Best of 2017

Marin Alsop, Sir Andrew Davis, JoAnn Falletta, Christopher Rountree, Inon Barnatan, Daniel Barenboim, Christoph Eschenbach, Alexandre Tharaud, Daniil Trifonov, Krystian Zimerman, Isabelle Faust, Yo-Yo Ma, Johannes Moser, Alisa Weilerstein, Avi Avital, Mason Bates, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Munich , Minnesota Orchestra , West-Eastern Divan Orchestra , The Knights , Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra , Stephanie Blythe, Kate Lindsey, Christian Van Horn, VOCES8

As 2017 comes to an end, we honor all of our artists and their accomplishments and wish them a fulfilling year ahead. Opus 3 Artists has culled through the many "best of" lists and we're delighted to have found many of our artists celebrated. Whether it is best classical compositions, greatest classical performances, or the best albums, our artists are lauded for their hard work and talent. Hats off to our Opus 3 Artists! 

New York Times Best of: 

Best Classical Performances

CHRISTIAN VAN HORN - The Exterminating Angel
Last year, I included the world premiere at the Salzburg Festival of Thomas Adès’s audacious opera, adapted from Luis Buñuel’s surreal 1962 film, on my list of favorite performances. I’m choosing it again this year, after the Metropolitan Opera presented the American premiere in October with an impressive cast and Mr. Adès conducting. The opera’s themes felt chillingly pertinent: In the plot, the guests at a fashionable dinner party find themselves psychologically trapped in the salon of their wealthy hosts. Some force — internal, imposed or both — seems to be sapping their will to act. There were eerie parallels between these panicked members of the ruling class and the elected officials in Washington who can sometimes seem frozen in deciding how, and even whether, to stand up to a norm-shattering administration.

This was a party, plain and simple: a five-hour celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center at the end of the season in May, and I would have been happy to stay longer. Punctuated by witty and insightful archival and interview footage about the “New Met” were Stephanie Blythe and David Daniels in Handel, Susan Graham and Matthew Polenzani in Berlioz, Piotr Beczala in Verdi and Anna Netrebko in “Macbeth” and “Madama Butterfly,” among (many) others. And, of course, Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s surprise appearance in the midst of cancer treatment to sing (with gusto) an aria from “Rigoletto.” An evening of pleasure — and reflection on a beloved, if vexed, theater — more than the sum of its parts.

25 Best Classical Music Recordings

DANIIL TRIFONOV - Chopin Evocations
Do we need another recording of Chopin’s piano concertos? Well, we need this one, because Mr. Trifonov plays them magnificently; because of illuminating chamber-orchestra arrangements by Mikhail Pletnev, who conducts; and because of Chopin-inspired works by Grieg, Barber and others that join. 

Pierre Boulez, conductor. Boulez, who died in 2016, gets quite the tribute here with more than two hours of music, including “Le Marteau Sans Maître.” That score might frighten some young musicians; here, the contralto Hilary Summers and members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are fearless. 

KATE LINDSEY - Thousands of Miles
Baptiste Trotignon, piano (Alpha Classics). Ms. Lindsey shows just how nimble her voice can be with this diverse collection of 20th-century songs by Alma Mahler, Weill, Korngold and Zemlinsky, who all fled the Nazis. Especially worth hearing is Zemlinsky’s music, which is tragically underrepresented in concert halls today.

WQXR Best ofs

Best Classical CDs

Yo-Yo Ma premiered Azul, Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov’s magnificent, genre-defying cello concerto, in 2006. So, it’s only fitting that he was the first to record it. Ma found equally able accompaniment in The Knights, a Brooklyn-based orchestra that pushes the envelope with edgy performances — much like the one they deliver here. Replete with exotic percussion, digitally-processed accordion and excursions into worlds of tango and klezmer music, Azul is a bellwether of where classical music is heading. Available at Arkivmusic.  

MARIN ALSOP - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 7; Lieutenant Kije Suite; March and Scherzo from "The Love for Three Oranges"
This record completes conductor Marin Alsop’s vibrant and much-needed of cycle of Prokofiev’s major orchestral works, and is perhaps its finest installment. Prokofiev wrote his Seventh Symphony in the year before his death — in ill health, on the verge of destitution and at the mercy of political persecution. Prokofiev was of two minds about this symphony: As much as he tried to return to the cheerier style of his early works, it radiates pain and angst. Many conductors gloss over this biographical dissonance, delivering a reading that is either perfunctorily chipper or oozing melodrama, but Alsop leans into it, extracting a boldly nuanced performance from her Brazilian orchestra. Available at Arkivmusic.  

Gramophone Best ofs

Recordings of the Year

DANIEL BARENBOIM - Tchaikovsky & Sibelius Violin Concertos 
Lisa Batiashvili, Staatskapelle Berlin. Edward Seckerson is enthralled by violinist Lisa Batiashvili's master storytelling in Tchaikovsky. Everything feels 'in the moment', a quality of improvisation like music created in the playing of it. 

SIR ANDREW DAVIS - Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 9 Job
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. Two major works, conducted with an authoritative sense of journey; evidence of the wisdom of Chandos’s bond with both Davis and the Bergen Philharmonic.

JOHANNES MOSER - Elgar & Tchaikovsky Cello Concerto
Suisse Romande Orchestra, Andrew Manze. We’ve had a number of very fine Elgar Cello Concerto discs of late, and Johannes Moser’s is right up there with them.

KRYSTIAN ZIMERMAN - Schubert Piano Sonatas
Harriet Smith cheers Krystian Zimerman's first solo recording for over 20 years and finds his transcendent late Schubert both courageous and revelatory. 

MONTEVERDI CHOIR - Mendelssohn, Symphony No. 2, 'Lobgesang'
London Symphony Orchestra, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. This uplifting performance concludes Gardiner's rewarding cycle of the composer's symphonies: a fitting end.  

MONTEVERDI CHOIR - JS Bach; St Matthew Passion
English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. As has often been the case since his Bach Pilgrimage of 2000, the John Eliot Gardiner of this new, second recording of the St Matthew Passion is a changed conductor from that of the first.   

MONTEVERDI CHOIR - Bach Magnificat
English Baroque Soloists, Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Sir John Eliot Gardiner's new recording celerates music Bach wrote for Christmas in Leipzig - a released stamped with his hallmart of musical excellene.  

Sabine Devieilhe, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth. 2016's Recital Award winner takes us, like Crebassa's 'Secrets', to fin de siècle France - this time, however, to the opera stage. Wonderful, glorious music-making.

ISABELLE FAUST - Mozart Violin Concertos Nos 1-5
Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini. A different beauty here, a new way of hearing these deliciously Italianate masterpieces that doesn't so much replace what we know and love as offer, in musical terms, a conceptual supplement.  

CHRISTOPH ESCHENBACH - Brahms Lieder und Gesänge
Matthias Goerne. Goerne has also found a perfect partner in Christoph Eschenbach. Though more often seen on the conductor's podium these days than at the keyboard, Eschenbach provides exceptional accompaniment, bringing an almost indecently beguiling expansiveness and sensitivity to Brahms' piano writing. 

Sir George Benjamin, Pierre-Laurent Aimard. The title here means demystificiation rather than disenchantment, in the sense coined by sociologist/economist Max Weber with some ambivalence to denote the upsurge in rationalisation in modern society.   

Washington Post Best ofs

Top 10 noteworthy moments in classical music in 2017 

The year’s biggest opera premieres came from California. San Francisco-based Mason Bates, the Kennedy Center’s composer-in-residence, gave the Santa Fe Opera a popular and critical hit with “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs,” even if a few voices dissented.  

National Symphony Orchestra. The NSO made a quick trip to Russia to honor its late music director, Mstislav Rostropovich — its first visit to that country since Rostropovich himself led the group in Red Square before a crowd of 100,000. This year, though, it was the Mariinsky Orchestra under Valery Gergiev that won the international PR offensive with a “Concert for Unity” at Washington National Cathedral, in the name of international friendship — but closed to the general public, and some journalists.  

Chicago Tribune Best ofs 

10 classical recordings that made 2017 a very good listening year

JOANN FALLETTA - Strauss: "Ariadne auf Naxos" Symphony Suite, "Bourgeois Gentilhomme" Suite
Buffalo Philharmonic. The suite Richard Strauss extracted from his incidental music to a German-language production of Moliere’s comedy serves as an attractive disc mate for the first recording of the 35-minute Symphonic Suite that D. Wilson Ochoa created from “Ariadne auf Naxos.” The result is so smoothly stitched together and so warmly played that you hardly miss the voices. 

New Yorker Best ofs

Notable Performances and Recordings of 2017

YO-YO MA - at the Hollywood Bowl
“Very few other soloists could have sold out the Bowl. If Ma enticed thousands to the space, it was Bach who held them rapt, for nearly three hours. The enthusiasm of large crowds is always a bit unsettling: no matter how innocent the occasion, you can imagine the energy of the collective being channelled to less wholesome ends. The huge, serene company at the Bowl was another matter: it was under the spell of a solitary searcher in the dark. One of the only sounds I heard around me was someone quietly sobbing.”

MONTEVERDI CHOIR - at Lincoln Center
“John Eliot Gardiner and a brilliant company of collaborators enchanted New York audiences this fall with deft, vivid productions of the three surviving operas of Claudio Monteverdi, on the occasion of the composer’s four-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday. The obvious was again confirmed: the first great opera composer remains the master of the game.”

CHRISTOPHER ROUNTREE - "War of the Worlds" at the Los Angeles Philharmonic 
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is so far ahead of other American orchestras that it is in competition mainly with its own past achievements. This fall, it offered Annie Gosfield’s site-specific opera “War of the Worlds,” created in tandem with the director Yuval Sharon.

Sabine Devieilhe, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth

GIDON KREMER, KREMERATA BALTICA - Weinberg, Chamber Symphonies Nos 1-4 

Los Angeles Times Best ofs

Classical Music in 2017 - The LA Phil deserves a top 10 list of its own

GIDON KREMER - Violinist of the Year 
Violinist of the year. Gidon Kremer also took advantage of turning 70, in his case by continuing to spearhead the revival of neglected Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg, releasing a profoundly gripping CD set with his Kremerata Baltica that includes Grazinyte-Tyla's conducting on her first major recording; he also gave a great performance of Weinberg's Violin Concerto with Grazinyte-Tyla and the L.A. Phil in Disney Hall.

Minnesota Public Radio Best ofs  

New Classical Tracks: Most coveted releases of 2017

VOCES8 - Winter

MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA - Sibelius: Kullervo; Kortekangas: Migrations
Osmo Vänskä, YL Male Voice Choir, Lilli Paasikivi, Tommi Hakala. 

YO-YO MA - Bach Trios
Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer.

AVI AVITAL - Avital Meets Avital
Omer Avital

MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA - Mahler's Symphony No 5
Osmo Vänskä 

TheaterJones Best ofs

Favorite Performances of 2017

We were also lucky to hear a few artists both in recital and as soloists with area orchestras. Again in the Cliburn Concerts series, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan performed a recital in October, after Barnatan had performed Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the FWSO in February, and Weilerstein returned to play Prokofiev’s harrowing Sinfonia concertante in November.