Last year it was Jonas Kaufmann’s Wagner Arias album that walked off with the  Limelight Recording of the Year – at the time the first choice of a fair majority of our critics. This year the field has been far more closely contested with several hot favourites popping up at different stages of the exhaustive long-listing and short-listing, and then a regular battle royal to choose the final winner. Remarkably in the end, only one vote separated our champion from its closest rival! In a sign of healthy competition, the finalists represent a genuine spread across the labels. Big names mix it with giant slayers, and independent recording outfits measure up well against the corporate behemoths.

So just what and who did our critical panel consider outstanding on the disc in 2014, and which recording ended up carrying off the top award? Here is a preview of the category winners; the full list of all 15 short-listed recordings, plus our critics’ choices of the best of the rest is featured in the January issue of  Limelight Magazine, on sale this week.

Orchestral Recording of the Year

Symphonies Nos 1-4
Berliner Philharmoniker/Sir Simon Rattle