So here goes, the eight concerts I have seen this month ranked in order of quality from lowest to highest. But just a couple of caveats first: yes, it is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison as the range is from solo piano recital to huge orchestra to major opera production. But I am looking at this from a reception point of view only: how well-received, by me, was the performance? There are still some incommensurables, but I will just mention them and move on.
- Spanish National Orchestra, Bruch and Shostakovich, Pinchas Zukerman, violin, cond. David Afkham
- Reina Sofía Chamber Orchestra, Grieg and Mozart, cond. and concertmaster, Nicolás Chumachenco
- Palau Reina Sofía production of Werther by Massenet
- Teatro Real production of Bomarzo by Ginastera
- Teatro Real production of El Gallo de Oro by Rimsky-Korsakov
- Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Glinka, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky, Leticia Moreno, violin, cond. Yuri Temirkanov
- Grigory Sokolov, piano, Mozart and Beethoven
- Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, Gautier Capuçon, cello, cond. Andrés Orozco-Estrada
Oddly enough, the operas are some of the most incommensurable items, even among themselves. I think that is because each opera production tends to create its own world of design and meaning that is a kind of little cosmos in itself. I notice this particularly with the three (two this year, one last year) productions I have seen at the Teatro Real. They are very, very different from one another. So one could argue for a different order in the three operas and I wouldn't resist too much. But they all fall in the middle of the range: quite interesting, but not superlative. I attribute this mostly to the composers, I think. Massenet, Ginastera and Rimsky-Korsakov are all second-rank composers. Oops, there's another thing you aren't allowed to say: all composers, like all cultures, are equally wonderful. Well, if that's true, why isn't the New York Philharmonic playing my orchestral music?
The two Spanish orchestras are down towards the bottom because, while it was sincere and warm music-making, they have neither the fire of the Russians nor the precision and authority of the Germans. As for the two highest ranked, Sokolov and Frankfurt, again, they could easily swap places. It is hard for anything to compete with Stravinsky's astonishing use of the large orchestra in the Rite, let alone a solo pianist. But you could also argue that for sheer transcendence and subtlety, no-one can really compete with Sokolov, which is true. One thing for sure, these two concerts were the most exciting musical experiences of the trip with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic coming close behind.
Mind you, if I had caught a Teatro Real production of, say Don Giovanni, a great opera by a great composer, that might have come in first.