2016 Concerts: A Few of My Favorite Things

Dec 30, 2016

As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, let's look (and listen) back to some of the best concerts of the year.

This year may not have been everything it promised to be. But for WCRB, 2016 will surely be remembered as a very good year. Not only did we see the launch of our new series  In Concert, which features the best of our region's music scene every Sunday night at 7pm; but 2016 also marked the 65th year of the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the radio in Boston, a tradition started by WGBH in 1951, and which continues today on WCRB.

This year was also a fantastic year for the classical concert scene in Boston, and I took full advantage of it. Many of my favorite concerts from this year were broadcast on WCRB, and most of those are still available for on-demand listening. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten.

1. Barbara Hannigan and Abrahamsen's "let me tell you" with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Soprano Barbara Hannigan
Credit Elmer de Haas

Performed and aired February 6, 2016
Recorded at Symphony Hall

With exclusive performance rights through the end of 2018, soprano Barbara Hannigan quite literally owns Hans Abrahamsen’s Hamlet-inspired song cycle “let me tell you”. But she also owns it figuratively. So often, contemporary music is a “one and done” experience, but with her monopoly on “let me tell you,” Hannigan has the rare opportunity to actually grow and flourish into a newly-composed work. Her performance of the cycle in February at Symphony Hall was, without a doubt, one of the great highlights of the 2016 BSO season.

2. Odyssey Opera and Dvořák's Dimitrij

Odyssey Opera's Music Director Gil Rose
Credit Liz Linder

Performed September 16, 2016
Recorded at NEC's Jordan Hall
Aired November 13, 2016

Though we remember him today mostly for his orchestral music, in his day Dvořák primarily considered himself an opera composer. But today, Dvořák’s operas go largely unknown. So, this year, in accordance with their mission, Gil Rose and Odyssey Opera sought to bring one of Dvořák's operas back in from the cold, flying in a mostly Czech cast to NEC’s Jordan Hall, and presenting an exceptional one-night only concert performance of Dvořák’s only grand opera, Dimitrij. I really enjoyed this concert, and spent the entire four hour performance in slack-jawed amazement: this is great music! And it had never before been heard in the U.S.? What a treat from Odyssey Opera.

3. Susan Graham in Recital with the Celebrity Series of Boston

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham
Credit B. Ealovega

Performed April 20, 2016
Recorded at NEC's Jordan Hall
Aired October 2, 2016

Vocal recitals can be dull... but not this one! Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham saw to that. In this April 2016 Celebrity Series performance at NEC’s Jordan Hall, Graham presented a recital that took Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, split it into sections, and then added thematically similar works by various other composers in between the movements. The result was a powerfully enriching evening of music, from beginning to end.

4. The Fauré Requiem with Blue Heron and A Far Cry

Blue Heron
Credit Liz Linder

Performed January 29, 2016
Recorded at Old South Church
Aired June 12 & September 11, 2016

In January, two of Boston’s prized gems came together for an unforgettable evening of music: the choral ensemble Blue Heron, which focuses mostly on stunning presentations of Early music; and Jamaica Plain’s A Far Cry chamber orchestra, which prides itself on smart, innovative programing and exquisite musicianship. Together, these two great Boston ensembles presented a conductorless performance of Fauré’s Requiem that was a easily one of the most rewarding concert experiences of 2016.

5. Boston Baroque and Mozart’s The Magic Flute

Tenor Nicholas Phan as Tamino
Credit Kathy Wittman

Performed April 16, 2016
Recorded at NEC's Jordan Hall
Aired October 16, 2016

Back when I was an undergraduate, I sang in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. It was my first opera, and the experience would become one of those “gear-shift” moments in my life, after which I knew I had to pursue a life in music. I have a great love for "Flute", and am quite picky about the performances I like and don’t like. Boston Baroque’s April performance at Jordan Hall was nothing short of exhilarating.

6. Johannes Moser thrills with Dvořák's Cello Concerto

Cellist Johannes Moser
Credit Uwe Arens

Performed and aired January 23, 2016
Recorded at Symphony Hall 

I remember this concert because it was the first one of the year that I attended with my sister, Annika, and both of us couldn’t keep from smiling throughout the performance. It was just simply a wonderful evening of music. The concert kicked off with a favorite, Smetana’s The Moldau, and concluded with Johannes Moser performing the Dvořák Cello Concerto with such flare that the audience leapt to its feet with applause before the final note had rang out in Symphony Hall.

7. Andris Nelsons conducts Beethoven 9 at Tanglewood

Andris Nelsons, Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Credit Dominick Reuter

Performed August 28, 2016
Recorded at the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood

It’s hard to pick a favorite from the Tanglewood season. But if you twist my arm, then I choose the final concert of the festival: Andris Nelsons conducting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. True, there is a long tradition of "The Ninth" concluding the Tanglewood season. But over the years, this closing concert has been conducted by a big-name guest conductor, and not the Music Director. This year however, Andris Nelsons did step in to conduct the performance, and it's a move that I hope marks the beginning of a new tradition that will live side-by-side with the time-honored one.

8. Herbert Blomstedt conducts All-Beethoven

Conductor Herbert Blomstedt
Credit Martin U.K. Lengemann

Performed and aired March 12, 2016
Recorded at Symphony Hall

When 89-year-old conductor Herbert Blomstedt made his way gingerly to the podium at Symphony Hall, I didn’t know what to expect. I couldn’t imagine such a mild-seeming man exerting control over the dozens of musicians before him. But control them he did, giving one of the more energetic, powerful, and exciting performances of Beethoven’s 7th symphony I’ve experienced.

9. A Far Cry: Memory

A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra
Credit courtesy of the ensemble

Performed September 23, 2016
Recorded at NEC's Jordan Hall
Aired October 9, 2016

As mentioned above, A Far Cry prides itself on not only excellent musicianship, but on innovative, creative programing. Among this year’s cool concert experiences from A Far Cry was a walk down memory lane to commemorate their 10 year anniversary. Included on the program: music from the first A Far Cry concert, a return to old themes, and a new challenge: Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, performed from memory.

10. The First Concert 2016: François-Xaviar Roth with the Boston Symphony

Conductor François-Xavier Roth
Credit Marco Borggreve

Performed and aired January 9, 2016
Recorded at Symphony Hall

The first Boston Symphony concert of 2016 was a wonderful “something old, something new” program. It highlighted two perennial classics, Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, and Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto (featuring BSO Principal Flutist Elizabeth Rowe and BSO Principal Harpist Jessica Zhou). It also marked a debut: Conductor François-Xavier Roth brought along piece that the BSO had never before played: François-Joseph Gossec’s Symphony for 17 Parts.

ABOUT THE RECORDINGS

With very few exceptions, all the concerts you hear on WCRB - be they live from Symphony Hall on Saturdays, or on WCRB In Concert on Sundays - are recorded and mixed by WCRB's lead audio engineer, Antonio Oliart Ros. That's a lot of concerts. From Symphony Hall to Tanglewood, Jordan Hall to Rockport, Antonio's tireless efforts to ensure that each concert heard on WCRB sounds as beautiful as possible, are truly invaluable.

Most of these recordings are only available on-demand for one year, so don't miss your chance to hear them before they disappear!

HEAR THE CONCERTS ON-AIR

Hear the Boston Symphony on WCRB most Saturday nights at 8:00pm live from Symphony Hall, and find all the Boston Symphony concerts on-demand at the Boston Symphony page.

Relive the best of Boston's vibrant classical music scene every Sunday night at 7:00pm on WCRB In Concert, and find all the WCRB In Concert concerts on-demand at the In Concert page.

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