In a year of global upheaval, the Twin Cities classical music scene kept throwing up reasons for cheerfulness and optimism: The mischievously burbling sounds of Lou Harrison at Studio Z. Canadian art song rarities at the Source Song Festival. A flower child-turned-elder statesman playing Bach and Mozart in a mesmerisingly insightful piano recital. Moments like these meant a lot, given the increasingly ominous nature of world events. I suspect music-lovers will desperately need more in 2018.
1. Peter Serkin, the Frederic Chopin Society, Nov. 12: Now 70 and a dean of American classical piano, Serkin’s recital at Macalester College paired Mozart with Bach’s compendious “Goldberg Variations” for magisterial gravitas and insight.
2. “The Dream of Gerontius,” Minnesota Orchestra, April 12: In England, Edward Elgar’s oratorio is considered a national treasure. In America, it barely registers. Edo de Waart’s Orchestra Hall performance was totally authoritative, boasting particularly beautiful singing from the Minnesota Chorale.
3. Lou Harrison Festival, Zeitgeist, April 6-9: A fascinating mini-festival celebrated the legacy of this American maverick, with weird and wonderful percussion implements (think tin cans, empty oxygen tanks) plinking alongside conventional instruments.
4. Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio, LOFTrecital, Sept. 16: This free chamber recital at the Museum of Russian Art served up free cocktails and snacks, along with great music and an eyeful of beautiful oil paintings. It was a standout (both sonically and visually) from one of the Twin Cities’ most envelope-pushing companies.
5. Roderick Cox, Minnesota Orchestra, Jan. 19: The Minnesota Orchestra conductor made his subscription concert debut with Tchaikovsky’s emotionally fraught Fourth Symphony. His fiery, take-no-prisoners interpretation left a lasting impression. He’s definitely one to watch in 2018.
6. Dover Quartet, Minnesota Beethoven Festival, July 18: In a golden era for young string quartets, the Dover Quartet still stands out. The group played Beethoven’s mighty Opus 130 quartet at its Winona recital, underlining the work’s startling originality and sense of avant-garde adventure.
7. Canadian Art Song, Source Song Festival, Aug. 8: Undiscovered niches still exist within classical music. And this concert offered a lesson on finding them, with a superbly curated program featuring unfamiliar Canadian composers.
8. “Nadia,” the Bakken Trio, Sept. 17: This musical play by former Minnesota Orchestra cellist Mina Fisher celebrated the 20th-century’s most legendary music teacher, Nadia Boulanger, with singer/actor Christina Baldwin in the title role.
9. Alberto Ginastera’s “Variaciones Concertantes,” St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sept. 15: This conductor-less performance put various instruments successively in the spotlight, advertising the superior artistry of this current crop of SPCO players.
10. “The Boor,” Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 15: Minnesota composer Dominick Argento turned 90 this year, and it fell to one of the Twin Cities’ amateur ensembles to pay the most consequential tribute. The MSO’s semi-staged production of Argento’s one-act opera fizzed with affection.
Terry Blain is a freelance classical music for the Star Tribune.