Best of 2013: Concerto Recording of the Year

Winner: Béla Fleck – The Impostor (Concerto for Banjo and Symphony Orchestra)  (Mercury Classics / review)

Runner-up: (tie) Patricia Kopatchinskaja – Bartók/Eötvös/Ligeti Violin Concertos  (Naïve)  /  Alisa Weilerstein – Elgar & Carter: Cello Concertos (Decca)

Choosing the best concerto recording of the year was arguably the hardest category to pick for our editorial staff.  With so many options, Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s Bartók/Eötvös/Ligeti Violin Concertos and American cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s Elgar Cello Concertos stood out for their bold interpretations. Fleck’s concerto for banjo and symphony orchestra off The Impostor edges out the competition for its determined attitude and ambitious undertaking in areas the banjo has never gone before. The world’s most popular banjoist essentially reinvents the rulebook in music written for banjo in an exceptionally grandeur vision. Writing for his first concerto, Fleck is crisp in merging trademark twangs with seeping, mysterious strings. The frontier/americana lineage of the banjo is highlighted in this surprisingly risky romp, protruding an adventurous sprit. Together with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, Béla Fleck’s performance is fluid with just the proper amount of danger. But what really drives the heart of Fleck’s concerto for banjo is its pure honesty and genuine penchant for melody. While many concerto recordings in 2013 will ride on the strength of their performance quality none posses as much memorability and character as Fleck’s concerto for banjo.

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