1. Bach’s “St. John Passion,” St. Paul Chamber Orchestra: Bach’s musical telling of Christ’s crucifixion plumbed deep emotions in English baroque specialist Jonathan Cohen’s interpretation, with Twin Cities guest choir the Singers.
2. Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra: Osmo Vänskä’s exhilarating Mahler series marched on with a triumphant reading of the allegedly problematic Seventh. By turns sizzling and sensitive, Vänskä’s Mahler could be his crowning achievement in Minnesota.
3. Aizuri Quartet, Chamber Music Society of Minnesota: Bristling energy and insights into Beethoven, Beecher and Wiancko made the Aizuri Quartet’s summer recital a memorable homecoming for violinist Ariana Kim, a Minnesota native.
4. Bernstein’s “Songfest,” LOFTrecital: Pop-up concert specialists LOFTrecital served up a rarely heard Leonard Bernstein centenary treat. Twelve songs, six singers, two pianos and a palpitating slice of Bernstein’s melting-pot America.
5. Quince and Lumina: Chicago’s eight-woman Quince paired with Twin Cities-based Lumina to form a vocal “supergroup.” Think oodles of contemporary repertoire and silky close-harmony vocalism.
6. “As One,” Skylark Opera Theatre: Transgender issues met opera in this fascinating one-act, with two singers playing the pre- and post-transition central character. Minnesota soprano Bergen Baker’s breakout performance is lodged in the memory.
7. “Old American Songs,” Lakes Area Music Festival: Sometimes escapism is necessary. Baritone John Taylor Ward’s chipper, nostalgic foray into Copland’s “Old American Songs” provided it. His barnyard imitations in “I Bought Me a Cat” were priceless.
8. Marc-André Hamelin, Minnesota Beethoven Festival: Few pianists have the necessary juice for Liszt’s scorching Piano Sonata. Marc-André Hamelin does. And he switched on the afterburners for this Winona recital.
9. 50th anniversary concert, VocalEssence: Handel, Sousa, Copland, Britten and Argento featured into this greatest-hits concert celebrating the 50th season from VocalEssence. Birthday parties can be flat and dutiful, but this one effervesced joyfully.
10. Libby Larsen’s “The Fantom of the Fair,” Schubert Club: Classical music can be fun, but sometimes it isn’t. Twin Cities composer Libby Larsen made things right with this rollicking amalgam of words, music and live projections of comic strip stories.