The 10 Best Classical Performances of the Year
By Justin Davidson
1. Le Nozze di Figaro
Mostly Mozart Festival
Iván Fischer conducted and directed this inventive, gorgeously packable production that threaded its way around the orchestra at the Mostly Mozart Festival; costumes fluttered above the seats or hung on racks so that cast members could change in mid-aria. It was like watching a rehearsal morph into a performance and then spring into real life.
2. Paul Lewis’s “A Little Night Music” Concert
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
After twirling off a Mozart concerto at Avery Fisher, the pianist sped up to Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse and gave an exquisite late-night performance of Schubert’s late, heart-tearing A-major Sonata.
3. James Levine’s Comeback Concert
After a two-year convalescence, the wheelchair-bound but vigorous maestro returned to his cherished Met Orchestra with a great roar of Schubert’s Ninth.
4. Caroline Shaw’s Partita
Performed by Roomful of Teeth at Le Poisson Rouge
Last year’s Pulitzer Prize for music rewarded the rarest of all qualities in contemporary music: joy. With any luck, Shaw’s chanting, chattering, panting, and cooing piece for the vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth will mark an early high in a long career.
5. Prototype Festival
The first gathering of new-music dramas, an extravaganza of lyrical and high-tech miniatures, set to be an annual event, showed how much life there is in New York’s underground opera scene.
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey Concert
New York Philharmonic
Stanley Kubrick’s trippy meditation on galactic travel never seemed more operatic than when the Philharmonic ripped the great soundtrack out of two dimensions and into the concert hall.
7. Christine Goerke in Die Frau Ohne Schatten
Goerke’s talents are no revelation to opera regulars, but her performance as the Dyer’s hectoring but loving wife launched her onto a new dramatic plane. Even in Herbert Wernicke’s eye-peeling production, Strauss’s opera remains murky; Goerke, though, was a beacon of brilliance.
8. Unsuk Chin, Gougalon New York Philharmonic
Scored for a jangly ensemble of percussion, strings, winds, and brass, the piece, subtitled “Scenes From a Street Theater,” evokes the raucous soundtrack of the composer’s native Seoul. The New York Philharmonic’s new-music series Contact! has had trouble establishing an identity, but Chin’s work made the whole concert snap into focus.
9. Ives’s Fourth Symphony
New York Philharmonic
Few conductors can whip Ives’s crazy megalopolis of a score into luminous sense more effectively than Alan Gilbert.
10. Giulio Cesare
Slapstick and sublimity cohabited peaceably in David McVicar’s effervescent yet profound production of Handel’s tragedy. Natalie Dessay (as Cleopatra) and David Daniels (as Caesar) generated plenty of imperial sizzle, and Harry Bicket tempered the excitement with nuance.