Best classical albums | 2011 in review

The best of the year’s crop of new classical recordings.
By Doyle Armbrust |

Ed Bennett
My Broken Machines (NMC)
Sardonic in ways that parallel the perverse discourse taking place in America.

Amina Alaoui
Arco Iris (ECM)
Calling this “fusion,” with its fado, flamenco and Al Andalusi vocals, would be diminishing. “Exquisitely ambidextrous” is more like it.

Chiara String Quartet & Matmos
Jefferson Friedman Quartets (New Amsterdam)
Friedman rocks a Bartókian rhythmic breakdown. Hard. An album for new-music skeptics.

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Saariaho (Ondine)
The FRSO explores the alternately disorienting and familiar sound worlds of Saariaho’s scores.

Jacob Greenberg
Schumann: Humoreske, Busoni: Fantasia Contrappuntistica (New Focus)
Greenberg’s sterling piano work is a respite from the fray. Impeccably studied and expertly executed.

Michael Gordon
Timber (Cantaloupe)
Six slabs of wood and some seriously deft handling by percussionists Slagwerk den Haag.

Gidon Kremer
Edition Lockenhaus (ECM)
Spanning 1981–2008, hours of material as exuberant as it is refined.

Robert Moran
Trinity Requiem (Innova)
Moran eschews the literalism plaguing many September 11 tributes. Instead, he finds redemption within the textual confines of a Mass.

Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Rhízoma (Innova)
Traverses the planes of the terrifying and the intimate.

Thomas Zehetmair, Ruth Killius
Manto and Madrigals (ECM)
The collabo of violinist Zehetmair and violist Killius is a win. Sprawling in the most compelling ways.