One of the most delightful discoveries I’ve made this year as I’ve delved deeper into Canadian music has been the wealth of classical talent. I’ve written elsewhere that my first introduction to the Canadian music scene was via Les Francofolies de Montréal. If I”m being completely accurate, however, the first Canadian to whose music I was exposed was actually the composer Healey Willan, whose liturgical settings were the standard in the church where I grew up. It’s been a pleasure to start digging into Canada’s classical music, and I look forward to going into greater depth in 2018.
As with all our other year-end articles, these are some of my favorites and I’m sure that for every one listed, I’ve missed ten (or twenty). If you have suggestions for us, tweet us @greatdkwonder and tell us about them.
(There’s a Spotify playlist at the end of the article if you want to sample each album, or you can listen to full albums at the links provided. If you like any of the music, please 1) save the album to your Spotify account, and 2) consider buying the album and supporting the artist.)
Vincent Boucher, Tournemire: Mariae Virginis
I have a special fondness for pipe organ, I cannot lie. And thanks to a very good friend who also is himself an organist and choirmaster, I discovered composers like Charles Tournemire, whose organ repertoire alone could probably occupy an organist for years. While you might find this a bit of a challenging listen, try it anyway… thanks to the increasing pop/folk orientation of church music, I fear organ music is becoming a dying art, and projects like this one will hopefully keep it alive.
Choir of the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, Lux
Since the Christmas season technically is twelve days long (and because in the tradition in which I grew up, no Christmas music was even sung until Christmas Eve), my timing is spot-on in listening to this lovely collection of Christmas music. Although I could nitpick some tempos here and there, overall this is a beautiful album of choral music (which is also a secret love of mine).
James Ehnes, Beethoven: Concerto for Violin
A delightful performance of Beethoven’s only concerto for violin, along with two of his romances and (interestingly) a piece by Schubert to round out the disc. I wasn’t familiar with James Ehnes before this disc (thanks to Gramophone magazine for the heads-up) but I look forward to exploring his discography (several have already been added to my “To Listen” playlist).
Jan Lisiecki, Chopin: Works for Piano and Orchestra
Works by Chopin are nearly always some of the first that an aspiring pianist learns as soon as they have the requisite skill (at least, they were for me). But while much of his solo work has been recorded innumerable times, there are a number of works that have barely been touched; Jan Lisiecki brings some of them to the fore in this simply splendid disc. Highly recommended.
Valérie Milot, Stéphane Tétreault, Antoine Bareil, Trios for Violin, Cello, and Harp
The interplay between harp, violin, and cello makes for a thoroughly enjoyable sound mix and I found myself liking this album more every time I heard it. Most of the repertoire on the disc is French, from the first half of the 20th century, and it’s also a pleasure to explore composers with whom I’m relatively unfamiliar. (It’s also awesome to hear repertoire from a female composer – in this case, Henriette Renié.)
Montréal Guitare Trio, Danzas: Spanish Guitar
A terrific, vivaciously played collection of guitar pieces from composers as diverse as Manuel de Falla (who I would expect to be included in a Spanish sampler) and Al Di Meola (a jazz guitarist who I would not have anticipated here).
Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal (Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor), Rolando Villazón & Ildar Abdrazakov, Duets
I’ve seen some mixed reviews of this album but for myself, I’ve quite enjoyed it. I’m the first to admit that while I’ve tried over the years to appreciate opera, I’ve not yet fully succeeded. For me, this album is a delightful set of duets that I can enjoy thoroughly without feeling overwhelmed by the length of the opera or the language disconnect.
Joel Quarrington and David Jalbert, Schubert: An Die Musik
I picked up this lovely album at a shop earlier this fall. When I took it to the counter (along with other purchases), the store owner singled this one out and said, “Oh, this one is beautiful.” And so it is. Many Schubert duet discs feature cello with piano, but Quarrington’s double bass has a gorgeous depth that really shines in this pieces. (My one quibble is for the record label: please, please correct the spelling of Schubert on the CD spine.)
Listen to a track rom each album above in our Spotify playlist: