Need a gift for the music lover in your life? We’ve got you covered with KUSC’s My Favorite Things! We’re sharing our favorite albums from the past year, hand picked from each host. It’s music we don’t want you to miss! See the lists below.

Alan Chapman's Favorite Things


Hilary Hahn
Retrospective

I’m a big, big fan and I’m delighted to hear her play such a wide range of material.

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Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Inspiration

Young, talented, and had to cancel on the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to play at the royal wedding.

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Stephen Hough
Dream Album

I’m a follower of Hough (both on recordings and on Twitter). This is a thoroughly delightful recording and I truly enjoy his transcriptions and original compositions.

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Daniel Barenboim/Berlin Staatskapelle
Brahms: The Symphonies

It’s been said that if you’re a true lover of Brahms, your favorite Brahms symphony is whichever one you’ve heard most recently. And this set is a fine way to hear them all.

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Víkingur Ólafsson
Bach

“Iceland’s Glenn Gould” earns his title with a collection of works by Bach as well as his own transcriptions of Bach chorales.

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Brian Lauritzen's Favorite Things


Martha Argerich & Sergei Babayan
Prokofiev for Two

Whatever projects Martha Argerich undertakes, I’m interested in them. In most cases, I’m also into them. Like this one with the Armenian-American pianist Sergei Babayan, who arranged a bunch of Prokofiev’s ballet music for two pianos. You get a bunch of R&J, a tantalizing snippet of War and Peace (not all 1,225 pages worth), and more.

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Menahem Pressler
Clair de lune

Menahem Pressler plays Debussy. ‘Nuff said.

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Stewart Goodyear
For Glenn Gould

One great Canadian pianist pays tribute to another on this album where Goodyear recreates Gould’s now-legendary U.S. debut recital.

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Peter Gregson
Bach: The Cello Suites Recomposed by Peter Gregson

A cellist recommending a recording of a recomposition of the Holy Grail of cello repertoire? How blasphemous! But, like Max Richter’s recomposition of the Vivaldi Four Seasons before it, this new take on the Bach Suites (almost like wisps of memories of the Bach Suites) is actually pretty incredible. I can see the purists’ hate emails already and I just don’t care.

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Lacrime Amare
Bianca Maria Meda Motets

Here’s a wonderful introduction to a virtually unknown composer from the late Renaissance/early Baroque period: Bianca Maria Meda. Little is known about Meda other than the few details printed on the title page of the edition of these motets, printed in 1691: her name; her title: donna (indicating her position as professa in a Benedictine convent); and the name of the monastery where she lived: San Martino del Leano, in Pavia. Her music, however, is absolutely glorious!

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Nicol Matt / Chamber Choir of Europe
Light Eternal: The Choral Music of Morten Lauridsen

He’s still not my dad, but still, I adore his music. This new recording, made with the supervision of Morten Lauridsen, is exquisite.

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Los Angeles Philharmonic / Gustavo Dudamel
Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker

These performances (recorded live in 2013) were electric at the time and I’m so glad they’re being released commercially. This replaces Rattle/Berlin and Gergiev/Mariinsky as my go-to Nutcracker recording.

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 Hélène Grimaud
Memory

This dreamy musical landscape by Hélène Grimaud was one of my favorite Albums of the Week this year. A perfect respite from a frazzled world.

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Dianne Nicolini's Favorite Things


Sheku Kanneh-Mason
Inspiration

He made a splash performing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, (and before that, apparently, on Britain’s Got Talent). He is the young cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, a musician to watch. His debut album, Inspiration, gave us a lot of great moments, from Saint-Saens’ The Swan to Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry.

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Lara Downes
For Lenny

Subtitled “An intimate tribute to Leonard Bernstein and his American legacy,” Lara Downes’ 2018 release For Lenny is a kind of family-and-friends effort, featuring opera legend Thomas Hampson, roots singer Rhiannon Giddens, superstar beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola (a member of the a cappella group Pentatonix), and Mexican/American clarinet prodigy Javier Morales-Martinez.

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Joshua Bell
Bruch Concertos

When the man who is arguably the most famous violinist of our time releases a new album, it’s a big deal. I was surprised that this was Bell’s first go at the super-popular Scottish Fantasy. He says he’s “only” been playing it for ten years, and it’s time to record it! Paired with the Fantasy is the other work for which Max Bruch is best known, the Concerto #1. This disc represents the second time Joshua Bell has recorded this work, but his insights into why it’s a different piece to him now are fascinating.

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Ola Gjeilo
Winter Songs

I’m a sucker for the contemporary choral sound, coming mostly from Scandinavia. Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s music really embodies this ethereal aesthetic. This album has some of his own music, but also his arrangements of seasonal songs for the Winter Solstice.

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Ronn McFarlane
The Celtic Lute

American master lutenist, Ronn McFarlane celebrates his Scottish heritage with a new album of Celtic music for lute. The album makes for a lovely journey through Ireland and Scotland thanks to the “vivacity and delicacy” of the lute. Lovely!

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Jim Svejda's Favorite Things


Piotr Anderszewski, piano / Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Mozart: Piano Concertos 25 & 27

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Orchestra of the Santa Cecilia Academy / Sir Antonio Pappano
Bernstein: The 3 Symphonies

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MusicAeterna / Theodor Currentzis
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 “Pathétique”

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BBC Symphony and Chorus / Martyn Brabbins
Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony

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Estonian National Symphony Orchestra / Neeme Järvi
Weiner: Five Divertimentos, Serenade

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Onyx Brass
Fanfares

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John Van Driel's Favorite Things


Kirill Gerstein, piano / St. Louis Symphony Orchestra / David Robertson
The Gershwin Moment

Great performances and a wonderful addition of vocalist Storm Large and vibraphonist Gary Burton.

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Civitas Ensemble & Gipsy Way
Alla Zingarese

A fresh take on some of the old standards.

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Daniil Trifonov
Destination Rachmaninov – Departure

Hard to beat this recording of Rachmaninov piano concertos, plus seldom heard Rachmaninov transcriptions of Bach.

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Ray Chen
The Golden Age

Ray Chen is such an electrifying violinist. Besides it worth it just for his version of Waltzing Matilda.

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David Aaron Carpenter
Motherland

Finally, a recording that features the Viola front and center. A wonderful mix of old and new music.

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Various Artists
The Royal Wedding Official Album

A great musical document of one the most positive events of the year. Worth it just for the rousing version of God Save the Queen!

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Rich Capparela's Favorite Things


Daniil Trifonov, piano / Philadelphia Orchestra / Yannick Nezet-Seguin
Destination Rachmaninov – Departure

Trifonov has the touch:  he seems to excel in music by any composer he chooses to tackle. And how cool that he decided to record the seldom heard 4th Rachmaninoff piano concerto.

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Buffalo Philharmonic / JoAnn Falletta
Kodaly: Concerto for Orchestra

Faletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic have been coming out with some of the most provocative albums of the past couple of years. This is one their tamer efforts, but no less dazzling.

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New York Philharmonic / Jaap van Zweden
Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 7

The thing about the Beethoven symphonies is that conductors and orchestra keep finding ways to make them fresh. The seventh, especially, is, in spite of its overwhelming popularity, a treasure trove of discovery.

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Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites

Yo-Yo Ma. Bach. Case closed.

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Baltimore Symphony / Marin Alsop
Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet

It could be argued that Prokofiev’s take on Shakespeare’s tragedy is one of the Top 10 ballet scores of all time. Marin Alsop focuses on the lyrical aspects of the score and the result brings tears to one’s eyes – in the very best way possible.

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Robin Pressman's Favorite Things


Anne Akiko Meyers
Mirror in Mirror

Meyers collaborated with all of the composers on this album (except Ravel!) to make this reflective and spiritual collection. Philip Glass, Arvo Part, Morten Lauridsen… it’s a meditative journey. Plus, two of the selections are the lullaby choices of her two young daughters.

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Hilary Hahn
Retrospective

“A piece I record is a piece I love.” So says Hilary Hahn as she revisits some of her favorites: Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, Bach’s Double Concerto, Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto written for her; and includes three new live recordings including Max Richter’s Mercy. Hahn built her huge fan base beginning in 1996 at the age of 16 as she toured radio stations with her Dad in tow (posting photos on her web diary). Along the way from then to now, fans from around the world sent in their own original Hilary portraits which are included in the album cover art and booklet.

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Rachel Barton Pine and Jory Vinikour
J.S Bach: Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord

Rachel Barton Pine says she loves these pieces because they are duos that actually function as trios. That is, Bach wrote them for violin, the harpsichordist’s right hand, AND the harpsichordist’s left hand. “I am essentially 1/3 of the duo,” she explains.

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Anderson and Roe
Mother: A Musical Tribute

Elizabeth Joy Roe and Greg Anderson take a whimsical approach to motherhood with a collection that includes Brahms’ Lullaby and Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, but adds Paul Simon’s Mrs. Robinson, and Freddie Mercury’s Bohemian Rhapsody! Great gift for the moms on your list, just sayin’.

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Kirill Gerstein, piano / St. Louis Symphony Orchestra / David Robertson
The Gershwin Moment

George Gershwin, in his short life was never considered a serious classical composer, though after his death at age 39, Jascha Heifetz said, “We should be ashamed we did not appreciate [Gershwin] when he was in our midst.” Pianist Kirill Gerstein grew up in Russia listening to his parents’ jazz records, studied jazz at Boston’s Berklee School of Music, and sometimes experienced a bit of a cold shoulder from later classical teachers. Seems this album was meant to be: a meeting of the minds of two outside-of-the-box musicians.

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