Well, 2013 was another impressive year for me concert-wise. It had some of the best concerts I've ever been to, and thankfully a lot of Shostakovich as well as new musical discoveries (most importantly Lutoslawski and Martinu). As I was writing this list I noticed that there's a lot of mention of Esa-Pekka Salonen, but that's just further proof that he conducts awesome programs amazingly well (no news there). Here's my five favourite concerts of the year:
1. May 16: Shostakovich - Orango and Symphony No.4, Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Ryan McKinny, Allan Clayton, Richard Angas, Elisabeth Meister, Peter Hoare, Philharmonia Voices at the Royal Festival Hall
I had been looking forward to this concert ever since it was announced, and on the day itself I was giddy with excitement. The newly discovered Orango received its European premiere in a fantastic performance by the orchestra and soloists, lead by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who is always extraordinary. I wish someone would have filmed the performance because it was also visually captivating, and Ryan McKinny in particular was spectacular. The Philharmonia's performance of the Fourth Symphony was one of the best - if not the best - I've heard, and I really hope they will perform more Shostakovich symphonies with Salonen in upcoming years.
2. October 30: Schnittke - Symphony No.1, Lutoslawski - Cello Concerto, and Ligeti - Lontano, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Michail Jurowski, Johannes Moser at the Royal Festival Hall
Okay so by the time this concert came around I had gotten slightly tired of Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto. An amazing piece though it is, 3 performances in one year may be a bit too much. Thankfully I thought wrong because this performance turned out to be BY FAR the best. It was so much better than the other (also good) performances, in terms of musical interpretation by the conductor (Michail Jurowski is pretty badass isn't he?), playing by the orchestra but especially in terms of the soloist. Moser was phenomenal, absolutely amazing. And this performance wasn't even the highlight of the evening! Schnittke's Symphony No.1 is one of the most fantastic pieces of music ever written and the London Philharmonic gave such an incredible performance that even thinking about it makes me smile from ear to ear. It was a life-affirming performance that was suitably ridiculous, challenging, intense and all-encompassing. Definitely a concert I will never, ever forget.
3. October 26: Shostakovich - Symphony No.13, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mikhail Petrenko, Gentlemen of the London Philharmonic Choir at the Royal Festival Hall
I really miss seeing Yannick at the Rotterdam Philharmonic, so of course I had to go see him conduct the London Philharmonic in Shostakovich's impressive Symphony No.13. The performance did not disappoint, Petrenko was really impressive, and the male chorus was completely on point but the orchestra in particular gave a passionate and intelligent performance of this emotional and bleak symphony. It's one of my favourite works Shostakovich has ever written and so I tend to be a little bit worried when I see it live, because what if I don't like the interpretation of the performance?! But this one was about as good as it gets, and proves that Yannick really is a great Shostakovich conductor.
4. May 30: Varèse - Amériques and Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring, Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen at the Royal Festival Hall
THIS CONCERT WAS JUST SO WONDERFULLY LOUD. Seriously. Amériques is just so much fun and it's so impressive to hear it live, and coupling with the always enjoyable Rite of Spring was a great move. The performance of the Rite of Spring was simply amazing, it was animalistic and organic and so rhythmically powerful and played with unstoppable energy and drive.
5. January 30: Lutoslawski - Musique Funèbre & Piano Concerto and Ravel - Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet), Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Krystian Zimerman, Philharmonia Voices at the Royal Festival Hall
This was my introduction to the music of Lutoslawski, which I am immensely grateful for. Musique Funèbre was mesmerizing and the Piano Concerto was stunning to hear for the first time. The performance of one of my favourite pieces ever, Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé was also faultless and made for an impressive ending to a great concert.
Other highlights: Leila Josefowicz and the London Philharmonic playing Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.1, the Philharmonia and Ashkenazy's astounding performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No.15, Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra played by the Philharmonia and Salonen, Haitink and the London Symphony Orchestra's thought-provoking performance of Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony, Britten Sinfonia and Pekka Kuusisto's performance of Tüür's Lighthouse, and last but certainly not least, the "Music from Dark Times" program by the London Philharmonic and Jurowski.