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Year in Review: Classical Music

December 27, 2010   - It was largely a year of consolidation and growth as major concert halls kept their modest concert series going, and chief opera companies tried some bold directorial visions in a bid to repackage their conservative offerings. The Cleveland Orchestra’s Miami residency almost vanished in a brief strike, and the South Florida Symphony of Key West canceled its December shows amid claims that its freelance musician ranks hadn’t been paid. Veteran concert promoter Julian Kreeger marked 25 years as president of Friends of Chamber Music of Miami, and classical radio station WKCP-89.7 FM stood to widen its reach by cutting a $4 million deal to buy Palm Beach County classical station WXEL-90.7 FM from Barry University. Two groups with roots at the University of Miami debuted: The student-staffed Stamps String Quartet and Arcanum, a Baroque ensemble.

Top Five

1. Now it belongs to the ages: Michael Tilson Thomas bade it farewell on Halloween night, and his New World Symphony did the same in mid-December, trading Miami Beach’s Lincoln Theatre for the new Frank Gehry-designed campus next door. The great cellist Lynn Harrell played a radiant Tchaikovsky Rococo Variations at one of the final concerts, then saluted his young colleagues with solo Bach, a fitting adieu to the converted movie theater on Lincoln Road that has hosted so much extraordinary music.

2. Take that, Lady Gaga: A Facebook campaign and word of mouth helped drive Seraphic Fire’s disc of the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 to the top of the iTunes classical downloads in August, and then to even higher territory overall, eclipsing even Lady Gaga. Patrick Dupré Quigley’s group, joined by the Western Michigan University Chorale, pumped out an instrumentally stripped-down but vocally muscular version of this 400-year-old masterwork that gave it fervor and swing in equal measure.

3. A tribute to Frederic: Miami was host in February to theNational Chopin Competition, held in the 200th anniversary year of the birth of Polish composer Frederic Chopin. First-prize winner was Claire Huangci, a 19-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., who already had two other Chopin contest wins under her belt. She returns in January for a recital at the La Gorce Country Club.

4. Standout soloists: Memorable solo moments came from pianists Olga Kern in a Rachmaninov sonata, Ingrid Fliter in a Chopin concerto, Anton Kuerti in Beethoven sonatas, Lang Lang in a Prokofiev concerto, and Awadagin Pratt in the Liszt sonata; violinists Jennifer Koh in the Adams concerto, Leila Josefowicz in the concerto of Britain’s Thomas Adès, and Joshua Bell in a powerful Grieg sonata; cellists Mark Kosower in the Debussy sonata and Argentina’s Sol Gabetta, in a revelatory reading with the Detroit Symphony of the Cello Concerto of Samuel Barber.

5. Pianist in audience, then on stage: Pianist Tao Lin was only planning on attending a concert by the Cuban-born pianist Santiago Rodriguez at Festival Miami in October. But Rodriguez came down with the flu, and Lin was pressed into service. Rather than do light favorites, he offered a full, demanding and exciting program of music by Chopin, including two ballades and the Third Sonata. The last-minute substitution shows the depth of talent in South Florida.

 - by Greg Stepanich, Special to The Miami Herald


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 Last updated:  10/15/2011