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Back to 2007 Culture Awards

The Year in Classical & Dance

6. BEST REDISCOVERY
Iphigénie en Tauride
A century ago, Christoph Gluck was considered opera’s old master, and Iphigénie en Tauride his autumnal masterwork. The Met finally staged it in 1916 (137 years after its premiere) and left it alone till now. Steven Wadsworth’s staging was without weaknesses, but its principal pillars were conductor Louis Langrée; the mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Iphigénie, owning the role; tenor Paul Groves; and Plácido Domingo, now in his fourth or fifth heyday.

7. BEST SOUNDTRACK
Decasia
Last January, a few hundred people gathered at the Angel Orensanz Foundation on the Lower East Side to let the world melt away. Bill Morrison’s 2002 assemblage of fading film ran on three screens, wrapping viewers in an elegy for all that crumbles. Michael Gordon’s soundtrack, on the other hand, is driving and unsentimental, building from a harsh pulse to a violent howl. Decasia is about endings, but a follow-up, Dystopia, opens in L.A. next month and will surely slouch east soon.

8. BEST CD FROM AN UNEXPECTED SOURCE
Grand Valley State New Music Ensemble: Steve Reich, Music for Eighteen Musicians
When a 1976 work became the obsession of a group at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, it was clear that New York had lost its exclusive on Steve Reich. After rehearsing for eight months, they not only came to Manhattan to perform but even recorded it. The result proves (1) that what one person hears as a caffeinated urban pulse, another hears as the rhythm of the flatlands, and (2) that a bunch of midwestern kids can play Reich better than he can.

9. BEST ORGANIST
Paul Jacobs
New York has an overlooked abundance of fine pipe organs, and a phenomenal organist in Paul Jacobs, the youthful-looking chairman of the organ department at Juilliard. For audiences as small as two dozen, Jacobs has played the complete organ works of Bach and Messiaen in marathons. But on one night in October, he bewitched a blissed-out gathering in a Times Square church with Messiaen’s Livre du Saint Sacrément.

10. BEST MULTIMEDIA REINVENTION
The Tristan Project
Richard Wagner was the nineteenth century’s virtuoso of slow motion; the video artist Bill Viola is ours. The multimedia concert of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde imported by the L.A. Philharmonic elegantly solved the problem of what to look at during all that music. Viola sometimes trusted too much in the allure of super-slo-mo images, but he more than made up for it with stretches like the final one, when Tristan’s corpse lifts off its slab, accompanied by a rush of water, and goes spinning off into a vaporous spray of light.


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