Prior to 2010 I did not write regularly. I found most records from 2009 (now posted on this blog), but right now the only reliable musical notes from 2004-2008 are in my annual year-end highlight summaries, so I am posting these until I locate more in my archives.
Most fun concert: Ludwig August Lebrun, Oboe Concerto Nr. 1 (and works by Mozart and Haydn), Heinz Holliger (soloist and conductor), Tonhalle Orchester Zürich (January). I do not normally get excited about music for oboe, except when performed by Holliger, who in addition to playing masterfully also clearly enjoys himself on stage. I did not know the Lebrun piece, but bought Holliger’s recording of it after the concert.
Most mystical concert: Anton Bruckner, Symphony Nr. 9 (and Gustav Mahler’s Rückertlieder), Wiener Philharmoniker (May). Performed in the Staatsoper to commemorate the 95th anniversary of Mahler’s death. All that can be said about conductor Daniele Gatti is that he did not get in the way of the orchestra’s magic.
Best opera performance: Richard Wagner, Parsifal, Wiener Staatsoper (April). On Holy Saturday, no less, the performance (including Matti Salminen as Gurnemanz and Franz Grundheber as Amfortas) would have been mystical if I had kept my eyes closed. The staging was certainly not mystical (although not Regietheater either). There was no Grail, Parsifal was never baptized, Parsifal never healed Amfortas’ wound, and Kundry never died absolved but instead walked to the back of the stage and vanished. Costumes and sets were inexplicable.
Most fun opera performance: Imre Kálmán, Csárdásfürstin, Volksoper Wien (April). This was a Viennese period piece performance, and very very fun. The Volksoper even cast Hungarians in the appropriate roles, so that instead of having people pretending to be Hungarians they had authentic ones, who hammed it up to the fullest (including speaking to each other on stage in Hungarian). Viennese operetta at its most traditional.
Worst opera experience: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Entführung aus dem Serail, Wiener Staatsoper (May). I was excited to see an opera staged in Vienna’s magnificent Burgtheater (almost never used for opera performances). However, the Regietheater staging was overt anti-Turkish racism at its worst. I don’t have to be Turkish to find it deeply offensive. Shame!
Best musical museum exhibit(s): I dropped into Vienna’s Jewish Museum in April to see an exhibit on Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s brilliantly eccentric librettist (a baptized Jew adopted by an abbot whose name he took, da Ponte became a Catholic priest; fleeing out-of-control gambling debts in Italy – and husbands whose wives the rather ugly da Ponte had somehow seduced, no doubt with the help of his good friend Casanova – he talked his way into becoming the imperial librettist in Vienna; da Ponte, still ordained as a priest, later had a Jewish wedding and followed his wife to my hometown of Philadelphia; after his businesses all failed, he ended up as the first professor of Italian literature at Columbia). Then I went upstairs to see what the other exhibit was, and found it to be about Erich Zeisl, a Viennese composer I had never heard of who fled to Hollywood in 1938. Zeisl crated up his entire home in Vienna and shipped it to himself, and therefore kept a very Viennese home in California, which looked remarkably like the home my grandparents kept in New Jersey (they, too, had crated up all their possessions and shipped them to the US in 1938).