Top Five Classical Music Album Covers of 2013

A new year, a new start...but what about the old? How do we keep the things that are great about classical music, while still looking ahead to new possibilities?

For me, 2013 was a year that showed us dynamic change in the way classical album covers tried to reach out to new audiences. We were given visual images that helped interpret the story behind the music, behind the artist, covers that tell us a story before we listen to the music, and thus have the ability to transmit part of the repertoire. 

I’ve seen more and more good intentions of making a step forward into visual concepts for classical music. Here are some of the best examples from the past year from a visual and conceptual point of view. Let’s take a look!


#1 Jaroussky Farinelli

Why I like it:

-I like the clean composition and how they’ve played with the two characters. Both are in the “main stage” and sharing an obvious conversation, but Jaroussky is still the face of this cover.

-I like the very obvious exchange of dialogue that is to be taking place between the two characters, finding themselves in the same space. It almost looks as if they are collaborating on the album, as if Farinelli is telling Jaroussky some important insight that will help him interpret the music.

-One of the more insightful aspects of this cover is the actual chair the two are sitting on. It is a Victorian “courting” chair, meant to allow two people to sit near each other without actually seeing the other. Conversation was possible, but not easily intimate. The use of this prop gives the impression to the viewer that these two men should not be speaking, as they are separated by several centuries, but that they are sneaking a collaborative conversation.

-The subtile color that divides the cover accentuates the sensation of two different time periods in one space.


#2 Spheres: Daniel Hope

Why I like it:

-There is a very strong connection between the album cover and the video in which Hope plays a beautiful piece by composer Ludovico Einaudi. I love the intentional concept and imagery that accompanies the album release. 

-On his website, the artist says“In this album, my idea was to bring together music and time, including works by composers from different centuries who might perhaps not always be found in the same ‘galaxy’ but yet are united by the age-old question: is there anything out there?” - Daniel Hope.

-In the cover, with some imagination, you can see the real world behind him but it is very blurred, creating shapes that can evoke spheres. It creates a nice visual connection to Hope’s explanation.

Frame of the Video

Frame of the Video

What could be improved?

-The question, “Is there anything out there?” seems to be present in his face but what I don’t quite understand is the relation between the music (of the video), Daniel Hope’s explanation, and the video concept. There is not always a deep meaning in an album repertoire, but there was a really great opportunity to see a deeper connection between this wonderful concept and the visual communication.


#3 Enchanted Forest: Anna Prohaska

Why I like it:

-There is an obvious strong relationship between the title, the repertoire, and the imagery.

-I like the organic, naïve, and feminine tone, which is nicely juxtaposed with the theme of the music.

-This is another great example of having a nice promotional video. Even if it’s not directly connected with the album title, her acting, the white color palate, and the naïve tones makes it a very good companion for the release.

What could be improved?

-There could have been a better continuity between the cover visuals and the video that accompanies the album. 


#4 Musical Gifts: Joshua Bell


Why I like it:

-I love the impact and the risk that the record label took by hiding his face behind the gifts. This makes it very strong and it catches the attention.

-The music is fresh and casual, as is reinforced by the title Joshua Bell & Friends, and that tone really comes through in this album cover.


What could be improved?

-Since we only have an impression of the musician from his clothing, the use of the drab, brown suit and older-looking dress shoes could give us the idea that he is an older artist. If the purpose of the album cover is to entice new listeners, the use of somewhat outdated clothing can be off putting.


#5 Domingo Verdi: Placido Domingo

Why I like it:

-This cover is simple, and in my opinion incredibly effective.

-I personally love the end postproduction and color-grading that was applied.The historic tone is well balanced with current colors.

-As a musician I enjoy seeing the recreation of Verdi's portrait through Placido Domingo.

What could be improved?

-To new listeners, this album cover may look like a Christmas album, as Domingo’s styling looks very similar to iconic images of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. As the album was released in the late spring, the holiday tone of the cover could be confusing, given that the music is not holiday themed.



Some Thoughts

The whole industry is changing, and labels have to find new ways of reaching audiences; these five albums did a really effective job of speaking to a broader audience than some of the quiet, predictable covers of the past.

I’m seeing record labels start to communicate more through imagery, instead of just through the music, by combining the album covers with the videos. This is a whole new movement in the industry from only a few years ago, and I’m very pleased to see this happening.

With so much effort and intention starting to take place in the classical music world, I’m excited about what the next year will bring in terms of engaging visuals.