This year, Limelight will be announcing its annual Recordings of the Year as part of its September issue. Our regular critics have therefore spent the last month or so busily assessing a whole slew of outstanding discs released over the last 12 months.

Limelight Recording of the Year 2022

This year, Limelight will be announcing its annual Recordings of the Year as part of its September issue. Our regular critics have therefore spent the last month or so busily assessing a whole slew of outstanding discs released over the last 12 months.

The votes have now been tallied in each of five categories – Orchestral, Chamber, Instrumental, Vocal and Opera – and the five recordings in each genre will now be subjected to a second intensive round of analysis. As always, the shortlists are an eclectic mix with plenty of household names and major labels rubbing shoulders with more boutique productions, and with some very impressive entries from relative newcomers.

Orchestral         
The Orchestral category this year is dominated by the majors with three of the nominated recordings coming from Universal Music. It will be fascinating to see how the repertoire affects the voting as three popular staples – the conclusion of Andris Nelsons’ Bruckner cycle, the first release in Semyon Bychkov’s Mahler cycle, and Klaus Mäkelä’s complete set of the Sibelius symphonies – go head to head with music by a pair of ‘re-discovered’ 20th-century women composers: symphonies by pioneering Black American composer Florence Price from Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia and orchestral works by the outstanding Croatian composer (and countess!) Dora Pejačević.

Chamber
Music in the chamber category is exceptionally wide, which should make for a riveting contest. The most mainstream is the latest in the Danish String Quartet’s ‘Prism’ series, a survey that looks at each of the late Beethoven Quartets through the eyes of those who came before and after, but how will it stack up next to Sheku and Isata Kanneh-Mason’s recording of cello sonatas by Barber and Rachmaninov? Florence Price is in the mix again with a recording by America’s trailblazing Catalyst Quartet. Then there are String Quartets by the increasingly mainstream but once forgotten Soviet composer Mieczysław Weinberg, and an eclectic recital of violin and cello duets from the always-remarkable Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Sol Gabetta.

Instrumental
When it comes to solo instrumental recordings it’s a case of big names and the three B’s. Harpsichordist Andreas Staier is as associated with the music of Bach as Mitsuko Uchida is with Beethoven and Paul Lewis with Brahms. A remarkably strong field is completed by Stephen Hough – who has probably never made a bad record – playing Schubert and Peter Jablonski introducing the world to the piano music of 20th-century Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz.

Vocal
There may be some familiar names in the vocal category but it’s certainly not true of the chosen repertoire. Iestyn Davies singing Bach cantatas may be no surprise, but Mathias Goerne and Daniil Trifonov have teamed up on a highly original journey that starts with Berg and ends with Brahms and travels by way of Schumann, Wolf and Shostakovich. Lisa Davidsen’s Grieg finds the Norwegian soprano promoting the still uncommonly recorded songs of her compatriot, while Nicky Spence sings Vaughan Williams – including On Wenlock Edge – and Jakub Józef Orliński serves up plenty of world premieres on a disc where Zelenka and Fux are the better-known composers.

Opera
Finally, opera recordings range from familiar works – like François-Xavier Roth’s take on Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande with his historically informed band Les Siècles – to rarities such as the premiere recording of Henze’s Mishima-inspired Das Verratene Meer from the Wiener Staatsoper under Simone Young and Rameau’s charming Les Fêtes D‘Hébé conducted by last year’s opera category award-winner György Vashegyi. A pair of recitals complete the field, both from newcomers: Trinidadian soprano Jeanine De Bique sings Handel and his contemporaries, while British rising-star tenor Freddie De Tommaso sings arias and duets by Puccini and Bizet.

Over the next month, critics will be poring over these 25 exceptional recordings with the category winners and the overall Limelight Recording of the Year 2022 announced in late August.

Orchestral

Chamber

Beethoven Mendelssohn 4857305

Prism IV: Bach, Beethoven, Danish String Quartet
ECM 4857305

Instrumental

Vocal

Opera

Debussy HMM90535254

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande, Roth
Harmonia Mundi HMM90535254

Handel: Mirrors Jeanine De Bique
Berlin Classics 0302017BC

Il Tenore 4852945

Il Tenore: Freddi Di Tommaso
Decca 4852945 

Rameau GCD924012

Rameau: Les Fêtes D’Hébé, Vashegyi
Glossa GCD924012

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