John ADAMS: An atomic opera in San Francisco and a multimedia Nativity last month here preserved hopes for classical music’s present and future.
Heinrich BIBER: Madcap violin virtuosity from Germany’s leading composer pre-Bach. In concerts and on disc, he’s taken over on the charts from Vivaldi.
CLEVELAND Orchestra: Dvorák’s rarely heard Fifth Symphony made the orchestra’s Costa Mesa stint especially wonderful.
DORRANCE Stalvey: After leading the distinguished Monday Evening Concerts at LACMA almost single-handedly for 33 years, he died last year. The concerts themselves are also on borrowed time.
ESA-PEKKA Salonen: Musical America puts him on its cover as Musician of the Year. Who are we to differ?
FLICKA Von Stade: A little long in the tooth for Offenbach’s man-eating Duchess at the L.A. Opera? Perhaps, but we love her all the same.
GUSTAVO Dudamel: A 24-year-old Venezuelan fireball of a conductor made his local debut late in the Hollywood Bowl season and wowed us all.
HAYDN‘s String Quartet, Opus 54 No. 2, amazing, adventurous, lit up the Penderecki Quartet’s program ?at LACMA, the kind of music that LACMA now intends ?to ditch.
INDISPENSABLE: Osvaldo Golijov’s Ayre and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs sung by Dawn Upshaw on DG, with the Andalucian Dogs barking away in the background.
JEFFREY Kahane: At keyboard or on podium, he has brought his L.A. Chamber Orchestra into a golden age, in time to provide ol’ Wolfgang with the ideal birthday gift.
Olga KERN: With piano and TV cameras at the ready, she came to the Bowl and established the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto as the prototypical sex toy.
LORRAINE Hunt LIEBERSON sang her husband Peter’s Neruda Songs with the Philharmonic: beauty of thought matching beauty of artistry.
MARIN Alsop survived the sexist uprising at her newly acquired Baltimore Symphony post; with our own Philharmonic, she led a strong and exceptionally brainy Tchaikovsky Fifth.
NAXOS, NONESUCH: the two labels that sustain hope that classical recording has a continuing sales strength, room for imaginative programming, and perhaps even ?a future.
OJAI‘s programming had some interesting divergences from the Good Old Days, with more (e.g., Golijov’s wonderful opera, newly revised) to come. Stay tuned.
The PHILHARMONIC returned to classical orchestral seating (second violins down front on the right) and much improved its clarity and resonance, especially in 18th-century music.
The Denali QUARTET is the mainstay of the superb Jacaranda series at Santa Monica’s First Presbyterian. It plays Revueltas and Ravel, and raises goose bumps.
Terry RILEY got a messier 70th-birthday concert, at Royce, than the great minimalist deserved, but his own playing and singing gave off the rainbow’s authentic glow.
András SCHIFF played the piano and led the Philharmonic in a warm-hearted and friendly program of small and lesser masterpieces, a most comforting evening.
THOMAS Adés composed a marvelous Piano Quintet, which you can hear on EMI and also hear in person when he comes to the Philharmonic in February.
Frances-Marie UITTI used her double-bow techniques, in a LACMA concert, to turn the throbbing, mystical cello works of Giacinto Scelsi into beauty beyond words.
VIOLETA Urmana, commanding of stature and of voice as well, came as close as humanly possible to endowing Puccini’s Tosca with a semblance of authentic blood and fire.
Schubert’s WINTERREISE underwent the unlikely process of being turned into a stage work; the Long Beach Opera’s production, in a tiny theater, had its own genuine power.
Sheer XTASY: the final trio of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, staged at the L.A. Opera by Maximilian Schell and conducted by Kent Nagano. Can opera get any better than this? (Probably, but not often.)
YING: The string quartet of that name (four siblings) played short works in a dim sum restaurant as one of the Da Camera Society’s “Historic Sites” concerts, which always match the right sounds to the right place.
ZERO: The future stability of the arts, as foreshadowed by the management of the Los Angeles County Museum, on the West Coast; and by the fall of former-maecenas-turned-money-launderer Alberto Vilar, detained somewhere back East.