Best concerts of 2009: bubbling under

See here for my top 5 list.

Although I’ve isolated 5 outstanding concerts of 2009, many of my more interesting musical experiences this year were in those events that were less flashy, less overtly impressive, or simply less polished.

In their own ways, Vladimir Martynov’s Vita nuova (Festival Hall, 18 Feb | review) and Stockhausen’s Inori (Barbican, 17 Jan | review) are naive, new agey bombast, but they both sort of work. The musical merits of Vita nuova are less clear, for me, but as a piece of drama it still worked – and as a 21st century artistic statement made with apparently great sincerity and fervour it intrigued and baffled to a degree that perhaps only Stockhausen could match.

Clariphonics were a breath of fresh air among the Park Lane concerts I attended (Purcell Room, 7–8 Jan | review): lovely players who actually seemed to care about new music (and programmed some interesting items by lesser known figures to boot). The RCM’s Ossian Ensemble (Royal College of Music, 13 March) were another group of young players who impressed, taking on some difficult repertoire, and matching it up with some beautifully arranged presentation – each piece was presented in a separate room that took you further into the eaves of the college. Atmospheric, but not cheesy.

Music We’d Like to Hear (1, 8, 15 July) was, as always, a beautiful thing, and this year introduced me to the gorgeous music of the Canadian composer Chiyoko Szlavnics. I swooned a little. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican (26 November) were outstanding, and a perfect night off for the working half of my musical brain. ELISION performing Lim’s The Navigator in Paris (8 December | review) were on electric form and would have made the top five in most other years.


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