The alternative Christmas number one
December 9, 2009 by Norman Lebrecht
While everyone else is brushing up their best-of-09 lists, I’m shipping out the junk.
Although not a vintage year for awful classical recordings, it has been bad enough to yield ten of the worst. I exclude from the top ten all crossover execrescences and self-puff start-ups. These are just ten of the worst that came my way from recognised commercial labels:
1 England, my England
From EMI Classics, in a summer when the racist British National Party won two seats to the European Parliament, came a relase from King’s College Choir Cambridge, decked in the cross of St George and a wreath of jingoistic fervour. Bad taste? Bad timing? The intonation wasn’t up to much, either.
Bad Mahler – we were spoiled for choice:
2 Alan Gilbert’s stodgy ninth from Stockholm (Bis)
3 Valery Gergiev’s wobble-voiced 2nd (LSO Live)
4 and, dreary to a fault, Christoph Eschenbach’s stillborn Philadelphia Resurrection (Ondine)
5 Bad Boys
Bryn Terfel’s villainy hits the pits on DG.
6 Sharon Isbin: A Voyage in Song (Sony)
Just when you thought it was safe to revisit the English renaissance without tripping over Sting, up pops Ms Isbin with her numbing guitar transcriptions of Tudor lute works.
7 Edin Karamazov, The Lute is a Song (Decca)
Gone away? No, here’s Sting gasping again with his fave lutenist. Renee Fleming’s here too with the least affecting Dido’s Lament you’ll ever hear.
8 Simon Rattle, Brahms’ second symphony (EMI)
Did the earth move for you in the second? Me neither.
9 John Adams Doctor Atomic Symphony (Nonesuch)
He may have won Last Composer Standing, but this is a deadly, pointless spin-off from an epochal opera.
10 West Side Story meets Tristan und Isolde (Warner)
Kooky programming from Barenboim’s Chicago years
Feel free to add your own (dis)recommendations and lists in the space below. Voting closes midnight December 18. Results to be announced the following week. Let’s see who makes the real Christmas Number One of 2009.
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