CDs OF THE YEAR: CLASSICAL: Some easy listenin' Panufnik, better- than-ever Charlatans ... and verbal riches from Richman

SHOSTAKOVICH: STRING QUARTETS 2&3 (Hyperion)

The 15 Shostakovich string quartets rank alongside the six of Bartok as perhaps the greatest chamber music cycles of the 20th century - which is why there is no shortage of recordings. So, what room for any more? Well, listen to this first release in a cycle by the St Petersburg Quartet and you'll just have to make room: it's one of the finest chamber recordings I've heard all year, and one that catches the idiom of the music in near-definitive terms.

ROXANA PANUFNIK

(Teldec)

Until now, Roxana Panufnik's claim to fame has largely been as the daughter of her father, the composer Andrzej. But with her Mass setting - written for Cardinal Hume before his death - she emerged as a personality in her own right. True, the music casts its net around; true, the textures can be clogged and heavy. But the spangled delicacy of the Sanctus movement makes an easy-listening contrast. And even at its most overladen, the writing is rich in gorgeously imagined sounds - which the hard-edged part-singing of the Westminster Cathedral Choir sorts out handsomely.

THE ENGLISH SONGBOOK (EMI)

Whenever Ian Bostridge (right) issues a new disc I'm tempted to call it the one his voice was made for, but this really is the one: a garland of songs by several generations of composers who laid the ground for Benjamin Britten's pre-eminence in modern settings in English. Most of them are composers of the second rank but granted periodic visions of the first. And Bostridge does them beautifully. You won't hear a line in any of these texts delivered with less than perfect judgement. And with vivid playing from his regular accompanist, Julius Drake, it's one of the most ear-catching releases of the year.

BERNSTEIN: WONDERFUL TOWN

(Disc)

You saw it, heard it, maybe danced it at the Proms. Now there's the disc - which went into production well before that Albert Hall performance but has all the brilliant, brash, off-Broadway chutzpah of a live show. With instrumental playing from the BCMG of an order no musical would find in the pit of a theatre, and direction from Simon Rattle, it can hardly fail.

STRAVINSKY: THE RAKE'S PROGRESS (Disc)

It was a nice touch to engage a period-conscious conductor for a period- conscious opera. John Eliot Gardiner's speeds are briskly driven, his textures crystalline and his rhythms clipped. His reading is alive and vital with a rake, Ian Bostridge, whose innocence and pathos are exquisitely endearing.The American soprano Deborah York is tenderly free-floating in her aerial coloratura. And Bryn Terfel's Nick Shadow has all the virtues of his performances on stage with few of the drawbacks. Probably the best recording since Stravinsky's own.

ANDREAS SCHOLL: HEROES

(Decca)

Scholl is in every sense the crowning glory of the past few decades' drive to reinstate the high-pitched male as a dramatic presence. In this disc he lays out his wares in forcefully high-altitude accounts of Handel, Hasse, Gluck and early Mozart. Scholl's artistry is absolute. You might just wish there was more bite, but it's exquisitely accomplished singing and delivered with a sense of theatre.

PUCCINI: IL TRITTICO

(EMI)

The three component parts of Puccini's triptych don't often make it as a whole onto the opera stage - too long an evening - so the only standard chance you get of hearing them together is on disc. Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna don't disappoint. And that they come as a package with conductor Antonio Pappano is what really commends this set - he's the best you'll find today in this sort of repertory.

PUCCINI: LA BOHEME

(Decca)

Here they are again: Gheorghiu and Alagna, the golden couple of the post-Domingo opera generation. This new recording is a good one, guaranteed by Chailly in the driving seat; and the beauty of the singing is undeniable - not just from the two stars but from the rest of an intelligent, alert cast which includes Simon Keenlyside.

GIAN CARLO MENOTTI: THE CONSUL (Chandos)

Menotti's currency, though fallen, isn't off the market. And this recording of his operatic masterpiece is music-theatre of unnerving power, with a climactic Act II aria that stops the show, your heart, and your disbelief. The ENO star Susan Bullock takes the lead role with impassioned grandeur and heroic dignity. And the vivid drama of the live recording just about compensates for the obtrusive stage noise, the applause, and less than perfect quality of sound.

PIAZZOLLA: MARIA DE BUENOS AIRES (Teldec)

Gidon Kremer's past efforts to corral the tango-culture scores of Astor Piazzolla into classical repertory have always struck me as worthwhile and fun but never quite seized my interest as this does. It's an operetta steeped in dense poetic metaphor that defies explanation but concerns an Argentine Carmen, part-goddess, part-whore, who is Tango personified

Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
music

Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
ComedyCollier was once told there were "too many women" on bill
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
music

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
film

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatre

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players