3 February 2013

Favourite concerts of 2012

2012 was another fab year for live classical music. I reviewed 29 concerts for Bachtrack and many of them were really good. There were, as always, a few concerts that really stood out for me. Interestingly enough, they all seem to have been from April-July but I swear the rest of the year was good as well! Now that I live in England I am very curious to see what 2013's list will be like, especially with The Rest is Noise festival going on I'm anticipating perhaps my most exciting musical year yet. But now for 2012:

1. May 31: Maurice Ravel - L'Enfant et Les Sortilèges and Ma Mère L'Oye, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Magdalena Kožená, Nathalie Stutzmann, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Vlaams Radiokoor et al at De Doelen, Rotterdam.
I am of course a big fan of the Rotterdam Philharmonic. They're an absolutely fantastic orchestra with great programming every year, and this Ravel concert was probably my favourite concert in all of 2012. Apart from L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (which, together with Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre must be one of the funniest operas ever) they played Ma Mere l'Oye and these two pieces Ravel wrote for children are just stunning and hilarious and beautiful and moving. All the soloists were phenomenal and the puppet theatre done by O.T. Theater only made everything more awesome.
My bachtrack review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-de-doelen-rotterdam-phil-seguin-ravel-enfant-sortileges (five stars).

2. June 7: Dmitri Shostakovich - Cello Concerto No.1 and more, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Pablo Heras-Casado, Alisa Weilerstein at the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ in Amsterdam.
Of course Shostakovich concerts are generally my favourites because I love his music above all. But Alisa Weilerstein's rendition of his Cello Concerto No.1 was honestly something else. I'd seen it live twice before and was impressed every single time, but not to the extent that Weilerstein impressed me. For the entirety of her playing I found it hard to breathe because I simply felt too much, it was such an emotional performance, and combined with all her technical mastery that made it a performance I will probably remember for a long, long time. The other pieces of the evening were pretty great as well, I loved Schnittke's Moz-art a là Haydn which was my first live-experience of a Schnittke piece!
My bachtrack review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-mahler-chamber-orchestra-heras-casado-holland-festival (four stars).

3. April 27: James MacMillan - Violin Concerto, Bartók - Romanian Folk Dances and Shostakovich - Symphony No.9, Radio Kamer Filharmonie, James MacMillan, Vadim Repin
I think I loved James MacMillan's violin concerto even more than I thought I would. I was familiar with some of his choral works, which I really enjoy, and I figured that having Vadim Repin (one of my favourite violinists in the world) play the violin concerto would at least make it interesting. But it turned out to be amazing and just right up my street and it took me a little while to appreciate just how much I loved it. It was loud and energetic and playful and funny and moving and memorable. It was recorded for Dutch TV and even though I haven't found an entire recording on youtube yet, there is this movement which you should just watch. Sadly enough, The Radio Kamer Filharmonie has disbanded this year because the Dutch government makes stupid decisions and it is a massive loss to the Dutch classical music world.
My bachtrack review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-macmillan-repin-radio-kamer-filharmonie-shostakovich (four stars)

4. June & July: All the Pekka Kuusisto
Basically, this year was a good year for Netherlands-based Pekka Kuusisto fans. He was the artist in residence at the Robeco Zomerconcerten which means I got to see him play three times and each time was marvelous. The concert of Finnish tango music (with pianist Iiro Rantala) was so much fun and actually a lot more interesting musically that I'd anticipated (I love being wrong). His rendition of the Sibelius Violin Concerto is second to none, and truly revealed the beauty and strength of that concerto (some renditions I find can make it a little bit dull, but at least with Kuusisto you will never ever be bored). The Paganini concert, with guitarist Ismo Eskelinen was probably my favourite of the three, because it kind of combined all of Kuusisto's strengths. Not only is he a gifted performer and great story-teller, but he is an incredibly technically accomplished violinist with such mastery and musicality that you cannot help but be in awe.
My bachtrack reviews: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-robeco-2012-kuusisto-rantala-finnish-tango (Finnish tango, four stars)
http://www.bachtrack.com/review-robeco-2012-kuusisto-eskelinen (Paganini, four stars)
http://www.bachtrack.com/review-robeco-zomerconcerten-rpo-sinaisky-kuusisto (Sibelius, three stars)

5. July 27: Britten - Sinfonia da Requiem and Shostakovich - Symphony No.5, Aldeburgh World Orchestra, Mark Elder at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
Okay so 2012 wasn't as impressive a Shostakovich-year as 2011 was for me, but there were still some great concerts. The Aldeburgh World Orchestra gave an amazing performance of the Symphony No.5 (I still fondly remember the timpanist's last notes, he was great), and combined with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem (one of my favourite Britten pieces) this was just generally one of my favourite concerts. They also played the Adagio from Mahler's 10th which was good, but not quite as memorable as Britten and Shostakovich. Every time I see Mark Elder conduct a Shostakovich symphony I am sutprised by how good it is, you'd think that by now I'd remember that he's great at it! Also, the fact that the Aldeburgh World Orchestra are not even a professional orchestra and had been playing together for just 3 (!!!) weeks before this concert makes it all the more impressive.
My bachtrack review: http://www.bachtrack.com/review-robeco-2012-aldeburgh-world-orchestra-elder-britten-mahler-shostakovich (four stars)

Other highlights: Renaud Capuçon playing Ravel's Tzigane and Saint-Saëns's Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso at Vredenburg Utrecht, Alexander Melnikov playing all of Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues at Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ Amsterdam, the Philip Glass Violin Concerto 'American Four Seasons' by Robert McDuffie and Amsterdam Sinfonietta in Middelburg, Prokofiev's Symphony No.5 by Valery Gergiev and the Rotterdam Philharmonic at De Doelen Rotterdam, Grieg's Peer Gynt at the Barbican London, Ravel's Shéhérazade and Daphnis et Chloé by Yannick and the R'dam Phil at De Doelen, Mahler's Symphony No.7 by the Gustav Mahler Jugendorkester at Concertgebouw Amsterdam. And probably more!

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