THE RECORDS listed below may or may not be the "best" classical recordings of 1984. Even if one could hear and compare all the enormous output in the field, it is too large and diverse, it caters to too many varied tastes, and the competing versions of hot items (which range from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" to Mahler's Second Symphony) are too numerous for such a list to have much meaning. What we have below is one man's list of excellent recordings that have made a significant and lasting contribution to musical enjoyment.
John Adams -- Grand Pianola. Solisti New York, Ransom Wilson (Angel DS 37345; cassette 4DS- 37345). Is there life after minimalism? This splendidly splashy piece begins in the nothing-much-happening style of Philip Glass and Steve Reich (whose "Eight Lines" is also on the record) and evolves into a kind of neo-romanticism as it goes along. It may be that the minimal style will grow up and turn into something real.
Samuel Barber -- "Antony and Cleopatra." Esther Hinds, Jeffrey Wells; Christian Badea, conductor (New World NW 332-334, 3 LPs with libretto). A first recording. Barber's epic love story still has small problems in this revised version, but not as many as at its 1966 premiere, and there are moments of greatness well presented in this Spoleto Festival performance.
Benjamin Britten -- "War Requiem." Elisabeth Soderstrom, Robert Tear, Thomas Allen; Simon Rattle, conductor (Angel CDS 7 47034 8, 2 compact discs). One of the great masterpieces of our time, in a magnificent performance and recording.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier -- "Med,ee." Les Arts Florissants, William Christie conductor (Harmonia Mundi HMC 1139.41, 3 LPs with libretto). The first recording (and extremely well-done) of a powerful and musically intriguing opera by a baroque composer who has been unjustly neglected. The Arts Florissant ensemble is one of the hot new groups in baroque music.
"Madrigal History Tour" -- The King's Singers, with the Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley, director (HMV SLS 1078393, 2LPs with booklet). This is still an import and may be hard to find until it is issued in America. For lovers of Renaissance music, it is worth the effort.
Mahler -- Symphony No. 2 ("Resurrection"). Edith Mathis, Doris Soffel; Klaus Tennstedt conductor (Angel CDS 7 47041 8, 2 compact discs). The special clarity and dynamic range of the CD medium are specially suited to Tennstedt's deeply felt and technically expert interpretation.
Jean-Philippe Rameau -- Pieces de Clavecin (1724). William Christie, harpsichord (Harmonia Mundi compact disc 90.1120). Brilliant little pieces played with style and impressive technique, superbly recorded.
Vivaldi -- "The Four Seasons"; "La Tempesta di Mare"; "Il Piacere." Alice Harnoncourt, violin; Concentus Musicus; Nicolaus Harnoncourt, conductor (Teldec 6.42985). You have not heard everything that can be done to Vivaldi's masterpiece until you have heard this quirky, imaginative and brilliantly radical interpretation on original instruments.