Over at the New Yorker website I've posted a list of Ten Notable Recordings of 2012. A list of memorable live performances will follow toward the end of the month. As usual, I'd like to offer a string of honorable mentions. Earning many repeat plays on my stereo were: the second volume of Third Coast Percussion's John Cage survey (Mode); Esa-Pekka Salonen's Violin Concerto (DG); Stefan Prins's Fremdkörper (Sub Rosa); Jonathan Harvey's Wagner Dream (NMC); Annie Gosfield's Almost Truths and Open Deceptions (Tzadik); the "complete" Bruckner Ninth, with Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic (EMI); Andreas Staier's Diabelli Variations (Harmonia Mundi); Cecilia Bartoli's Agostino Steffani survey Mission (Decca); Respighi's Marie Victoire, for the singing of Takesha Kizart and the conducting of Michail Jurowski (cpo); and Alexandre Tharaud's "swinging Paris" album, Le Boeuf sur le toit (Virgin Classics). The most physically gorgeous release of the year was Nurit Tilles's Sonatas and Interludes on 45rpm vinyl, with the gigantic reissue of the Solti Ring close behind. I didn't listen to much pop this year, but I did think Frank Ocean's "Pyramids" was amazing.
Let me mention also some notable music books from the past year. On the New Yorker list I singled out Matthew Guerrieri's The First Four Notes; also excellent are Barry Millington's The Sorcerer of Bayreuth, Joel Sachs's Henry Cowell: A Man Made of Music, Howard Pollack's Marc Blitzstein: His Life, His Work, His World, Susan McClary's Desire and Pleasure in Seventeenth-century Music, Carolyn Abbate and Roger Parker's A History of Opera, Stephen Hinton's Weill's Musical Theater (Berkeley), Peter Conrad's Verdi and/or Wagner, Paul Elie's Reinventing Bach, David Byrne's How Music Works (despite the unfortunate mix-up on p. 17), and Neal Peres Da Costa's Off the Record: Performing Practices in Romantic Piano Playing.
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Michael Tilson Thomas, for his splendidly multifarious American Mavericks festivals in San Francisco, Ann Arbor, and New York. The 2012 Award for Exquisite Taste in the Civic Sphere — a category invented for the sole purpose of mentioning one of the greatest living Americans — goes to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A special citation for Quickest Plunge from a Great Height is handily won by the management and governing board of the Minnesota Orchestra.
As before, I'll tack on some non-musical choices. I read almost nothing this year which wasn't related in some way to Wagnerism, but I did learn much from Jeffrey Toobin's The Oath, and far away my favorite book of the year was Journey to the Abyss, which I reviewed for the magazine. On the TV, I greatly enjoyed Veep, Homeland, and Walking Dead. On last year's list, I brashly predicted that the best film of 2012 would be Jonathan Lisecki's Gayby, and neither How to Survive a Plague nor Lincoln convinced me otherwise. Granted, I am married to the director, but I'll note that the Rotten Tomatoes list of the best films of 2012 have Gayby and Lincoln tied. Gayby, now available on video on demand (iTunes, Netflix, etc.) and arriving on DVD next week, is up for Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards. Yay!