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Humble Cinderella: The 8 Best Classical Music Moments of the Week on YouTube
Humble Cinderella: The 8 Best Classical Music Moments of the Week on YouTube avatar

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Our critics and reporters offer a glimpse of what’s moved and delighted them on YouTube. Read the rest of our classical music coverage here.


Record of Last Year

While tilling the ground for records of the year 2017 recently, I was directed not only to the Danish String Quartet’s collection of folk songs and the like, “Last Leaf,” which qualified, but also to the ensemble’s 2016 recording of works by Per Norgard, Hans Abrahamsen and Thomas Adès, which I somehow missed at the time. Here is a video of the quartet’s account of the same Adès work, “Arcadiana” (1994), as performed at Lincoln Center’s Kaplan Penthouse during the 2015 Mostly Mozart festival. Particularly captivating is Mr. Adès’s eerie danse macabre “Et… (tango mortale),” as it grows out of the distinctly un-Schubertian “Auf dem Wasser zu singen.” JAMES R. OESTREICH

Here are our 25 favorite recordings of 2017.

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Harp Does Organ?

As with Handel’s “Messiah,” it’s impossible to imagine a Christmas season without performances of Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” by every church with a boys choir. On Thursday, 15 boys of the Saint Thomas Choir on Fifth Avenue, accompanied by harpist Bridget Kibbey and under the direction of Daniel Hyde, gave a tender, cleanly executed account of Britten’s beguilingly modest piece. But the surprise of the program came at the start, when Ms. Kibbey played her own transcription of Bach’s dark and restless Toccata and Fugue in D minor for Organ. Say again? This mighty organ piece played on a harp? It was remarkable. Yes, you missed the organ’s body-shaking low-bass pedal tones. But the gossamer colorings and improvisatory fervor of Ms. Kibbey’s account hooked me. Here she is playing this transcription in 2015. Catch the Lisztian passage early on when Ms. Kibbey creates a hazy tangle of swirling notes. ANTHONY TOMMASINI

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Seductively Intimate

The annual Richard Tucker Gala, a fund-raiser that’s also a chance to get a hoard of opera singers in a room together, was pretty sleepy this year. Except, that is, for some poised, committed arias from Ailyn Pérez and the showstopper: Stephanie Blythe riding her big, chocolaty voice all over the “Habanera” from “Carmen,” an opera a big girl like her is (criminally) almost always overlooked for. Hers is a more unwieldy and hooty instrument than it was back when she sang it in Seattle in 2004; listen to how seductively intimate her mezzo-soprano got for this repetition of “Si je t’aime.” Her tone is luxurious but she doesn’t ladle on the sensuousness too thick. (Listen to all 45 minutes of highlights!) ZACHARY WOOLFE


‘Messiah’ Sex Change

Julian Wachner’s annual presentation of Handel’s “Messiah” at Trinity Wall Street, always eagerly awaited by early-music fans in New York, brings added curiosity this weekend: Advance publicity reports that “parts typically sung by female voices will be sung by men and vice versa.” This version of the soprano aria “Rejoice greatly,” sung by the tenor Roberto Saccà in a performance led by Helmuth Rilling, gives an idea of the possibilities: a rough one, since it is sung in German (“Erwach’ zu Liedern der Wonne” for “Awaken to songs of bliss”) and backed by Mozart’s reorchestration, from his arrangement of “Messiah.” Mr. Wachner promises to explain his reasoning. JAMES R. OESTREICH

Read our rundown of New York “Messiah” options.

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Leontyne’s Grammys

I just had the honor of interviewing the great soprano Leontyne Price in Maryland, where, now 90, she is living in retirement near her large extended family. (I’ll be reporting more on this visit soon.) At the 1983 Grammy Awards, Ms. Price stopped the show with a sumptuous and sensitive performance of “Vissi d’arte” from “Tosca.” Every moment of her singing is wondrous. I especially love the climactic phrase when Ms. Price, after leaping to a glorious high B flat, takes a quick breath then sings a plush A flat (a sighing “Ah”) that slips smoothly down to a sustained, uncannily steady G — those two notes prolonged on a single breath for almost 15 seconds. Some in the audience, thinking the aria is over, or perhaps simply amazed by what they’ve just heard, start to applaud. Unruffled, Ms. Price concludes the aria beautifully, eliciting an instantaneous standing ovation from an audience full of pop icons. ANTHONY TOMMASINI

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Humble Cinderella

Cinderella operas aren’t rarities: Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” is done all over, and Massenet’s “Cendrillon” has its advocates. (One of them, Joyce DiDonato, will bring it to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time this spring.) But Nicolas Isouard’s 1810 version, which predates both, has all but vanished. So bravo to Manhattan School of Music, where French rarities have found an unlikely home, for carefully reconstructing and reviving the charming work last weekend. Very little of the opera is online, so take this clip (in German!) as a teaser; Isouard’s Cinderella is so humble that the repetition of her sweet, forlorn little early aria is without fussy ornaments or much distinction at all. ZACHARY WOOLFE


Brechtian Distance

Critics of John Adams’s new opera, “Girls of the Golden West,” have largely taken issue with the somewhat anti-dramatic libretto, a collage of primary sources from California’s Gold Rush assembled by Peter Sellars. But Mr. Sellars’s concept has flashes of brilliance when combined with his direction, which owes much to Brechtian distancing. The first act is laden with inert monologues, but the second has the feeling of a pageant: present-day actors recounting California history, sometimes as a show within a show. “Ladies and gentlemen, the ballad of Ah Sing,” Clarence tells an onstage crowd from atop a sequoia’s stump. (Is there anything more Brechtian than introducing a ballad?) Then Ah Sing (the Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee) delivers her story of a Chinese prostitute who dreams of a better life.JOSHUA BARONE

Read our review of “Girls of the Golden West.”


Heartbreaking Farewell

Putting together our list of the best classical recordings of 2017 this week provided an opportunity to revisit Erato’s four-hour (but rewarding, I promise!) concert recording of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens” by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and a luxury cast, including Joyce DiDonato’s assured role debut as Didon. In this excerpt from the fifth act, she bids farewell to her city after singing the aria “Je vais mourir” (“I am going to die”). Listen for the quiet, devastating intensity in her voice as she recalls “stars I admired in nights of intoxication and infinite ecstasy.” JOSHUA BARONE


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