10 Essential Classical Crossover albums | Songlines
Friday, October 21, 2022

10 Essential Classical Crossover albums

By Simon Broughton

Simon Broughton selects ten albums that explore the fertile space between classical and traditional music

Songlines Essential 10 Classical Crossover Albums

Yilian Cañizares

Invocación Naïve Records, 2015

Cuban violinist and singer Cañizares received a classical training in Cuba before winning a scholarship to Venezuela. Now she resides in Switzerland, marrying together classical music, Cuban music and jazz, while regularly paying tribute to the Afro-Cuban Santería deities. 

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Ruby Colley

Overheard Ruby Colley, 2022

Violinist Ruby Colley is inspired by nature, folk music and classical masters such as JS Bach. The opening ‘Springs Eternal’ on this album interweaves birdsong and violin like a contemporary version of ‘The Lark Ascending’. These seven string-led meditations end with the distant ocean sounds of ‘The Sea Wrote It’. 

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Fran & Flora

Unfurl Fran & Flora Productions, 2019

London-based duo Francesca Ter-Berg (cello) and Flora Curzon (violin) perform in several experimental groups, but have a fascination with music from the Balkans and beyond, studying with some of its masters, such as Tcha Limberger, as well as traditional musicians in Transylvania and Moldova.

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Amjad Ali Khan & Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Samaagam World Village, 2011

There have been quite a number of concertos for Indian instruments and orchestra, but this is one of the best. Samaagam means ‘Confluence’ and the concerto uses 13 ragas across three movements – fast, slow, fast. ‘There’s a lyrical quality to the music throughout and the ‘Bhairavi’ conclusion to the last movement is simply out of this world,’ wrote Jameela Siddiqi in July 2011.

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Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica

Eight Seasons Nonesuch, 2000

This inspired juxtaposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires was derived from a concert at the BBC Proms in 1999, and is brilliantly interleaved here thanks to some excellent string arrangements by Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov.

Kronos Quartet

Floodplain Nonesuch, 2009

This whole list could be full of Kronos albums, from Pieces of Africa to Ladilikan with Trio Da Kali, but Floodplain is a real standout, comprising largely of works originally from the Middle East, along with a substantial composition by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov. One of this album’s highlights is a live performance with Azeri mugham singers Alim and Fargana Qasimov. 

Ligeti Quartet

Songbooks, Vol 1 Nonclassical, 2020

Kronos must surely have influenced this dynamic British quartet. Here they perform pieces by Christian Mason based on Tuvan overtone singing and Sardinian polyphony, plus pieces by Inuit singer Tanya Tagaq and Chinese composer Huang Haihuai. The way they evoke these otherworldly and decidedly contemporary soundworlds is truly wonderful. 

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London Philharmonic Orchestra

Ravi Shankar: Sukanya London Philharmonic Orchestra, 2020

Ravi Shankar can be credited with starting the fusion of Indian and classical music with the groundbreaking West Meets East album with Yehudi Menuhin in 1967. This quasi-autobiographical opera, based on a myth, incorporates tabla, sitar, shehnai and mridangam alongside a Western orchestra, with much praise owing to conductor David Murphy.

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Ana Carla Maza

Bahía Persona Editorial Records, 2022

The title of this album doesn’t come from Brazil, but from the district of Havana where the Cuban cellist was born. With what is basically a classical instrument, which she studied at the Paris Conservatoire, Maza takes us on an exciting tour of Latin America with influences from samba and bossa nova, with a tribute to Astor Piazzolla filtered through Bach. She’s a superb singer, too. 

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Abel Selaocoe

Where is Home (Hae Ke Kae) Warner Classics, 2022

This storming debut from cellist and cover star Abel Selaocoe is a real tour de force. He brings his diverse experiences to bear, combining fantastic instrumental playing, percussion, singing and other vocal techniques in the company of several talented colleagues. It’s mostly his own compositions, plus works by Giovanni Benedetto Platti and Bach. 

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