2016 will go down as the year Mozart improbably beat out Adele, Beyoncé and Drake in CD sales. If that doesn’t explain the wonky twelve months we’ve had then very little will. We saw the Cubs win the World Series, Trump beat Clinton, and the UK vote to leave the EU. Vine was shut down. Prince, Bowie and Muhammad Ali all passed away. Who would’ve predicted any of those at the year’s outset? Not you, Nate Silver.
In a world of such volatility there were a few constants. TV series were still off-the-charts good. LaCroix sales skyrocketed. LeBron achieved apex playoff form. And classical musicians, orchestras, operas and collectives continued to churn out stellar releases.
Here once again is the Classical Dark Arts rundown of the best 2016 albums. Click links to preview tracks. If you decide to buy one — whether on vinyl, CD or mp3 — CDA will get a small but not insignificant portion of the proceeds. Thanks.
- Tim Hecker, LOVE STREAMS. Big-tent classical music must make room for albums like this.
- Carolina Eyck, FANTASIAS FOR THEREMIN AND STRING QUARTET. Greatness manifests itself in unlikely ways. The theremin is a slightly abused instrument, but Eyck is a master, full stop.
- Jordi Savall, GRANADA ETERNA. Pure finesse from the maestro.
- Hélène Grimaud, WATER. Came back to this again and again. Might be my favorite classical release of 2016.
- Arvo Pärt, William Byrd, Sixteen, Harry Christophers, THE DEER’S CRY. Been pilfering tracks from this for playlists & mixtapes all damn year.
- Rabbi Elkhanan Kirchen, Di Tsaytmashin, YIDDISH BAROQUE MUSIC. One of the year’s happy discoveries. Fun to turn friends onto.
- Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques, COUPERIN: ARIANE CONSOLED BY BACCHUS. Familiarize yourself with Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. Part of a much bigger Couperin project, ably stands on its own.
- Meredith Monk, Noël Akchoté, NIGHTFALL. More of an EP or maxi single than a proper album. Easily made the list.
- David T. Little, DOG DAYS. I stole this from WQXR’s (or Q2’s?) year-end list. I’m fascinated and afraid to ignore it. Early returns are positive, more listening required.
- Christopher Rouse, NY Phil, ODNA ZHIZN, SYMPHONIES NOS. 3 & 5 AND PROSPERO’S ROOMS. Great work from the NY Phil and its composer-in-residence Chris Rouse, up for a Grammy.
- BSO & Andris Nelsons, SHOSTAKOVICH UNDER STALIN’S SHADOW. The BSO are getting deserved praise for their ongoing Shostakovich project, and netted two Grammy nods as well. Love the Hamlet suite.
- Anna Meredith, VARMINTS. Meredith strays from strictly classical forms, and that will make some people (eyeroll) uncomfortable.
- Alarm Will Sound, MODERNISTS. Deep from end to end. Augusta Read Thomas’ Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour is amazing.
- eighth blackbird, HAND EYE. Not the blockbuster that filament was, but you don’t reinvent the wheel every time.
- Jean-Michel Blais, II. Spare, deceptively simple. Blais makes high art out of piano noodling.
- John Adams, Leila Josefowicz, St. Louis Symphony, SHEHERAZADE.2. I’m jealous of orchestras that will play this. Buy stock in Sheherazade.2 — the programming possibilities are endless.