2011: concerts of the year

Some times it really is just all a blur. That blur refined itself into a few noticeable shapes this year.

Boston Symphony Orchestra – Mahler 5
I sometimes think that Mahler wrote his symphonies specifically for winning end of year lists. The BSO, playing at Tanglewood in a summer storm, did justice to the massive expectations that this piece has: a crisp first movement, a mindboggling scherzo, and the obligatorily heartrending Adagietto.

Alex Jang & Nathan Friedman – Graduating Recital
There is a thing that happens to composers from the University of Victoria in their fourth year: they go from producing great work to producing astonishing work. In this case, that astonishing work included post-Webern exactness from Alex Jang and a post-everything jazz apocalypse from Nathan Friedman. Look out for these cats – they are going to do very serious things.

The rest fall into a kind of better than honourable mentions: I can’t call them all out, but they were all jaw-dropping: Nadia Pona’s grad recital, featuring the most triumphant bassoon playing known to man; the String Quartet concert, with the Kovich Quartet’s demolition of Ligeti I; Michael Finnissy’s impossibly lush Gershwin transcriptions; the utter chaos of the MUS 462 concerts, including Iain Gillis catching a piece of bread and Stefan Maier placing a cabbage inside the piano; Romitelli’s technoid Green – Yellow – Blue at Sonic Lab; Tyson Doknjas playing Bach while topless and hooked up to a heartbeat sensor for my final computer music piece, Rob Phillips taking Xenakis apart and the putting him back together; Shima Takeda playing the best Bach ever.

It was a good year.