Vote now in the BBC Music Magazine Awards

Vote now in the BBC Music Magazine Awards

Choosing the nominations for this year’s BBC Music Magazine Awards was, as usual, a difficult process, our specially selected jury of critics agonising over which incredible recordings to add to the shortlist. But we got there… so here are the nominated recordings, each one a gem in its own right and a lifetime of enjoyment for its listeners. Our 21 nominations were chosen from a longlist of more than 200 recordings, each of which had been awarded five stars by our critics in their reviews.

On this page you can listen to clips from all of the nominations, choose your favourites and then cast your votes.

Everyone who votes will be able to enter a prize draw to win one of two copies of each of the 21 nominations. The winners will be announced in the May issue of BBC Music Magazine. Voting closes 19 February.

  1. Step 1: Select a category to vote in
  2. Step 2: Listen to the audio clip from the nominated discs
  3. Step 3: Vote for your favourite
  4. Step 4: Repeat in as many categories as you like
  5. Step 5: Confirm your votes! You will be entered into our prize draw
Bacewicz String Quartets Vol. 2

Bacewicz

String Quartets Nos 1, 3, 6 & 7
Lutosławski Quartet
Naxos 8.572806

Reviewed November 2015

Grazyna Bacewicz is the great unsung heroine of post-war Polish music, a brilliant, individual composer who kept the art of the string quartet vividly alive during the bleakest years of Communist rule. The brilliant young Lutosławskis are captivating in the dancing wistfulness of her first, folk-inflected quartet, the questing, inventive grace of the 1960s works and the irresistible vivacity of No. 3.

Audio clip: Vivo from String Quartet No. 1

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Smetana String Quartets Nos 1 & 2

Smetana

String Quartets Nos 1 & 2
Pavel Haas Quartet
Supraphon SU 4172-2

Reviewed July 2015

The Pavel Haas Quartet have already set new standards with their Janáček and Dvořák. Now it’s the turn of fellow countryman Smetana, and once again the results are outstanding. Playing of real intensity and vivid detail brings out the drama and intimacy of these two highly personal quartets, and the musicians’ innate understanding for the Czech composer’s idiom shapes every nuance. It’s hard to imagine these recordings being bettered.

Audio clip: Allegro vivo appassionato from String Quartet No. 1 'From my Life'

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Lawes The Royal Consort

Lawes

The Royal Consort
Phantasm
Linn CKD 470 (hybrid CD/SACD)

Reviewed August 2015

Charles I’s favourite composer, William Lawes, killed at the siege of Chester, shows us why the monarch thought so well of him. The music contains adventurous harmonies, infectious dances, humorous twists and captivating colours, and it’s all brought brilliantly to life by the ensemble Phantasm, their sumptuous playing framed by an effortlessly revealing recording. Lawes thoroughly deserves it; this is essential and revelatory.

Audio clip: Moriss and Corant from Royal Consort Sett No. 6

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Anne Boleyn's Songbook

Anne Boleyn’s Songbook

Music and Passions of a Tudor Queen
Clare Wilkinson (voice), Jacob Heringman (lute), Kirsty Whatley (harp); Alamire/David Skinner
Obsidian CD715

Reviewed Christmas 2015

This inspired project reveals a world of public splendour and private melancholy. In the ill-fated queen’s personal playlist are English songs, French chansons, intimate instrumental gems and glorious polyphony from Josquin and Mouton. Alamire achieve a warm, robust sound, while Clare Wilkinson sings the final O Deathe rock me asleep with haunting pathos.

Audio clip: Mouton's Tota pulchra es

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Brahms & Bruckner Motets

Brahms •Bruckner

Choral Motets; Aequalis Nos 1 & 2
Tenebrae/Nigel Short
Signum SIGCD430

Reviewed Christmas 2015

Don’t be fooled by the compact dimensions of Bruckner’s motets. They have lofty symphonic ambitions, and Tenebrae and its enterprising conductor Nigel Short match their demands with an ease and economy that’s rarely heard, from the deepest bass to the soaring sopranos. Majestic Brahms, too, with immense power, huge dynamic range and ringing intonation.

Audio clip: Bruckner's Os Justi

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Taverner Missa Corona spinea

Taverner

Missa Corona spinea; Dum transisset Sabbatum I & II
Tallis Scholars/ Peter Phillips
Gimmell CDGIM046

Reviewed Christmas 2015

Be dazzled by Taverner’s astonishing festal mass featuring stratospheric trebles in this recording from Merton College, Oxford. The Tallis sopranos capture the bright transparency of boys’ voices with impressive precision, creating ethereal effects above a flexible cantus firmus. In Phillips’s hands the mass unfolds with slow, radiant grandeur: a celestial feast for the ears.

Audio clip: Agnus Dei II from Taverner's Missa Corona spinea

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Prokofiev & Shostakovich Cello concertos

Prokofiev • Shostakovich

Prokofiev: Cello Concerto in E minor • Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1
Steven Isserlis (cello); Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Hyperion CDA 68037

Reviewed May 2015

Prokofiev’s Cello Concerto, completed during the height of Stalin’s Terror in 1938, is here revealed as a great and much underestimated masterpiece. Steven Isserlis is the compelling soloist in this powerful performance, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony under the ever-attentive Paavo Järvi, realising the striking inventiveness of Prokofiev’s orchestration. The Shostakovich is given just as expressive and searching a performance.

Audio clip: Allegro con moto from Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1

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Tchaikovsky & Prokofiev Piano concertos

Tchaikovsky • Prokofiev

Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1 (1879 version) • Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 2
Kirill Gerstein (piano); Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/James Gaffigan
Myrios Classics MYR 016

Reviewed March 2015

This recording of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto replaces the inauthentic bombast of the familiar final-published score with the composer’s favoured version. From the soloist’s first entry, sensitively performed by Kirill Gerstein, we discover a lyrical, intimate work, belying its reputation as a hackneyed warhorse.

Audio clip: Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso from Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1

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Vivaldi L'estro armonico

Vivaldi

L’estro armonico
Rachel Podger (violin); Brecon Baroque
Channel Classics CCS SA 36515 (hybrid CD/SACD)

Reviewed April 2015

Brecon Baroque, founded by Rachel Podger in 2007, illuminates Vivaldi’s score in a benchmark performance. In its day, L’estro armonico (‘Harmonic Inspiration’) took Europe by storm, showing how string players could outbid opera singers in their expressiveness. To listen to this recording is to enter a brilliant, delicate dialogue between the finest artists.

Audio clip: Allegro from Concerto No. 8, RV230

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Schubert Piano sonatas

Schubert

Piano Sonatas Nos 18 & 21; Moments Musicaux; 4 Impromptus, D935
András Schiff (fortepiano)
ECM New Series 481 1572

Reviewed July 2015

András Schiff’s Schubert has always been revelatory: the Hungarian pianist’s Central European instinct for Schubert’s language and, especially, for the song elements within his piano writing, has always provided rich insight. But, turning to Schubert’s sonatas on the fortepiano has liberated Schiff into a new lightness of being, opening up compelling areas of fantasy in the composer’s work.

Audio clip: Hungarian Melody in B minor, D817

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JS Bach Cello suites

JS Bach

Cello Suites
David Watkin (cello)
Resonus RES 10147

Reviewed July 2015

It’s very hard to put into words why this recording is so special. One of the finest Baroque cellists at last commits to disc great works he’s lived with for many years, knowing as he does so that these are his last recordings (Watkin suffers from a chronic skin condition relating to his fingers, preventing him from playing). This is inspirational solo Bach of the highest order, intimate and exalted, and it’s a profoundly moving achievement.

Audio clip: Prelude from Suite No. 3 in C, BWV 1009

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Mozart Piano sonatas

Mozart

Piano Sonatas Nos 6, 12, 14 & 16; Fantasia in C minor
Christian Blackshaw (piano)
Wigmore Hall Live WHLive 0076/2

Reviewed August 2015

After years away, Christian Blackshaw returned to the stage at the top of his game. A Wigmore Hall Mozart series in 2012 revealed his thoughtful artistry, exemplified by this superlative volume, the third in the series. Four varied sonatas and the dark Fantasia in C minor are all played with his hallmark luminous tone, natural grace and authority.

Audio clip: Allegro assai from Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K457

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Barry The Importance of Being Earnest

Barry

The Importance of Being Earnest
Barbara Hannigan, Katalin Károlyi, Hilary Summers, Peter Tantsits et al; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/Thomas Adès
NMC NMC D 197

Reviewed January 2015

It’s impossible to resist Gerald Barry’s riotous adaptation of Wilde’s comic play, especially with these performers. By throwing everything in the air, with a dizzyingly sequence of musical styles, borrowings and invention, Barry captures and enhances the essence of this perfect farce to create an inspired opera.

Audio clip: 'Are your parents living?' from The Importance of Being Earnest

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Tchaikovsky Pique Dame

Tchaikovsky

The Queen of Spades
Misha Didyk, Tatiana Serjan, Larissa Diadkova, Alexey Shishlyaev et al; Bavarian State Opera Children’s Choir; Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra & Choir/Mariss Jansons
BR Klassik 900129

Reviewed Christmas 2015

This is a supremely skilful recording of an exciting live performance. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is beautifully shaped and pin-sharp and the singers are vivid and characterful. The chorus is impressive, too, with a sophisticated sound that oozes drama.

Audio clip: 'Song of Tomsky and Chorus' from Act III, Scene 3 of The Queen of Spades

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Verdi's Aida

Verdi

Aida
Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Erwin Schrott, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tézier; Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia/Sir Antonio Pappano
Warner Classics 2564610663

Reviewed November 2015

Sir Antonio Pappano knows his Verdi – as is in evidence in a performance of the Italian’s Egypt-inspired opera that is as musically brilliant as it is dramatically convincing. The orchestral playing is scintillating, the starry soloists utterly sublime.

Audio clip: 'Celeste Aida' from Act I, Scene 1 of Aida

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CPE Bach Hamburg Symphonies

CPE Bach

Hamburg Symphonies
Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
Alba ABCD 374 (hybrid CD/SACD)

Reviewed February 2015

It can sometimes take a Finnish musician to hear afresh, and to bring new insight into German repertoire. The Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra and Sakari Oramo have renewed the sheer surprise factor in these wonderful little 18th-century symphonies, unleashing the ‘bold and imaginative’ character which struck their early listeners so forcibly.

Audio clip: Adagio from Sinfonia in C, Wq 182/3

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Nielsen Symphonies Nos 1 & 3

Nielsen

Symphonies Nos 1 & 3
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
BIS BIS 2048 (hybrid CD/SACD)

Reviewed March 2015

Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s excellent Nielsen symphony cycle shines with particular lustre in their account of the two least-known works. Both are performed with compelling symphonic purpose, No. 1 with a spring in its step and considerable charm and grandeur, while No. 3 has vigour and atmosphere.

Audio clip: Allegro orgoglioso from Symphony No. 1

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Richard Strauss Symphonia domestica & Die Tageszeiten

Richard Strauss

Symphonia Domestica; Die Tageszeiten
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra; Berlin Radio Choir/Marek Janowski
Pentatone PTC5186507

Reviewed October 2015

There are revelations aplenty in this pairing of Strauss’s often overlooked Symphonia Domestica with the virtually unknown Die Tageszeiten. Janowski’s fresh approach brings out the detail and the drama of the Symphonia, while the Berlin Radio Choir and Symphony Orchestra are in sublime form for the gorgeous Die Tageszeiten.

Audio clip: Massig langsam. Bewegter from Symphonia Domestica

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Agrippina

Agrippina

Works by Graun, Orlandini, Mattheson, Handel, Telemann, Magni, Sammartini et al
Ann Hallenberg (mezzo); Il Pomo d’Oro/Riccardo Minasi
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 88875055982

Reviewed September 2015

As a subject for an opera, Agrippina was the Carmen of the 18th century – beautiful, ruthless, bewitching and power-hungry, her story inspired composers from Handel to Sammartini. Embracing this music, much of it recorded for the first time, the riveting Ann Hallenberg brings Agrippina to gripping life.

Audio clip: 'Ma paventi il figlio indegno' from Graun's Britannico

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Green

Green

Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine
Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor), Jérôme Ducros (piano), Nathalie Stutzmann (contralto); Quatuor Ebène
Erato 2564616693

Reviewed July 2015

This labour of love from Philippe Jaroussky is a beautifully conceived and wonderfully sung collection. Jaroussky collates song settings of Verlaine, that most musical of poets, from composers as diverse as Debussy, Massenet, Charles Trenet and Varèse, along with charming rarities in an enticing treasure-trove.

Audio clip: Ferré Colloque Sentimentale

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Beethoven An die ferne Geliebte

Beethoven

An die ferne Geliebte; Songs; Bagatelles, Op. 126
Werner Güra (tenor), Christoph Berner (fortepiano)
Harmonia Mundi HMC 902217

Reviewed December 2015

Beethoven’s heart and mind is uncovered as his song-cycle An die ferne Geliebte is put within the context of an interleaving of the composer’s songs and bagatelles. Werner Güra’s beautifully enunciated tenor recreates the spiritual struggle in Beethoven’s songs, and Christoph Berner’s fearless playing, as accompanist and soloist, sets the songs into new and thrilling relief.

Audio clip: Zärtliche Liebe

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