Hidden gems of 2011: great classical recordings you may have missed

Fiona Maddocks and Nicholas Kenyon choose a selection of classical CDs that were overlooked this year

Shostakovich: Songs for the Front

Soloists of the Russkaya Conservatoria Chamber Capella (Toccata)

During the siege of Leningrad (1941-44), Shostakovich made his own war effort by arranging popular Soviet songs, operatic arias and other classical music for small-scale performance, usually voice, violin and cello. These 27 arrangements include Beethoven's Scottish Drinking Song, the "Habañera" from Carmen and Weckerlin's "Mother, what is love". Truly a collector's item. FM

Bach: Trauer-Musik

Taverner Consort & Players/ Parrott (Avie)

This is the first full reconstruction and recording of Bach's Trauer-Musik for the funeral of his Cöthen patron, Prince Leopold. Much of it is familiar from other Bach sources – notably the St Matthew Passion – but here takes on a darker mood. A fascinating piece of musical archaeology by Parrott and his Taverner Consort and Players. FM

Songs of the Baltic Sea

National Youth Choir of Great Britain/Brewer (Delphian)

The heartfelt singing tradition of the Baltic states – Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia – has found new freedom since the end of the Soviet era. The virtuosic NYCGB and top choral trainer Mike Brewer revel in the rich cluster-harmonies and religious colours of native Baltic works alongside Cantus Maris Baltici by the UK's Gabriel Jackson. Essential for choral fans. FM

Notable Women: Trios by Today's Female Composers

Lincoln Trio (Cedille)

Don't be put off by the title. This intriguing disc, beautifully played, offers a quick survey of six living US composers who happen to be female: Lera Auerbach, Stacy Garrop, Jennifer Higdon, Laura Elise Schwendinger, Augusta Read Thomas and Joan Tower. If you can tell this music is by women, you're a better man than I. FM

Mozart: Piano Concertos Nos 24 & 25

Ronald Brautigam/Kölner Akademie/Willens (BIS)

Among some predictable new Mozart piano concerto recordings in 2011, this one stands out for its freshness and originality. Brautigam is one of the finest players of the 18th-century fortepiano, incisive yet lyrical, and the Cologne period-instrument band provides a glassy, transparent accompaniment. Sometimes the sound is too wiry, but short-breathed phrases and excellent cadenzas reinvigorate these two masterpieces. NK

Bach: Orchestral Suites

Freiburg Baroque Orchestra (Harmonia Mundi)

Bach four surviving orchestral suites (we have no idea he may have written) bubble with life and energy. All require a sense of the dance and an exuberant rhythmic lift, which the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra amply provide. There are many good recordings of these pieces, but this has superlative virtuosity. Sheer joy. NK


Fiona Maddocks and Nicholas Kenyon

The GuardianTramp

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