The List: 2014 in the Arts!

CLEFSUSAN ISAACS NISBETT
(Ann Arbor, Dec. 31, 2014)

It’s time to say good-bye to 2014 and welcome in the New Year. It’s a time to settle accounts and make plans, but I’ll wait till tomorrow to do the latter. Today, time to make the list that I should have made a few weeks back – the music and dance events that stuck with me from a year’s watching and listening in Ann Arbor and elsewhere.  It’s an eclectic list of favorites, not at all comprehensive, I warn you, and brief – still have to go buy the champagne to ring in 2015 – but here goes:

shutterstock_1759560Imported musical highlight of the year: Teatro Regio Torino’s “William Tell” in concert in December. I traveled to Chicago for this one – just couldn’t wait to hear it in Ann Arbor at Hill Auditorium, where UMS presented it a week later. Four hours magnificently spent with musicians and singers who were beyond extraordinary, in an opera that was, I have to say, unexpectedly compelling and quite different from Rossini’s light, bubbly, more popular operas.

16143715-mmmainDomestic musical highlight of the year: The San Francisco Symphony Mahler 7 in November was a revelation, a cohesive account of this disjunct Mahler symphony from arguably the best Mahler band on the planet, led by the SFS’s Mahler man and music director, Michael Tilson Thomas.

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Home-grown (mostly) musical highlight of the year: The Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra’s “Beethoven Festival” in September, with Andre Watts as soloist in the “Emperor Concerto.” Electric playing from all concerned as the A2SO, under Music Director Arie Lipsky, went really big time with a big-name soloist in the city’s biggest hall, Hill Auditorium.

Grijalva poses with the unrestored Gershwin piano shortly after its arrival. Courtesy photo

Grijalva poses with the unrestored Gershwin piano shortly after its arrival. Courtesy photo

Favorite story I reported: George Gershwin’s last piano restored for use at the University of Michigan. I’m a piano nerd, so spending time chatting with the guys who did the job – U-M head piano technician Robert Grijalva and Pianocrafter’s Patrick DeBeliso – was a blast. I know a lot more about the insides of the instrument now.  Unfortunately, I have also developed a deep need for a Steinway Long A grand piano as a result of writing this story.

Photo by Marteen Vanden Abeele

Photo by Marteen Vanden Abeele

Most captivating dance event: Charleroi Danses’ “Kiss & Cry,” presented by UMS at Power Center in October. Poignant storytelling from Jaco Van Dormael and Michele Anne de Mey in a “nano-dance” that exploited film and dance and all the possibilities of live performance.
Favorite folks to talk to: One of the privileges of my job is interviewing the folks who dance, conduct, compose, sing, play and choreograph. They’re incredibly generous with their time and fascinating to speak with.  And the winners in my fave folks categories are, in alpha order: violinist Joshua Bell, mezzo Tara Erraught, pianist Anton Nel, A2SO music director Arie Lipsky, Turin conductor Gianandrea Noseda, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Emerson String Quartet cellist Paul Watkins, pianist Andre Watts. Thanks to all for providing insights and great conversation!

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Nostalgia trip: George Balanchine’s iconic “Nutcracker” turned 60! This was the ballet –and the production — that turned me into a passionate, lifelong dance fan when I saw it in 1956, just 2 years after Balanchine made it. Was Maria Tallchief dancing Sugar Plum that year and that day when my parents took me and my sister to New York’s City Center to see it? I don’t know, but I do remember that I refused to leave the theater after – I just didn’t want the experience to end.

What were your arts highlights in 2014? Hope you had a great year in theaters near and far!

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