At first glance, our top picks for 2012 may seem to range far and wide, from a fresh take on an epic late Beethoven string quartet to cellist Maya Beiser playing spaciously layered new music by Michael Harrison. What unites this diverse bunch is a spirit of discovery — not just in new music that we'll return to again and again but in the artistic energy that animates each of these projects.
Having the courage to break away from alt-pop cult favorite Stereolab seems to have given Laetitia Sadier a personal charge and social conviction that's on full display throughout her second solo album, Silencio. She casts a spell in this live performance, which places her gorgeous voice in the spotlight where it belongs.
As of this year, the vocal group Anonymous 4 has been introducing modern audiences to medieval music for a quarter century. When the all-female quartet asked David Lang to help mark the occasion by writing them some music, he didn't need any convincing. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer was already a big fan.