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GUIDE | Musical Suggestions For Holiday 2020 Gift Giving

By Anya Wassenberg on December 4, 2020

The year 2020 may be remembered for many reasons; let one of them be the release of some memorable classical music recordings.

Holiday 2020 Gift Guide

Music is the perfect holiday gift. It suits any holiday you may be celebrating, and delivered digitally, it is also an ideal gift solution for a year of lockdowns and restricted socializing. It can be exchanged without meeting in person, and its enjoyment goes at least some ways towards easing the unusual nature of the occasion in 2020.

We’ve looked through some of the many classical music recordings released this year to find seven that should fit just about anyone on your list.

Stewart Goodyear
Beethoven: The Complete Piano Concertos (Orchid Classics)

One of the better ways to commemorate Beethoven250 is listening to this stellar recording by one of the German master’s most passionate interpreters. Goodyear’s impeccable technique serves to illuminate the music. He delves into the heart of each concerto to find its emotion, and while his speed and virtuosity are impressive, they’re secondary to the colours of interpretation. From the delicate lyricism of No. 2 to a bold and impassioned Emperor, Goodyear captures Beethoven’s evolution as a composer through his playing.

Mark Fewer, Hank Knox
Vivaldi: Manchester Sonatas (Leaf Music)

Violinist and Artistic Director of Stratford Summer Music Mark Fewer and frequent collaborator Hank Knox, a noted harpsichordist, recorded this unique collection of Vivaldi sonatas. The Manchester Sonatas consist of 12 sonatas discovered by accident in 1973 in a library in Manchester, UK. In the notes, Fewer describes the collection as “a haberdashery of Vivaldi” in a series of forms with unusual musical characteristics. The album was recorded at l’Église St. Augustin in Mirabel, Québec for its gorgeous Baroque-friendly acoustics.

Vikingur Ólafsson
Debussy – Rameau (Universal Music)

The Icelandic pianist has been taking the world of classical music by storm since he appeared on the international scene just a few years ago. It was his interpretations of Bach that first garnered large scale notice, but this 2020 release of French composers proves his interpretive gifts are wide ranging. Ólafsson finds unexpected elements in well known works such as Debussy’s Children’s Corner, along with a continuity of approach that informs both great French composers. The album was recorded in Reykjavik at the Harpa concert hall.

Michael Spyres, Lawrence Brownlee
Rossini: Amici e Rivali (Warner Classics)

The two tenors offer a spirited interpretation of a selection of Rossini pieces, with the ensemble I Virtuosi Italiani and conductor Corrado Rovaris on this recording. Brownlee is noted as one of the modern day stars of bel canto, and he’s played a key role in engaging the classical music world on the issue of diversity. His chemistry with Michael Spyres, a sought after Tenor, lights up this recording. It’s a treat for opera lovers, particularly in a year when the stages have gone dark.

Alexina Louie
Take the Dog Sled (Centrediscs)

Inuit throat singers Akinisie Sivuarapik and Evie Mark perform with Toronto’s Esprit Orchestra, conductor Alex Pauk, in this recording of Alexina Louie’s 2008 composition Take The Dog Sled. The result is evocative and unexpected, in a range of moods from the kinetic rhythms of “Tundra” to the ominous patterns of the second movement, No. 2, “Sharpening the Runners on the Dog Sled”, and the whimsical No. 6, “Bug Music”. Vancouver-born Alexina Louie’s is a unique and intriguing voice in the world of contemporary classical music.

Jess Gillam
TIME (DECCA)

Jess Gillam and her Ensemble play a range works by composers from the worlds of pop and classical, from Brian Eno, Thom Yorke, and Björk, to Philip Glass and Max Richter, among others. The British saxophonist is making waves and winning fans all over the world. At 22 years old, Gillam is also a social media star. TIME is her third recording, exploring the cycle of time through the passage of a day. It’s a fresh and contemporary approach to classical music that blurs genre lines.

Erin Wall, Joshua Hopkins, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis (Conductor)
Massenet: Thaïs (Chandos)

The superb artistry of the late Canadian soprano Erin Wall is captured in this recording of Massenet’s sensuous masterpiece Thaïs. Sir Andrew Davis conducts the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, along with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and was recorded at Roy Thomson Hall. Wall’s lyricism and the orchestra’s playing were noted in favourable reviews, and offers opera fans a dramatic mixture of religion and sensuality.

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