation assist from actor Alan Cumming). The 3-hour-plus playlist gives choice entry points for all of these albums, but each one merits full investigation.