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Year In Review 2008 | Food | Cinema | Theater | Dance | Art | Books | Classical | Live | Recordings

Best of 2007

Critic: B. A. Nilsson

1. Hésperion XXI

Seiji Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, July 12

It’s a rare treat when ensemble director Jordi Savall brings his musical forces this close to us, and the program, the Sephardic Diaspora, gave us a rich series of songs, both instrumental and vocal, from one of the richest musical melting pots of antiquity: 15th-century Iberia. The concert should have been given in a blues club, especially when percussionist David Mayoral got cranking, but even the always-respectful Tanglewood audience loosened up by the end.

2. Julia Fischer, violinist, and Milana Chernyavska, pianist

Union College, April 5

This 25-year-old violinist is one of the most astonishing talents on the concert scene, as her performance of Bach’s solo Sonata No. 2 made clear. In partnership with Chernyavska, she gave remarkable performances of sonatas by Debussy, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Another jewel in the crown of the Union College Concert Series.

3. Kiri Te Kanawa, soprano, and Warren Jones, pianist

Proctor’s Theatre, Oct. 27

For her first and last appearance here—it was part of a farewell tour—the renowned soprano wowed us with a crowd-pleaser-free recital: songs by Richard Strauss, Henri Duparc, Poulenc, Puccini, along with little-heard numbers by Copland and Britten, and Jake Heggie’s triumphant “Monologue.” Masterful singing, of course, so by the time she threw in an encore of “O mio babbino caro,” the audience had almost forgotten that Te Kanawa is also an opera star.

4. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg with Sérgio and Odair Assad

Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Feb. 8

Violin and two guitars are a compelling combination, and the program, which ranged from Bach and Bartók to Piazzolla, Chaplin to orignal (by Sérgio) Gypsy songs, showed off many permutations of this sound. The three are fabulous players, and Salerno-Sonnenberg also made for a droll emcee for the evening, in just the right venue.

5. Orphée

Glimmerglass Opera, Aug. 27

The Orpheus-themed summer gave us five operas, ranging from a risibly dreadful take on Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo to a brilliant staging of Philip Glass’s retelling of a Jean Cocteau film. The staging, by Sam Helfrich, was appropriately cinematic, with the fine singing and acting talents Philip Cutlip, Lisa Saffer, Jeffrey Lentz and Caroline Worra, among others, and Glass’s score, which ranges from the jazz-inflected rhythms of the opening to a luscious, hypnotic sequence in the underworld, was a delight.

6. The Philadelphia Orchestra with violinist Renaud Capuçon and cellist Gautier Capuçon, Charles Dutoit, conductor

Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Aug. 3

The matinée-idol brothers Capuçon returned to SPAC to play a big-boned version of Brahms’ Double Concerto, but it was the orchestra’s take on Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade that stole the show—proving that even this Russian warhorse, played, it seems, to death, takes on a new life in the hands of forces like these. Those annual Philadelphia Orchestra stops in Saratoga are an undervalued gift.

7. Albany Symphony Orchestra and Albany Pro Musica, David Alan Miller, conductor

Palace Theatre, Jan. 20

Speaking of things Russian, the ASO kicked off the year with a program titled A Night in Old Russia, which gave us two works by dsypeptic old Tchaikovsky—but at least it was Tchaikovsky in a lighter-than-usual mood. His Symphony No. 4 and 1812 Overture bookended the concert, the latter featuring Albany Pro Musica’s skilfull voices. They also sang in two other works: Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances” and the Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky’s opera Boris Godunov, featuring the marvelous bass-baritone Keith Kibler.

8. Richard Goode, pianist

Union College Memorial Chapel, Oct. 11

Goode essayed the most familiar work on the program, Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata, with a brisk tempo and unusually relentless pulse that took the audience by surprise and served the piece quite well. His interpretations of a number of concert-opening Bach works were similarly unorthodox, which for me is part of Goode’s appeal. Another part is technical dexterity, which also showed in the array of works by Debussy and Chopin that comprised the second half.

9. The Magic Flute

Metropolitan Opera at Regal Crossgates Cinemas, Jan. 22

Crossgates has the high-definition technology to host live (and repeat) broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, and it’s a stunning experience, as we learned watching Julie Taymor’s whimsical version of this Mozart opera early in the year. Given that Met tickets cost a jillion dollars, the under-$20 ticket price here gives you much of the excitement of the live show without leaving you flanked by wealthy cadavers.

 

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