hide captionBest Musical Moment of 2010? Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, in concert.
Best Musical Moment of 2010? Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, in concert.
It's that time of year again. Time to tally everything up, assemble our various lists, wrap them with pretty bows, and — try as we might — sum up just what kind of year we've had.
So let's see. I only had one knee surgery this year, one sinus infection, one colonosc — wait, that's not where I was going with this.
No, I want to make one more music list. Yes, there are plenty of lists out there right now — complete menus of the year's best classical, jazz, latino — even a list of albums we missed.
So, why not add one more to our list of lists, since we're in the spirit, so-to-speak. But this time you need to weigh in.
Tell us a story about your favorite musical experience this year. It could be a concert you attended, a recording you bought, or made yourself. It could be a friend's child plunking out a sweet Chopin waltz on the parlor piano. It could be a street musician, or a family sing-along. Please leave your story in the comments section, and later this week look for favorite musical moments from Marin Alsop, Joyce DiDonato and Jennifer Higdon.
There's something about hearing the human voice in full cry that sets me aloft with a kind of ecstatic buzz. And opera is my best fix. The thrill escalates when hearing a terrific voice for the first time, live. That was the case when soprano Sondra Radvanovsky first opened her throat at the Kennedy Center and all I heard were huge streams of multi-colored sound as she started in on Verdi's "Ernani involami." Like Leontyne Price she had the power, and like Zinka Milanov she floated golden threads of tone, perfectly supported, up to the rafters. I was a mess after her "Vissi d'arte" encore. Below Sondra sings "D'amor sull'ali rosee" from Verdi's Il Trovatore from an unidentified venue.
Sondra Sings Verdi
And, because I'm the one typing this blog, I'll add four more extraordinary moments, to round out a top 5… list.
Combine aspects of Madonna, Barbara Streisand, Odetta and Joni Mitchell and you've got something that approximates Aksu. She's Turkey's biggest star and widely known around the Middle East and Europe. Like Madonna and Mitchell, Aksu, over a 30 year career keeps reinventing herself and pushing her music to new places. When I saw her, on a rare tour of the U.S. this past spring, she sang pure pop one moment and sexy, sinuous folk-like tunes the next.
3. JACK Quartet, at Library of Congress:
The string quartet may be a 250-year-old contraption, but young, brilliant groups like the JACK Quartet are keeping it thrillingly vital. It was worth the price of admission alone (although concerts at the Library are free) to hear the group play the incendiary Tetras by Iannis Xenakis. This is about as loud as a string quartet gets. A virtual shred-fest for strings, the music pivots instantly from one violent outburst to the next, and yet not without a few humorous grunts, barks and quacks. A total earquake.
I'm not even wild about this group's music, but I will never forget the visit these lusty, vodka-swilling musicians paid us one afternoon here at NPR Music. They came with their own half gallon of chilled Stolichnaya and a bottle of champagne. As the band got sweatier (and rowdier) guitarist Eugene Hutz, like a feral cat, lept onto my desk to sing the band's signature "Pala Tute" (watch it here). It was Priceless.
5. Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, at the Kennedy Center
The Amsterdam-based Concertgebouw and conductor Mariss Jansons are so good they taught me how to appreciate Rachmaninov's overblown Symphony No. 2. Well, at least that's how I used to think of it. But when they played it, on a snowy evening last February, instead of hearing schmaltzy tunes, lumbering in gooey harmonies, I discovered a new transparency and power that made sense. The strings, like luminous threads in the dream-like slow movement, and punchy bursts of energy in the finale. Thanks guys
Tell us your favorite musical moment of 2010 in the comments section.