Washington Post's Best of 2008

12.28.08
Marin Alsop, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Washington Post

It was a year of departures: Leonard Slatkin left the National Symphony Orchestra; the Alban Berg Quartet, the Beaux Arts Trio and Alfred Brendel bid farewell to the recital stage. It was a year of arrivals, with Christoph Eschenbach announced as the NSO's next music director in 2010, Ivan Fischer taking over for two years as NSO principal conductor, and Washington debutants such as Gustavo Dudamel and Yuja Wang. · And it was a year of anniversaries. When CD labels and concert halls weren't feting Charles Wuorinen, Joan Tower, John Corigliano, John Harbison, Gloria Coates, William Bolcom and Fred Rzewski -- who all turned 70 this year -- they were lionizing centenarians Olivier Messiaen (deceased) and Elliott Carter (very much alive). · It was a year of financial hardship: The Washington National Opera canceled its upcoming "Ring" cycle, and the Baltimore Opera, after a terrific "Norma," filed for Chapter 11. But it was also a year of bounty. In Washington, music lovers were treated to a cornucopia of everything from the Choral Arts Society's "El Niño" to Paul Jacobs's stunning organ recital to the highly subjective list offered below of 10 memorable performances that stand in for many wonderful nights of music.

1. Leontyne Price, 81, sings "America the Beautiful" at the first NEA Opera Awards.

2. Dolora Zajick offers perfection as Santuzza in a concert "Cavalleria Rusticana" presented by WNO.

3. Ivan Fischer stirs the NSO with Mahler's "Resurrection."

4. Leonard Slatkin and the NSO juxtapose Paganini's Violin Concerto (Hilary Hahn) with David Del Tredici's "Final Alice."

5. Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony hit Bernstein's "Mass" out of the park at the Meyerhoff, Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

6. Gustavo Dudamel leads the Israel Philharmonic in the Tchaikovsky Fourth.

7. Wolf Trap Opera fields a great young ensemble in Verdi's early comedy "King for a Day."

8. Sondra Radvanovsky redefines the term "second cast" as a first-rate "Lucrezia Borgia" at WNO.

9. The 20-year-old pianist Yuja Wang wows with the Liszt B Minor Sonata in her D.C. debut recital.

10. Vivica Genaux leads a sparkling group of Rossinians under Antony Walker in the WCO's "Bianca e Falliero."