Jane Freilicher, "Yellow." Courtesy of Tibor de Nagy.
Over at WQXR, Anne Midgette, David Patrick Stearns, and Zachary Woolfe have an excellent wrap-up of the year's highs and lows. Also worth noting is a comprehensive CD list by George Grella. He's absolutely right about the Harbison disc — the String Trio is a piece in which every note seems to count. A few other notable discs that I overlooked in my year-end list: Panufnik's Ninth Symphony and Bassoon Concerto (Heritage), the Seattle Symphony's Dutilleux disc, Philip Thomas's Christian Wolff collection on Sub Rosa, and Olga Bell's Край (Krai), the last of which can be filed with Gabriel Kahane's masterly The Ambassador under Genre TBA.
Notable music books: Tim Page's Virgil Thomson: Music Chronicles, Thomas Forrest Kelly's Capturing Music, James Klosty's John Cage Was, Eric Weisbard's Top 40 Democracy, Mark Berry's After Wagner, Nicholas Mathew's Political Beethoven, Susan Tomes's Sleeping in Temples, Ellen Harris’s George Frideric Handel, Mark Evan Bonds's Absolute Music, Chris Walton's Lies and Epiphanies, Mina Yang's Planet Beethoven, David Grubbs's Records Ruin the Landscape.
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Iván Fischer, a singular force of political and artistic courage. The Turkey of the Year is, of course, the Klinghoffer protest, which succeeded in making a box-office hit of the work it aimed to suppress.
As in past years, I will strain the patience of even the most indulgent readers by picking a few highlights outside my zone of nominal competence. Amid the everlasting Wagnerism reading — L'Ésotérisme et le symbolisme belge, anyone? — I took in Rebecca Mead's My Life in Middlemarch, Robert Beachy's Gay Berlin, and the new Walter Benjamin trove Radio Benjamin, which arrived too late for mention in my Frankfurt School piece. D'Angelo's Black Messiah is as staggering as pop colleagues claim. My favorite film of the year was Steve James's Life Itself, an affecting documentary about Roger Ebert. I also enjoyed Nightcrawler, a startling blast of black comedy in the Billy Wilder tradition. On the television, the great event was the return of The Comeback; I also admit to relishing Penny Dreadful, not least for its Tristan scene.