The Top Ten Performances of 2014

12.22.14
Osvaldo Golijov, Bramwell Tovey, Yefim Bronfman, Jeremy Denk, Yo-Yo Ma
Boston Classical Review

By David Wright and Aaron Keebaugh  

 

6. Bramwell Tovey and the Boston Symphony Orchestra: Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem

When heard live, Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem can be breathtaking, and this performance from October was certainly that. British conductor Bramwell Tovey led a resplendent reading that was aided by the fine singing of bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and soprano Rosemary Joshua. But the real heroes of this performance were the singers of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. (AK)

 

8. Jeremy Denk: Mozart Piano Sonatas and Ligeti Études

Jeremy Denk, perhaps one of classical music’s biggest celebrities these days, returned to his roots with an intimate concert at the Gardner Museum in January. His playing mined a romantic sensibility and lyricism from Mozart’s Piano Sonatas No. 8 and No. 15. Denk displayed his brilliant technique in three of Ligeti’s Études: En Suspens, Galamb borong, and the hard-driving L’escalier du diable. (AK)

 

Honorable Mention  

Osvaldo Golijov’s La Pasión según San Marcos, a setting of the Passion according to St. Mark, was first heard in Boston and Tanglewood in 2001 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Robert Spano. This January concert brought Golijov’s work back to Symphony Hall, with Spano again leading a performance that blazed with fiery energy through its zesty Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms, live-wire mambos, and the vernacular charm of Spanish flamenco melody. (AK)

 

Best Answer to the Naysayers

Andris Nelsons, Yo-Yo Ma and the BSO: Esenvalds, Prokofiev, et al.  To those who predicted that the BSO would play nothing but Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and Sibelius during Nelsons’s tenure as music director, the Latvian maestro answered in November with a world premiere by Eriks Esenvalds, a whimsical oddity by John Harbison, a Rachmaninoff piece (The Bells) without a big melody, and a heffalump by Prokofiev, the long and difficult Symphony-Concerto for Cello and Orchestra.  Want new music?  Soloist Yo-Yo Ma’s printed score was so new it snapped shut on him in mid-performance.  (DW)

 

Most Unexpected Pleasure

Christoph von Dohnányi, Yefim Bronfman and the BSO: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 2.  This least-played, least-esteemed of Beethoven’s five piano concertos proved to be Cinderella at the ball during the BSO’s excellent three-concert traversal in March of all five works, plus other Beethoven pieces.  The composer himself called it “not among the best of my compositions,” but he might have changed his tune if he could have heard conductor Dohnányi and pianist Bronfman perform it.  Dressed in its Sunday best and enlivened by exceptional wit, refinement and sentiment, this poor relation was a delight from start to finish. (DW)