MUSIC / Choices from 1992: What makes a great recording? Musicians pick their favourite discs

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I'M completely magnetised by Yo Yo Ma's cello playing. His total commitment to every single note creates expression of the highest order and beauty. So I have chosen his recording, with the pianist Emanuel Ax, of the sonatas for cello and piano by Brahms - it was reissued on CD this year (RCA Victor Gold Seal 09026 61355 2). For the absolute favourite it's two pianists: Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu playing the Mozart Sonata in D for two pianos, and the Schubert Fantasia in F minor for duet (CBS/Sony 39511). I choose it because of the delight, fun and exquisite finesse in this conversation between two of the greatest Mozart pianists of our generation.



MY favourite CDs of 1992 are two volumes of Scarlatti sonatas played by Andreas Staier (Harmonia Mundi RD 77224). They brought back memories of two full Scarlatti recitals given by Ralph Kirkpatrick in the Fifties, confirming that this exhilarating music needs the sound of a harpsichord to come fully to life. Staier is a player of tremendous rhythm and imagination. And he is a great virtuoso. Among my all-time favourites I choose a 1929 recording, never republished, of the Kolisch Quartet, matchlessly playing Schubert's A minor quartet.


Musical director of Opera North

IT's so glaringly obvious what makes a performance come to life: it feels so dangerous, the orchestra are on the edge of their seats, there's the feeling of improvisation. All that has been absent from recordings for about two generations, and I'm all in favour of the trend for taking live performances on to disc. This year's pick is Simon Rattle conducting the CBSO in Mahler's Seventh Symphony (EMI CDC7 54344-2) - taken at Snape Maltings and you can't miss the atmosphere. Above all, though, there's an old LP I've got of Rachmaninov conducting his own Third Symphony with the Philadelphia - just wonderful conducting, the kind people don't manage very often because they're thinking of doing too many things.



MY record collection is very varied - percussion, jazz, folk, Baroque, anything. One in particular from this year is Annie Lennox's Diva (BMG / RCA) - I like her rawness, and I mean that as a compliment; she doesn't have to rely on synthesised sounds. The music and words are excellent and I'm proud to have it in my collection. I've had the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Sir Georg Solti's recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony for a while (Decca 414 321-2). I'm able to appreciate it again and again and still be astounded - I love the fullness and punchiness of the brass.



IT'S only in the last two years I've been buying much. The big impact has been from the CD single of Harrison Birtwistle's Earth Dances (Collins Classics 20012) - very powerful and satisfying in a complex way; there are only a few living composers who make that kind of impact on me. For this year's choice, it's the first of three discs of 16th-century music by Robert Carver - Scotland's greatest composer - recorded by Capella Nova under Alan Tavener (ASV GAU 124). It includes the 10-part Mass, Dum sacrum mysterium, and two motets.



HOW can I possibly say what it is? There are so many great recordings. It'll have to be the issue on video of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony with Carlos Kleiber conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - magical (Philips CD 070 100-3 or Laserdisc 070 100-1). Or it could be any Verdi opera with Callas. From records I've heard this year it has to be the Mozart C minor Mass (Philips 420 210-2) or the Bach Magnificat (Philips 411 458-2), both conducted by John Eliot Gardiner. But it's impossible to decide between them.



HARDLY any this year: it's having a two- year-old. But the pick is Vernon Handley's recording of Herbert Howells' Hymnus Paradisi - I just love the piece, and Hyperion record this kind of repertoire very well (Hyperion CDA 66488). For all time it's a recording of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at the Salzburg Festival, performing a Schubert recital with Gerald Moore (Orfeo C 141 101A). It's relatively early, 1957, and the voice was still fresh - and it's live.



MY favourite of this year is the marvellous reissue on CD of Charles Panzera singing Duparc and Faure, including La bonne chanson, in recordings made from 1927 to 1937 (Pearl GEMMCD 9919) - all my favourite French music. For all time it's the set of Berlioz overtures made by Sir Colin Davis and the LSO in the 1960s (Philips 416 430-2). I play this a lot in the car, and it has often been the cause of near-misses.