Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memorable Music

Okay, not quite done.

I'm not going to do a standard 10-best. I'm just going to try to list some of the best or most memorable performances I attended, whether concert or opera.

Chamber Music

Pavel Haas Quartet. I never posted a review of this, but the young Czech group was absolutely splendid in their Bay Area debut early this year. They played an idiosyncratically beautiful rendition of the Debussy quartet; rather than the usual airy transparent sound that quartets seem to aim for, they played with dark mahogany tone. Gorgeous and very different. The program also included quartets by Haas and Schulhoff, which got great performances as well.

Fleischmann Memorial Concert. Okay, the chorus piece, Stravinsky's Renard (with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting) and the Donatoni piece were all fine, but the star work was Pierre Boulez's sur Incises, led by the Maitre himself. What a gorgeous piece! Three pianos, three harps, three percussionists; a half-hour of bliss.

Ades/Calder Quartet. Mostly Ades, all great.


Ring Cycle, San Francisco. The full rollout of the Zambello Ring, intelligently and thoughtfully directed - okay, with a few lapses! - and a host of fine performances. Stefan Margita's brilliantly sung and acted Loge; Elizabeth Bishop's not-a-shrew Fricka; Andrea Silvestrelli's Fasolt and Hagen (why he didn't get Hunding and Fafner instead of Fasolt, I'll never know); Jay Hunter Morris's lyrical and charming Siegfried - bet you've never heard him called charming before; and of course Nina Stemme's Brunnhilde and the great conducting of Donald Runnicles.

Turn of the Screw, LA Opera. My first live production of Britten's masterpiece. Patricia Racette's first Governess; superb performances from all, especially young Michael Kepler Meo as Miles and William Burden's terrifying Quint.

Ariadne auf Naxos, West Edge Opera. Great direction of Strauss's postmodern opera and mostly terrific singing.

Le Comte Ory, Met HD broadcast. Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau, Joyce Di Donato. What's not to like? I thought the play-within-a-play framing unnecessary and distracting; the great singing and acting made up for a lot. JDD: hot hot hot.

Nixon in China, Met HD broadcast. The great American opera, up there with Porgy & Bess. Peter Sellars keeping the lid on it reasonably well, with a mostly excellent cast and the composer conducting.


Mahler 2 and Mahler 3 at SFS/MTT. Splendid and moving performances of each; I didn't notice until it was all over that the 3rd lasted a good 15 minutes longer than a typical performance.

RVW London Symphony, SFS/Vanska. Too bad about Barantshchik's overly understated Mendelssohn violin concerto on the same program. The RVW was truly great.

Verdi Requiem and Shostakovich 14, Conlon/SFS. Holy cow. Two great, great performances of very different pieces. Death-haunted Shostakovich, terrifying Verdi. Yeah, I did skip Pictures at an Exhibition. Seriously, it would be a pygmy next to the great Shostakovich.

Sibelius, Salonen, Wagner, SFS/Salonen. Esa-Pekka Salonen's own violin concerto paired with the gorgeous Pohjola's Daughter and excerpts from Götterdämmerung, with the great Christine Brewer in the Immolation scene.


John Marcher said...

I like your list- and thankfully I got to see many of these same performances. One thing which struck me was the presence of the Rossini broadcast- I thought you didn't like Rossini- or am I confusing him for Donizetti?

I for one, like Rossini more and more as time goes on.

I was surprised to not see the BSO here.

Happy New Year!

Lisa Hirsch said...

I'm not a fan of either Rossini or Donizetti, by and large, but Le Comte Ory was terrific, and not marred by two hundred years of tired, accumulated schtick the way Barber is.

Probably the BSO belongs up there too!