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NPR Classical's 10 Favorite Albums Of 2011

<em>Fiction</em> by the Ebene Quartet was one of our favorite albums this year.
Virgin Classics
Fiction by the Ebene Quartet was one of our favorite albums this year.

The silly season of endless lists is upon us. You might notice that here at Deceptive Cadence, we don't even try to enumerate which albums were "best" — we use the word "favorite" quite intentionally, as you'll see from the pan-genre list painstakingly compiled with our NPR Music colleagues. We surely don't try to rank our lists in some impossibly subjective and ultimately totally arbitrary order; we find that the alphabet works quite nicely. We are bitterly aware of the piles of still-unheard albums that rest on our desktops (both real and digital), and we rue the onslaught of late-year releases that probably didn't get their due consideration.

And now that there are two of us hosting this blog, the lovely round number of ten is cleaved right in half, meaning that, at least in theory we each had just five spaces in which to pack 365 days' worth of listening. (In truth, there was quite a bit of happy overlap between our picks.)

Despite all those factors and caveats, however, a year-end summation, stock-taking, trend-marking, conversation-starting — whatever you might call it — feels both inevitable and irresistible. So what are the trends of 2011? Big voices, both expected (Joseph Calleja and Montserrat Figueras) and surprising (the Ebène Quartet's Mathieu Herzog); impassioned pianists (including two Kristian/Krystians — Bezuidenhout and Zimerman); and championing of severely under-heard composers (Zimerman again, playing Bacewicz, and Juri Belohlavek leading the symphonies of Martinu). Here's to many contented hours of listening in 2012!

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR's Culture desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including the trial and conviction of former R&B superstar R. Kelly; backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; and gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards.
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.