1. Doctor Atomic
The Metropolitan Opera detonated John Adams’s imperfect but moving work set during the vigil before the Trinity test. With periods of hectic waiting and lengths of sublime nothingness, Adams’s score overwhelmed the weaknesses in Peter Sellars’s quilted-together libretto. The real star was the Met orchestra, which under Alan Gilbert sounded like one great inhaling— the upbeat to the nuclear age.
2. Jeremy Denk at Zankel Hall
The pianist ferociously dispatched two monsters in one night: Charles Ives’s Concord Sonata and Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier.” He didn’t gloss over Ives’s crashing non sequiturs or Beethoven’s mad-scientist version of a fugue; he gloried in them. A hyperarticulate musician who writes the blog Think Denk, he played with cinematic clarity, as if both pieces had been just waiting for his touch to render them simple.
3. Jordi Savall & Hespèrion XXI
At the Rose Theater, the Catalan master of the viola da gamba and his ensemble stitched together a soundtrack to Don Quixote from ancient tunes that would have had Cervantes nodding in recognition. Rowdy joy and improvisational exuberance require no translation.
4. Bernstein at 90
A scrimmage of institutions—Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Phil, City Center, and more—pooled their resources for “Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds.” One especially reverberant moment came during Chichester Psalms, which calls for singing the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew: When 11-year-old Andres Felipe Aristizabal intoned the word “Adonai,” it was impossible to disbelieve those green pastures.
5. Peter Grimes
Anthony Dean Griffey’s performances at the Met rattled around the mind for months, resurfacing at unexpected times, bringing with them terror and sadness. The title character is a stubborn and dangerous man, but Griffey gave him a less monstrous side, intimating that troubled waters run deep.