When eMusic.com asked me to recommend the five best classical CDs of the decade, there was a proviso – it had to be stuff that eMusic carried. This turned out not to be restrictive – except in one case. Here’s the list I gave them:
Yo Yo Ma: The Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites
The Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble: Music for 18 Musicians by Steve Reich
Tenebrae, Nigel Short directing: Path of Miracles by Joby Talbot
Osvaldo Golijov: La Pasion segun San Marco
Simone Dinnerstein: The Goldberg Variations by Bach.
If they’d given me one more pick, it would’ve been David Lang’s Little Match Girl Passion, my classical album of the year. Actually, I wanted to pick Golijov’s Ayre, instead of the Passion, but eMusic doesn’t carry the label that Ayre came out on.
Not that it matters much – for me, in classical music, this was the decade of Golijov. The Argentine-born Massachusetts-based composer started the decade on a high note, with an extraordinarily colorful, multi-cultural setting of the St Mark passion, written in 2000 for the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death. He peaked again with Ayre, his electroacoustic tour of Mediterranean folk traditions, in 2005. Finally, in the last year of the decade, we were able to ask him to write a new work. Radio was premiered in the inaugural event at our Jerome L Greene Performance Space in April of 2009.
It was also the decade of Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Finnish conductor, who made the LA Philharmonic a model of how an orchestra can be relevant and maybe even kinda cool, and who led the two most striking performances I think I've seen in this decade: The Tristan Project – Wagner’s opera Tristan Und Isolde with video by Bill Viola; and Janacek’s opera From the House of the Dead at the Met earlier this month. I wasn’t as sold on this production as the critics seem to have been, but the music and the performance was absolutely riveting.