The Best Classical Music of 2016

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of the best classical music of 2016.


The year 2016 was a great one for classical music, with new releases from some of the genre’s most beloved composers and performers. Here are some of the best classical music recordings of 2016.

Best Orchestral Works

1. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 “Choral” – Ludwig van Beethoven
2. The Rite of Spring – Igor Stravinsky
3. The Planets, Op. 32 – Gustav Holst
4. Scheherazade, Op. 35 – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
5. Peter Grimes, Op. 33a – Benjamin Britten
6. Carmina Burana – Carl Orff
7. Swan Lake, Op. 20a – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
8. Requiem Mass in D Minor, KV 626 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
9. The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni), Violin Concerto in E Major, RV 269 “Spring” (L’ primavera) – Antonio Vivaldi
10 .Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K 467 “Elvira Madigan” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Best Chamber Music

There was an embarrassment of riches in the chamber music world this year, with standout albums coming from all corners. Ensemble Dahoud Trio’s release of works by Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms was one of the highlights, as was the album “Beau Soir” by Quartet Schubertiade. Other notable releases included “The-‘Haydn’ Project” by the Auryn Quartet and “The New Germans” by the Kuss Quartet.

Best Vocal and Choral Works

It was a banner year for vocal and choral music, with many outstanding releases to choose from. Here are our picks for the best vocal and choral works of 2016.


1. “The Tears of St. Peter” by James MacMillan – This powerful work for tenor, chorus, and orchestra tells the story of the Apostle Peter’s tears after he denied knowing Jesus. The work is both emotionally and musically shattering, with beautiful singing from tenor Gavin Harrison.

2. “Fauré: Requiem” by Philippe Herreweghe – This new recording of Fauré’s beloved Requiem features soprano Sandrine Piau and baritone Matthias Goerne in what is sure to become a reference recording of this work. Herreweghe’s conducting is beautifully restrained, allowing the emotional power of the music to shine through.

3. “L’amour de moy” by Hildegard von Bingen – This delicate love song from 12th-century German abbess Hildegard von Bingen is given a beautiful treatment by soprano Emma Kirkby and harpist Andrew Lawrence-King. Their performance is both ethereal and hauntingly beautiful.


1. “Gabrieli: motets & canzonas” by Paul McCreesh – This new recording of Gabrieli’s motets and canzonas features the Ensemble Gloriæ Dei Cantores under the direction of Paul McCreesh. The performances are masterful, with the singers bringing out the beauty and intricacy of Gabrieli’s polyphonic writing.

2.”Byrd: The Great Service” – This new recording of Byrd’s massive Great Service features the choirs of Christ Church Cathedral (Oxford) and Magdalen College (Oxford) under the direction of Stephen Darlington. The performances are simply stunning, with expertly sung counterpoint and beautiful phrasing throughout.

3.”Mozart: Requiem” by John Eliot Gardiner – Gardiner’s new recording of Mozart’s Requiem features the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists in what is sure to become a reference recording of this work. The performances are full of life and energy, with some particularly stunning singing from the choir in the Agnus Dei section.

Best Opera

Here are our picks for the best opera of 2016.

1) Tosca, by Giacomo Puccini
Tosca is a classic opera that tells the story of love, betrayal, and murder. It’s one of Puccini’s most popular works, and it’s easy to see why. The music is passion, and the story is unforgettable.

2) Carmen, by Georges Bizet
Carmen is another classic opera that tells the story of a seductive gypsy who leads a young soldier astray. The music is sensual and exotic, and the story is full of suspense.

3) La Bohème, by Giacomo Puccini
La Bohème is a beautiful opera about young love. The music is haunting and the story is moving. It’s one of Puccini’s most popular operas, and it’s easy to see why.

4) The Marriage of Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Marriage of Figaro is a hilarious opera about love, marriage, and infidelity. The music is light and playful, and the story will keep you guessing until the end.

5) Eugene Onegin, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Eugene Onegin is a tragic opera about unrequited love. The music is gorgeous and the story is heartbreaking. It’s one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular operas, and it’s easy to see why.

Best Solo Instrumental Albums

There were many outstanding solo instrumental albums released in 2016, but these ten albums stood out above the rest.

1) Bach: Partitas Nos. 1-3 -Richard Egarr (harpsichord)
2) Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 28-32 -Lise de la Salle (piano)
3) Chopin: The Complete Preludes -Janusz Olejniczak (piano)
4) Debussy: Preludes, Books 1 & 2 -Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
5) Franck: Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major; Chausson: Poème; Ysaÿe: Sonata for Violin Solo No. 3 in D Minor, “Ballade” -Nicolas Dautricourt (violin), Laurent Wagschal (piano)
6) Janáček & Martinů: Cello Sonatas -János Starker (cello), Rudolf Firkušný (piano)
7) Liszt: Transcendental Études -Yuja Wang (piano)
8) Mendelssohn & Shostakovich: Cello Sonatas -Mstislav Rostropovich (cello), Rudolf Barshai (piano), Sviatoslav Richter (piano), Galina Vishnevskaya (soprano), Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, Yuri Temirkanov (conductor), Aleksandr Melnikov (piano), Alexander Kniazev (cello), Mikhail Rudy (piano), Vera Gornostaeva(mezzo-soprano), Evgeny Kissin(piano), Valery Gergiev(conductor), Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre, Maxim Vengerov(violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy(piano), Mikhail Pletnev(conductor), Russian National Orchestra
9) Prokofiev & Rachmaninoff: Cello Sonatas -Natalia Gutman (cello), Alexander Kniazev

Best New Artists

There were many excellent recorded performances this past year by already well-established artists, but the focus of this column is always on new(ish) talent. Below are five artists who, in 2016, released debuts or sophomore albums that made a real impression.

Hai-Ye Ni
A member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s bass section, Ni made her solo debut in September with an album of arias by Handel, Vivaldi, and Porpora. Her voice is lustrous and full-bodied, with an impressive range; she never forces or overpowers the music, even in the lowest notes. She is an eloquent exponent of Baroque style, and one hopes to hear more from her in the future.

Anthony Roth Costanzo
On his self-titled debut album, this young countertenor offers a beautifully judged selection of works by Cavalli, Monteverdi, Strozzi, Carissimi, and others. His voice is light and flexible but has enough heft to carry through a room; his vibrato is judiciously applied and always adds expression. He has a natural feel for ornamentation and creates lovely legato lines. This album should help establish him as one of the leading countertenors of his generation.

Jakub Józef Orliński In November Orliński released his first recording on Erato, a collection of Italian cantatas by Alessandro Scarlatti. The Polish countertenor has a voice of extraordinary purity; his sound recalls that of a boy soprano or treble (hence his nickname “the Treblemaker”), but unlike many young singers he maintainsbeautiful tonal control at both extremes of his range—and yes, he has plenty of bottom. His vibrato is all but nonexistent but he uses it judiciously when needed for expressive purposes; otherwise he sings with perfect straight tone. His interpretations are imbued with intelligence and insight; this is an artist to watch.

Philippe Jaroussky On his latest release for Virgin Classics—a live recording from 2015—the French countertenor offers selections from Cavalli’s La Calisto (one of the composer’s most popular operas) alongside works by Monteverdi and Rossi. As always with Jaroussky, there are moments when one wishes for a little more emotional engagement with the text (particularly in Rossi’sin laments), but his vocalism is so seductive that it’s hard to resist him. In “Sento il cor tremante” (from La Calisto), for example, he produces waves of rich sound while effortlessly tossing off filigree ornamentation; it’s spellbinding stuff.


In conclusion, these are some of the best classical music of 2016. We hope you enjoyed listening to them as much as we did.

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