Instrumental Award

Schubert

Schubert Piano Sonatas D959 and D960

Krystian Zimerman (piano)
Deutsche Grammophon 479 7588

Reviewed Christmas 2017

The soundworld of this disc is immediately striking: Zimerman has added his own keyboard into a Steinway to create an instrument more akin to what Schubert might have known. But it’s not just the singing tone that sets these performances apart: Zimerman’s take on these two late sonatas is carefully thought through and deeply felt.

Dreams and Fancies

English music for solo guitar: works by Walton, L Berkeley, Dowland, Arnold and Britten

Sean Shibe (guitar)
Delphian DCD34193

Reviewed October 2017

Not just great guitar playing, but for two members of this year’s jury the best they had ever heard. At 25, Sean Shibe is that rare thing, a mature philosopher among musicians. He draws a rainbow of colours from his instrument, and Arnold’s Fantasy is a highlight in a balanced programme of English music.

Audio clip: Dowland Fantasia

Bach2 The Future

Works by Sutton, Beamish, Davies, JS Bach, Ysaÿe, Stravinsky and Sibelius

Fenella Humphreys (violin)
Champs Hill Records CHRCD118

Reviewed January 2017

This gutsy and exhilarating disc completes violinist Fenella Humphreys’s laudable project to commission and record six companion pieces to Bach’s Partitas. Featuring splendid new compositions by Sally Beamish, Peter Maxwell Davies and Adrian Sutton alongside works by Bach, Ysaÿe, Stravinsky and Sibelius, the disc is performed with great precision and verve.

Feldman & Crumb

Feldman Intermission 5; Piano Piece 1952; Extensions 3; Palais de Mari
Crumb Processional; A Little Suite for Christmas

Steven Osborne (piano)
Hyperion CDA 68108

Reviewed August 2016

Visee & Corbetta

Visée La mascarade & other works
Corbetta Passacaille en sol mineur & other works

Rolf Lislevand (Baroque guitar, theorbo)
ECM 481 1716

Reviewed November 2016

Mahan Esfahani

JS Bach Goldberg Variations

Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)
Deutsche Grammophon 479 5929

Reviewed December 2016

Even music-lovers who normally hate the sound of the harpsichord find themselves mesmerised by Mahan Esfahani. He seems to have a magic touch on the instrument, coaxing out an extraordinary range of colour and articulations. Never has that been more evident than on this recording, where the playing matches the brilliant playfulness of Bach’s variations.

Audio clip: Variation No. 13

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.

Schubert

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

Reviewed July 2015