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NPR Music's Best Classical Albums Of 2018

The music on our list takes you to Tsarist Russia, the New Mexico desert, 18th century Spain, the austere landscapes of Iceland and Vienna, at the dawn of the 20th century. Happy travelling.
The debut album by the Aizuri Quartet is called Blueprinting. Source: David Stith

Narrowing a list to just 10 is always a painful game. This year, amid a multitude of albums, I found favorite musicians (Víkingur Ólafsson), newcomers (the young Aizuri Quartet) and familiar players in compelling collaborations (Brooklyn Rider and Magos Herrera), all offering fascinating performances of music from the baroque to the freshly minted. Think of the albums on this list as portals. They'll take you to Tsarist Russia, the New Mexico desert, 18th-century Spain, the austere landscapes of Iceland, Vienna at the dawn of the 20th century. Happy traveling.


Boston Symphony Orchestra, Andris Nelsons, cond.
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11 "The Year 1905"

Conductor Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra play as if their lives depended on it in their ongoing cycle of Shostakovich symphonies. It's a fitting response to music composed by a man who, throughout the grim years of Stalin's purges, feared for his own life.

The Fourth Symphony, written in the heady months before Shostakovich's first fall from Soviet grace in 1936, and shelved for 25 years, charges out of the gate with rare intensity in this live recording. I doubt you'll hear a string section play as blisteringly fast or as precise

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