Sunrise at Mahogany Flat, Death Valley.
At the New Yorker website may be found my list of Notable Performances and Recordings of 2016. Some honorable mentions: Chris Kallmyer's Rhyolite, with Julia Holter and Lucky Dragons (Populist); Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and Stravinsky's Les Noces, with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Teodor Currentzis conducting MusicAeterna (Sony); Gudmundsen-Holmgreen's Incontri, Mirror II, Symphony, and Antiphony, with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Symphony (da capo); ism, Ryan Muncy's recital of saxophone works by James Tenney and others (New Focus); Mozart's Piano Concertos K. 413-415, with Kristian Bezuidenhout and the Freiburger Barockorchester (Harmonia Mundi); Kurtág's complete quartets, with the Quatuor Molinari (Atma); Morton Gould: The Complete Chicago Symphony Orchestra Recordings (RCA); Haydn, Complete Symphonies (Decca).
The Rest Is Noise Person of the Year is Kaija Saariaho. The highest, hardest glass ceiling in American classical music has at last been broken (again).
My favorite music book of 2016 was Daniel Bergner's Sing for Your Life, the story of the fast-rising African-American bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green. This is not only an extraordinary biographical and social chronicle but also one of the most perceptive behind-the-scenes classical-music books to have appeared in many years — all the better because Bergner isn't an insider, or at least wasn't one when he started. Tucked into the narrative are telling sketches of such cherished Met personalities (current and former) as Ken Noda, Brian Zeger, and Carrie-Ann Matheson. For more, see Anne Midgette's review for The Washington Post.
Other notable books on music: Ben Ratliff, Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen in an Age of Musical Plenty (FSG); Anna Beer, Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music (Oneworld); Renée Levine Packer and Mary Jane Leach, eds., Gay Guerrilla: Julius Eastman and His Music (University of Rochester Press); Fiona Maddocks, Music for Life: 100 Works to Carry You Through (Faber); Jennie Gottschalk, Experimental Music Since 1970 (Bloomsbury); Laura Kuhn, ed., The Selected Letters of John Cage (Oxford); Michael Marissen, Bach & God (Oxford); Jack Hamilton, Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination (Harvard); Richard Taruskin, Russian Music at Home and Abroad (University of California); Marina Frolova-Walker, Stalin's Music Prize: Soviet Culture and Politics (Yale); Virgil Thomson, The State of Music & Other Writings, ed. Tim Page (Library of America).
As in past years, I will tax the forbearance of even the most inured readers by selecting a few highlights outside my realm of nominal competence. Amid the endless Wagnerism reading — Of Lena Geyer, anyone? — I enjoyed Edna O'Brien's The Little Red Chairs, A. O. Scott's Better Living Through Criticism, Geoff Dyer's White Sands, Alex Abramovich's Bully, and Jeffrey Toobin's American Heiress. I didn't see enough movies or hear enough pop music to render meaningful judgments in those areas, but I still love Radiohead and am looking forward to Moonlight. On television, the two big O. J. Simpson projects — the American Crime Story dramatization and the Made in America documentary — were both remarkable. The Man in the High Castle proved to be more relevant than anyone wanted. Sanity was maintained by Samantha Bee.