Among the BMInt staff, many writers have intact memories. Within that subset, several have submitted lists of their favorite CDs and concerts of the last season. We thank them for their reflections. Some have chosen to nominate concerts they have reviewed while others have chosen from concerts which they merely attended. Another wants to plump for one of his own compositions. One writer concentrates on lives in the musical community. This exercise reminds us of how much to be grateful for the musical life of Boston and its environs, which this season, once again, has witnessed more than 2,500 concerts. We salute all of our players, writers and presenters. We thank our loyal and sizable audience for having read and commented upon upwards of 4,500 reviews since our founding in 2009. And so we say Happy New Year to all.
For this 2017 all-star listing, I’m calling for fantasy league keyboards. To that end I have created three greatest-hits recitals, with substantial encores, everything naturally selected from my standout memories.
The J.S. Bach recital would comprise Larry Weng motoring unflaggingly through Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s wacky Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue in C Major S.564 (in the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation summer festival at Walnut Hill) and Christa Rakich the same (First Lutheran, BEMF) with the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor S.582. There is nothing in music like Bach in full-flag forward locomotion, inexorably heading toward home. These two got the power.
A suitably potent encore could be Eric Lu (Walnut Hill) blowing up Prokofiev’s Seventh Sonata.
The Chopin and Liszt recital would show off the rounded, pearly strengths of Artur Haftman in the Chopin A-flat Polonaise and Han Chen in two Liszt-Bellini transcriptions (each artist at Walnut Hill), followed by Michael Lewin’s delving of Liszt’s showy, lovesick Petrarch Sonnets (BoCo Berklee Piano Masters).
The Beethoven recital would begin with Ian Watson’s thumping read of Rule, Britannia (MFA, BEMF); oh, I say, ’twas jolly good. It concludes with the deep-garnet claret of Victor Rosenbaum’s Opus 110 (Jordan Hall, his quinquagenarian recital), as sonically ravishing as anything heard all year. Each musician had also just dispatched very different, most excellent, interpretations of the Opus 26 sonata.
A suitably dramatic encore then would be Alex Korsantia’s mammoth rendition (at Walnut Hill) of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
My pianism focus forces exclusion of BCMS’s Brahms Sextet No. 2 (Cambridge Rindge&Latin theater). But BCMS always do Brahms with exceptional, sad nobility, and most other repertory as well. So just go hear them no matter what reviewers can and can’t fit into a year-end wrapup.
Tanglewood Reminds Us What’s Human (Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Brahms’s Second)
How vividly I remember Robert Honeysucker. His unexpected departure left our earthly sphere much diminished. Robert Honeysucker: We Will Always Feel the Spirit.
Other examples of epochs’ endings and guards’ changing include the sun’s setting on David Deveau’s tenure at Rockport Music: Deveau’s Graceful Finale, the end of the Malkovichs’ Era: Newport Festival Ends Era, and the conclusion of Scott Nickrenz’s long run at the Gardner: Retiring Nickrenz Still Lively. How many efforts from these individuals could qualify as seasons’ best?
And let us not forget the still-active keyboard god Russell Sherman. Some of the pleasure and enlightenment he has shared with us over the decades can be summoned in the interview he did last year: Sherman Throws Gravity Waves and Curveballs
James C. S. Liu
An MP3 purchase, from Amazon Music HERE struck me as noteworthy. It’s a complete set of the Mozart piano sonatas, with a pianist named Jeffrey Biegel. I’d never heard of him before, but fell in love with some of his sonata recordings when they were part of the in-flight entertainment. He doesn’t play fast or flashy, but he observes all the repeats, gives the music plenty of space to breathe, and ornaments cunningly and tastefully with each repeat. It’s an utterly delightful set, and $0.99 for these performances is one of the biggest steals on Amazon (though it deprives him of the revenue of buying his two 2-CD sets of same).
The BSO Brahms symphonies from the November 2016 performances HERE
Stravinsky: Sym of Psalms, Sym in C, Sym in 3 movts / Berliner Philharmoniker / Simon Rattle
Debussy: The Edgar Allan Poe Operas Göttinger Symphonie Orchester / Christoph-Mathis Mueller
Robert Fuchs: Symphonies 1 and 2 WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln / Karl-Heinz Steffens