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Requiem for the 2000s

The year-end top-ten list is an occupational hazard of a career in arts journalism. While there are far worse things to contend with, I always have trouble with the concept of a "ten-best" list: if I have to create a list, I'd prefer to identify the most important things that have happened, rather than the ten "best," in a given year or decade. But "ten-best" it is. My list of the "ten best" things of the decade appeared in today's Washington Post.

Because of the "best" conceit, one of the things I wanted to mention about this decade had to be eliminated: my attempt to light a candle in memory of the great artists who have died since 2000.

Therefore, I'll do it here instead. Requiescat in pace, Franco Corelli, Hans Hotter, Carlos Kleiber, Alicia de Larrocha, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Gian Carlo Menotti, Birgit Nilsson, Luciano Pavarotti, Mstislav Rostropovich, Beverly Sills, Giuseppe di Stefano, Isaac Stern, and Renata Tebaldi.

Whom did I leave off this list?

And what are some other best/worst moments of the decade that have so far been overlooked?

(For the sake of completeness, here are links to my other "best of the decade" lists on NPR and WNYC. Herewith, I declare my assessment of the 2000s well and truly over. On to 2010.)

By Anne Midgette  |  December 27, 2009; 3:50 PM ET
Categories:  random musings  
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Don't forget the composers! RIP Karlheinz Stockhausen, Leon Kirchner, Gyorgy Ligeti, Alan Hovhaness, Henri Pousseur, Mauricio Kagel, Luciano Berio, and many others.

My end-of-the-year list of best criticism is here

Posted by: billyrobin | December 27, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

With just a few seconds of thought, there's Jerry Hadley, Betty Allen, Elisabeth Soederstrom, Nicolai Ghiaurov; also conductor, Nicola Rescigno.

Many others obviously.

Posted by: brichapman | December 27, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Joaquin Nin-Culmell, Michael Steinberg (not a performer, but an important figure in the music world...), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (love her or hate her!), Astrid Varnay, Sir Malcolm Arnold, Regine Crespin, Andrew Imbrie, Leyla Gencer, Vernon Handley, Edward Downes, Richard Hickox, George Perle, Lukas Foss, Nicholas Maw, Frances Blaisdell (my grand-teacher), Hildegard Behrens, Leon Kirschner, H.C. Robbins Landon, Walter Berry, Iannis Xenakis, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Sandor Konya, Lou Harrison, Arthur Berger (with whom I took a year of music theory in college), David Diamond, Carlo Maria Giulini, Sarah Caldwell.

Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | December 28, 2009 3:15 AM | Report abuse

A few more names: Elisabeth Söderström, Hildegard Behrens, Mendi Rodan, Jean Fournet, Uwe Gronostay, Christel Goltz, Horatiu Radulescu, Horst Stein, Inga Nielsen, Evelyn Rothwell Barbirolli, Petr Eben, Carlo Felice Cillario, Harald Genzmer, Richard Bradshaw, Russell Johnson, Teresa Stich-Randall, Aurel Stroe, Dame Thea King, Ernst Haefliger, Armin Jordan.

Tower Records is alive and well in Japan; the store in Shibuya may be the best classical music store in the world.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | December 28, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Several other composers died before their prime, while one or more reached very old age.

Lepo Sumera, John Thow, Jorge Liderman, Horatiu Radulescu, Maryanne Amacher … Mykola Kolessa

Posted by: snaketime1 | December 28, 2009 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Esa-Pekka Salonen's composition teacher Franco Donatoni also passed away. His last work premiered in LA.

Posted by: snaketime1 | December 28, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I heard a rumor that Tosca died at the Met.

Posted by: ScottRose | December 28, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I don't think it was a best or worst moment in classical music, but it was a breakthrough, and that was the YouTube Symphony. And it was the audition process that really made it something to ponder. The rehearsals and performance in NYC were nothing extraordinary. But the idea of reaching all of those musicians around the world through YouTube is the thing. I hope there are other similar innovative "connections" in the next decade.

Posted by: rpkleinfeldt | December 28, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Rose Bampton, also.

Posted by: LisaHirsch1 | December 28, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

And for best of the decade--with #9, I would include along with Taruskin and the Grove, the publication of Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise.

Posted by: billyrobin | December 28, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

One of the worst momements: The LA Opera hitting up the taxpayers of an already stressed LA for millions of dollars to put on a bizarre Ring Cycle. The WNO saw the financial storm clouds coming in like Wotan in Act III of Valkuere and cancelled the full production of Goetterdammerung and the Ring itself. The Domingo-shared LA Opera forged ahead, like Mime, to produce a $34 million extravaganza.

On the flip side, a highlight would have to be the opening night performance of the WNO's Siegfried, featuring a last-minute pantomimed hero and a singer on the side of the stage. It worked - it really worked.

Posted by: GRILLADES | December 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

And, probably the worst moment: the New York Philharmonic performing for the dictator class of North Korea. I cannot fathom why a group of artists would willingly perform for people who would have them imprisoned or executed for not playing the 'right music'.

Another low moment was Leon Fleisher's attempt to polticize the Kennedy Center Awards. There is a time for dissent, and a time to be gracious. He was not the latter. If given the chance, I suppose he would have performed for Kim Jong Il before going to see President Bush.

Posted by: GRILLADES | December 28, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

“It worked - it really worked.”


Leaving politics and the arts aside for a nanosecond, I will disagree with you that the first performance of the WNO’s "Siegfried" was a success. In fact, it reminded me of the Washington Opera’s flawed production of Verdi’s great “Don Carlo” – years back – with only a piano and a synthesizer in the Opera House pit.

(I saw this autumn’s WNO “Siegfried” three times: the first performance by myself, the second performance with my wife, and the third or fourth with my mother. Except for some minor discussion about the richness of the orchestral playing in the third act and the bizarre staging of the first two acts, none of us were impressed by the production.)

A few of my “most successful productions” of opera from the past decade were George Enescu’s “Oedipe” and Daniel Libeskind’s Olivier Messiaen “Saint François d'Assise” in Berlin (the productions deserve to come to the Metropolitan Opera or to a restored WNO) ; Luc Bondy and Peter Ruzicka’s “Paul Celan” in Dresden (the production deserves to come to the San Francisco Opera); Thomas Hampson on stilts in Friedrich Cerha’s “The Giant from the Stoney Field” in Vienna; and Mariinsky Opera Theater productions of Wagner’s “Parsifal” at the Kennedy Center, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya” at the Metropolitan Opera, and Prokofiev’s “Semyon Kotko” in Petersburg.

I’ll even throw in an Achim Freyer “Magic Flute” in Hamburg (but not the Achim Freyer self-indulgent “Hamlet” in Berlin.)

It is remarkable what leading international opera companies can do with adequate state funding as compared to when fantastically wealthy members of American private Boards of Directors – such as Jacqueline Badger Mars -- deny their own companies – such as the Washington National Opera -- adequate private funding to meet agreed mission statements and mandates.

Three and a half years ago, WNO President Kenneth Feinberg said : “Over the past few years under Maestro Domingo’s leadership, Washington National Opera has achieved international acclaim. My goal in the years ahead is to solidify that international status and assure that Washington National Opera remains one of the handful of great opera companies in the world.”



Posted by: snaketime1 | December 28, 2009 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Here's another great who passed away: Erich Kunzel.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | December 28, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

To counter these rolls of the dead, which reinforce an unfortunate stereotype of classical music, I would note the rise of a new generation of young performers who are not just prodigies but real musicians. Pianist Yuja Wang tops my list. Yours?

Posted by: cbustard | December 29, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Your list betrays you. Nothing at all on the list from this area. Not sure whether that says more about this area or more about you.

In any event, I don't see how you can mention new concert halls and not mention the Music Center at Strathmore, just up the road.

Perhaps it's not as "fancy" as the ones you mention, but I'll bet it's acoustically superior.

Posted by: newcriticalcritic | December 30, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

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