The 10 best classical albums of 2018, chosen by John Suchet
21 December 2018, 11:01
From Andrea Bocelli to Yo-Yo Ma, Classic FM presenter John Suchet counts down 2018’s most unforgettable classical albums. And it’s no surprise who has taken the No. 1 spot...
This year has produced some exciting debut albums, as well as releases from musicians that we haven’t heard from in a few years.
But which classical albums will John Suchet single out in his top 10?
Bryn Terfel – Dreams and Songs
At No. 10, it’s world-renowned bass-baritone Sir Bryn Terfel and his first album release in five years, Dreams and Songs – a selection of well-known and traditional pieces.
He steps away from the dramatic opera roles that he is revered for in exchange for musical numbers and duets with an impressive guest list including Alfie Boe, Katherine Jenkins and Joseph Calleja.
Alexis Ffrench – Evolution
With stellar support from the likes of harpist Lavinia Meijer and electro folk duo Tall Heights, contemporary classical composer Alexis Ffrench could not be accused of delivering the expected.
Describing the album as being “inspired by the extremes and inherent fragility of the human experience”, Ffrench’s musical world is one that takes as much influence from classical and minimalist masters like Bach and Nyman as it does contemporary artists like Kendrick Lamar.
Daniil Trifonov/Philadelphia – Destination Rachmaninov: Departure
One of the most exciting piano virtuosos of his generation, Trifonov took this opportunity to explore Rachmaninov’s cycle of piano concertos, alongside the Philadelphia Orchestra and its music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
This album includes Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, his transcription of a solo Bach Partita for solo violin No. 3, and Trifonov’s personal favourite, the Piano Concerto No. 4 – and it’s just glorious.
Rebecca Dale – Requiem for my Mother
A phenomenal young composer, Rebecca Dale was the first female composer to sign to Decca Classics. This September, she released her debut album featuring two substantial works: Materna Requiem – a touching homage to her late mother, and the choral symphony When Music Sounds.
It’s an album packed with choral singing and beautiful vocal melodies that showcase the talents of soprano Louise Alder and tenor Trystan Griffiths.
Andrea Bocelli – Sì
Andrea Bocelli returned this year with an album of classical-crossover tracks celebrating love, life and family. Sì was his first album of new material in 14 years, and it features 16 new songs with some surprising guest appearances, including Ed Sheeran, Dua Lipa, Josh Groban and the young Russian soprano, Aida Garifullina.
But at the centre of the album is the single ‘Fall On Me’, sung by Andrea and his 20-year-old son Matteo Bocelli – now tipped a rising star in the classical world.
Yo-Yo Ma – Six Evolutions
One of the cello’s greatest ever advocates, Yo-Yo Ma has had a long and detailed musical relationship with Bach. So it makes perfect sense that this relationship should evolve over time, as the title of this new collection suggests.
Indeed, those familiar with Ma’s relationship with the Bach’s cello suites in particular will have found such a wealth of interest here – indispensable for devotees to performer and composer alike.
Ray Chen – The Golden Age
Violinist Ray Chen tackles some truly indulgent material here, in this celebration of what he calls The Golden Age of his instrument. He plays some stunning arrangements from the likes of Fritz Kreisler and Jascha Heifetz, as well as a centrepiece concerto – Bruch’s first – recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ana de la Vega – Mozart & Mysliveček: Flute Concertos
Ana grew up on a farm in rural New South Wales in Australia. As a child, she had never seen a flute, didn’t know what an orchestra was and had certainly never been to a concert hall. But aged seven, she by chance heard Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto on the radio, and she knew what she wanted to do with her life.
Ana has since studied in Europe, toured around the world and, earlier this year, released her debut concerto recording. It is of Mozart, and it’s just magical.
John Williams: A Life in Music
From Harry Potter to Star Wars, John Williams has composed some of the most successful film scores in history – and this year marked a major milestone for the Hollywood legend, as he celebrated a monumental 60 years working in film.
In this album, Williams is reunited with the London Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble that famously recorded his 1977 masterpiece Star Wars: A New Hope, as well as the glorious music behind Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. When it comes to tugging at the heartstrings, this album certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Inspiration
What a year this young musician has had. On the day he played at the Royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Sheku Kanneh-Mason’s debut album Inspiration reached No. 1 in the US iTunes pop chart. It also notched up 2.5 million streams on Spotify in the first week of its release.
The album offers us an insight into the cellist’s taste in music – which isn’t necessarily always classical. It features Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto, a beautiful chamber rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and the cellist’s own arrangement of Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman, No Cry’ – all great music, from a wide variety of genres, that Sheku has been inspired by.