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Top 10 for Sep

Mason, Ma, Chen, Hahn make WCRB's best classical music album releases of 2018

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First things first: this is not a "Top Ten" list. All of WCRB: Boston's CDs of the Week are Top Ten-worthy, so instead, we asked our staff an even harder question: which CD of the Week was your number one favorite this year? Here are our picks for the best classical music album releases of 2018.

The Standout Favorite - Jay Fondin: My favorite CD of the Week is Sheku Kanneh-Mason's "Inspiration."  Sheku and his family are an amazing bunch of musicians, but I'm blown away by his love for the cello every time I see or hear him play - you can tell how much fun he's having! Plus, the CD is packed with some of my cello favorites. Not only was this album the winner of our Twitter #CDOTWOTY bracket, but two separate members of our staff chose it as well!

Laura Carlo: You will be astounded to learn that Sheku Kanneh-Mason was just 18 when his first CD, "Inspiration," was released earlier this year. Whether playing Saint-Saens' "The Swan" or Leonard Cohen's "Alleluia" his cello sings, dances and weeps with mastery and warmth. Two notes in and I pegged him as a budding superstar.

Inspired Bach - Brian McCreath: When it comes to Yo-Yo Ma, impeccable, imaginative performances are just the beginning of the story. His ability to see beyond the intrinsic rewards of any particular piece or collection of music to find a deeper meaning to us as a community of listeners is unparalleled. That's why, when you hear his third (and, according to him, last) recording of these cornerstones of the cello repertoire(Yo-Yo Ma, "Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites"), you're opening an invitation, one that Ma has extended to thousands of people around the world, to embrace each other's presence and possibility.

Violin Virtuosos - Rani Schloss: Ray Chen's "The Golden Age" is like an extremely satisfying meal: a main course (Bruch's Violin Concerto) flawlessly executed, surrounded by many an amuse-bouche that delight and surprise you. Chen's string quartet, Made in Berlin, joins him on this album in a few tantalizing reinterpretations of pieces you may have heard many times before, but these versions (arrangements by cellist Stephan Koncz) take the old melodies in a completely new direction. I can't say enough how much I enjoyed listening to this album, and eagerly await what comes next from Ray Chen and Made in Berlin.

Kendall Todd: I've said it before, and I'll say it again: there is nobody who plays Bach with more clarity, grace, and precision than Hilary Hahn. Revisiting Bach's solo violin music 20 years after releasing her first recording, Hahn proves that taking a second look at even the most timeless music can lead to new discoveries. Her tone on Hilary Hahn, "Bach: Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2, Partita No. 1" is sure, and the sound she creates is pure beauty. This album is a must-have.