22 December 2011

My favourite concerts in 2011.

It's almost the end of 2011 - what a year it has been! I have never seen this many classical concerts in one year, mostly thanks to Bachtrack and them allowing me to write reviews. And so, I thought I'd make a little list of my favourite concerts this year.

I went to 46 concerts of which 34 were classical. It's been an incredibly lucky year in that I got to see quite a few of my favourite performers (Pekka Kuusisto, Nikolai Lugansky, Sergey Khachatryan, Ian Bostridge, Leila Josefowicz, Vadim Repin and of course Yannick!) and I fell in love with a lot of music I hadn't heard before. Concert-wise there were a few definite highlights, but because I can never decide what order to put things in, I've decided to do them chronologically. I've also generally not listed the entire concert but only one particular piece played (or sometimes more) because those pieces were my highlights.

1. March 25: Dmitri Shostakovich - Violin Concerto No.1, Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, Ludovic Mrolot, Sergey Khachatryan at De Doelen, Rotterdam.
This is the concert that made me fall in love with Khachatryan, because despite sniffing crazily loud he played this concerto better than I ever could've imagined. It's a stunning piece in itself, I would probably enjoy any performance that wasn't crap, but Khachatryan really elevated the violin concerto and made it so so beautiful.

2. April 3: Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.13 - Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Dmitri Slobodeniouk and Sergei Aleksashkin at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
The 13th Symphony is an interesting and complicated work. It's set to poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and its subtitle is "Babi Yar" - the title of a poem and the first movement, and the sight of a huge massacre in WWII. In my review for bachtrack I said this of the performance: "The music emphasizes these different elements, the terror and the optimism, the fear and the solidarity, and Slobodeniouk brought them out beautifully in the orchestra. Although Sergei Aleksashkin is not the most facially expressive singer, his voice expressed every emotion that one would expect to hear in this piece. [...] The chorus was also extremely powerful and you could feel just how much all of these musicians connected to the music and understood the tremendous meaning(s) it contains. The standing ovation was much deserved."
My review on bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-shostakovich-13th-babi-yar-concertgebouw

3. June 15: Benjamin Britten - The Rape of Lucretia - Oliver Knussen, Ian Bostridge, Susan Gritton, Angelika Kirchschlager and others at the Muziekgebouw Aan 't IJ in Amsterdam.
I hadn't heard The Rape of Lucretia before I went to see it and had no idea what to expect. Well, I had some idea, because I was familiar with another of Britten's operas: Peter Grimes and I absolutely love that opera. The Rape of Lucretia is quite different in that it is a chamber opera so the drama has to be more contained and somewhat more subtle but none of that matters because it is an absolutely fantastic piece. The performers were absolutely incredible as well, particularly Ian Bostridge and Susan Gritton who played the male and female choruses.
My review on bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-rape-of-lucretia-holland-festival

4. June 17: Thomas Adès - Concentric Paths, Polaris, Tevot - Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, Thomas Adès, Leila Josefowicz at the Concertgebouw.
Well, none of you will be surprised by the inclusion of this concert in my favourites. I absolutely adore Adès's music and I was SO excited to hear him conduct these works and also to hear Polaris for the first time. Concentric Paths is a violin concerto and was played by the remarkable Leila Josefowicz (who I already knew because she played Salonen's violin concerto so ridiculously well) and hearing it live was incredible. Same goes for Tevot and Polaris - Adès has a bit of a love for really high violin notes but he also loves loud percussion so that's me sorted! This concert was probably a highlight of my year in general - I felt so lucky and priviliged to have present there, to have been a part of it.
My review on bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-concertgebouw-ades

5. July 15: Sergei Prokofiev - Piano Concerto No.2 - Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Emmanuel Krivine, Nikolai Lugansky at the Concertgebouw.
Okay so I just really love Nikolai Lugansky, and anytime he plays Prokofiev will be a favourite concert of mine. It really is that simple, no one plays Prokofiev like him and no one wrote piano concertos like Prokofiev.
My review on bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/ravel-prokofiev-and-dvorak-in-the-concertgebouw

6. August 29: Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.8 - Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, Andriss Nelsons at the Concertgebouw.
This performance was exceptional. The 8th symphony isn't even one of my top 5-favourite Shostakovich symphonies but this performance made me want to listen to it over and over and over and over again because it broke my heart and made a huge impact on me. Generally for Shostakovich I prefer the Rotterdam Philharmonic but I have no doubt that I will never forget this performance. It was incredible.
My review on bachtrack: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-royal-concertgebouw-andris-nelsons-shostakovich-8

7. October 21: Sofia Gubaidulina - Das Gastmahl während der Pest and Edgar Varèse - Amériques - Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, Mariss Jansons at the Concertgebouw.
The Gubaidulina piece was great just to see a bunch of old people at the Concertgebouw being subjected to badass drum 'n' bass-beats. Seriously so amusing. Varèse is one of my main musical discoveries of the year - I absolutely loved Amériques, it is such an exciting and loud and fantastic piece of music. 19 percussionists!!! 139 musicians!! I wish every concert were like that.
My review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-gubaidulina-celebration-concertgebouw

8. December 2: Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.4 - Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, Mark Elder at De Doelen, Rotterdam.
I love the Fourth Symphony more than pretty much anything in this world. This performance was beautiful and pretty much turned me into a mess for its duration. Mark Elder also held a lovely speech before playing explaining what the symphony was about, and I think this probably added to the experience of anyone not aware of Shostakovich's dire living situation during the writing of the Fourth Symphony. I would like to relive this concert over and over again.
My review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-rotterdam-philharmonic-mark-elder-shostakovich-fourth-symphony

Other highlights:
Yannick conducting anything and everything, Vadim Repin playing Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto at De Doelen, Sergey Khachatryan playing Arthur Aharonian's Second Violin Concerto at the Muziekgebouw, Nikolai Lugansky played Maurice Ravel´s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (twice), Britten's War Requiem at De Doelen, Britten's Death in Venice Suite at De Doelen, Gubaidulina's Jetzt immer Schnee at the Philharmonie in Haarlem, Béla Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion at the Muziekgebouw, Alexander Raskatov's Alphabet of Death at the Muziekgebouw, Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet in the Stadsgehoorzaal Leiden, Shostakovich's 11th Symphony at the Concertgebouw (would've been in my top list if I hadn't seen the Rotterdam Phil play it even more intensely last year), the entire Russian Fall festival by the Rotterdam Philharmonic (please do one every year..) . And I also have a least favourite piece: Terteryan's Symphony No.6. I wish I could un-hear it, but at least I (and about half of the audience with me) slept through some of it.

Anyway, I hope it's been a fantastic year for all of you as well, and I'll see you in the new year!

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