Symphony No.41 in C major (2) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Download 'Symphony No.41 in C major (2)' on iTunes
Was 2013 a vintage year for classical music? Catherine Bott looks back on her ten musical landmarks of the year just past, including the Verdi and Wagner bicentenaries and the deaths of Colin Davis and John Tavener.
The celebrations marking the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth produced a number of gems, most exciting of all a production of his best-known opera that became known as Grimes on the Beach. "With the sea as a backdrop, this was an extraordinary staging which the composer himself would have marvelled at," says Catherine. "Thank heavens it was filmed and recorded."
Pianist Jan Lisiecki was named Young Artist of the Year at the 2013 Gramophone Awards. Conductor Sir Antonio Pappano presented the award saying, “He has no fake layers of age added on – just youth. I’m overwhelmed with envy!”
2013 was the year that the music world marked the bicentenary of the birth of Richard Wagner. Chandos released an album of Wagner's Overtures and Preludes with Neeme Jarvi conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. "That has to be one of the finest Wagner recordings of his bicentenary year," says Catherine.
The appearance of music by Japanese composer Nobuo Oematsu in the Top Ten of Classic FM’s Hall of Fame this year caused quite a fuss. The reason? It’s from a video game. "I must admit that as a non-player of video games I was expecting it to be all blood and thunder," says Catherine, "but its sweetness and delicacy surprised me."
1813 also saw the birth of French composer and pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan - but his bicentenary on 30 November was almost completely overlooked. "He’s famous now only for two things," says Catherine, "the almost wilful difficulty of his piano pieces and his accidental death when a bookcase – or possibly a coat stand – fell on him."
Many music-lovers thought that Verdi, born in 1813 like Wagner, didn’t quite get enough love and attention this year. Jonas Kaufmann released an excellent new Verdi album, though, which was a marvellous celebration. The tenor won the Critics’ Award at the 2013 Classic BRITS.
There was much sadness in November when the composer John Tavener died. "His Greek Orthodox faith inspired him to great achievements despite his poor health," says Catherine.
An exceptional pioneer of both the guitar and the lute, generations of musicians owe Julian Bream bigtime, says Catherine Bott. "What better way for him to celebrate his 80th birthday than with Gramophone Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award?"
Another neglected composer with a significant anniversary – he died on 28 December 1963 - is Paul Hindemith. "He gets a 12-page entry in Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which praises the 'consummate technique and authentic sound' of his music, but somehow he never captured the popular imagination," says Catherine.
The sad news of Sir Colin Davis' passing was announced on Sunday 14 April. His death was mourned by the whole musical community especially the London Symphony Orchestra. He was by his own account fairly forceful and demanding as a young man, but interviewed a couple of years ago he said simply: “One’s ego becomes less and less interesting as one gets older. The less ego you have, the more influence you have as a conductor.”