Monday, 31 December 2012

Best of 2012

This year-end round-up of highlights is selected with no particular criteria in mind; I just settled on my favourite events and people and made the categories fit. All that remains to be said in 2012 is einen guten Rutsch to one and all, and I’m sure no reminder is needed for a certain concert happening tomorrow. There will be at least one woman displayed more prominently than the flower arrangements, so I hear.

Best concert (contemporary)

Matteo Cesari at the Alte Schmiede, hands down. Wien Modern 2013, I am imploring you.

Best concert (international visitor)
An all-Russian programme from Valery Gergiev and the LSO at the Konzerthaus.

Best concert (cooperative Philharmoniker)

The Wiener Philharmoniker can never fail to sound like the Wiener Philharmoniker regardless of who conducts them, but for most conductors half the battle is staving off the Schlamperei that comes as part and parcel of that tradition; all too rarely is the orchestra challenged to rethink the way they play a piece. For too long Boulez has been leaned on as someone they trust to do this, and his continuing absence has been sorely felt. In 2012 the ‘Kinder, schafft Neues’ mantle fell to Daniel Barenboim, and indeed something new in the field of Mozart interpretation was shown to the Viennese.

Best concert (Der Kraft und Schönheit unserer Jugend)
Two Salzburg highlights: Leonidas Kavakos and Radu Lupu.

Best piano recital (tie)
This goes jointly to Grigory Sokolov and Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

Best Liederabend
If only for the heady and oddly warming mood willed by a house full of doting Wienerinnen and Wiener, Edita Gruberova.

Best Liederabend (cerebrally speaking)
Mark Padmore, singing Thomas Larcher and the late Hans Werner Henze.

Best curtailed concert
The Arditti Quartet at Wien Modern.

Best rarity
Wallenstein, Jaromír Weinberger’s utterly obscure and utterly fascinating (if more so historically than musically) Dollfuss-themed opera.

Conductor (and orchestra) of the year
Cornelius Meister and the RSO Wien have repeatedly impressed this year, whether it be at Wien Modern (sadly unblogged as there was just too much Wien Modern) or in the Martinů cycle that is now drawing to a close; reviews here and here.

Composer of the year
Friedrich Cerha, presently caught up in an extraordinarily pensive Indian summer, was awarded the Ernst von Siemens music prize earlier this year.

Best opera production
Peter Konwitschny has the last word on Madama Butterfly for possibly quite some time.

Best sloppy revival
The Wiener Staatsoper’s Die Meistersinger, with Simone Young, Johan Botha, James Rutherford, Adrian Eröd and Christina Carvin (seen in November, unblogged). A mere three rehearsals – one for each act – inevitably showed, all the more so since it is too many seasons gone for newer members of the Staatsopernorchester to have ever played this opera before. Many things could be said about the shortcomings of singing and playing, but in the pit the sound of more experienced hands guiding but not always winning over those with fresher sight made for an accidental dialectic that, surely uniquely (the true Einzigartigkeit of the Wiener Staatsoper!), enacted the discourse that takes place in the opera.

Worst opera production of 2012 (and Dominique Meyer’s Intendanz so far)
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, directed by Jérôme Deschamps. No thirst for whisky after this, just the urgent need to punch someone’s face.

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