I once owned a wristwatch in which the numbers on the dial were not in numerical order--so I perversely appreciated Andy Bryenton's recent out-of-order list of his ten favorite KSO performances of the past season. (Mr. Bryenton, of course, is the Principal Cello in the orchestra, KSO's website blogger, and a very amusing writer. His blog post can be found here: http://knoxvillesymphony.blogspot.com/2013/06/reflections.html )
For the last few years in December, I have compiled a list of my calendar year picks for most "memorable performances" of the total Knoxville classical music scene for the Metro Pulse end-of-year issue. But, here in May at the end of the KSO's 2012-13 season, I couldn't resist comparing my picks, based on my concert reviews of KSO performances, to Bryenton's. Alas, I am confining my list to five.
#5 -- The Rite of Spring (May, 2013) - Bryenton lists this as his #1, but I have the feeling the rating has a bit to do with the fact that it was the last performance of the season and the most recent. However, I agree that this was a stunning performance, both technically accurate and viscerally impressive, of a true threshold work of the 20th Century.
#4 - Mendelssohn's Octet and Dvorak's Piano Quintet - These two chamber works, performed magnificently by KSO ensembles, appeared on different concerts of "Gabriel Lefkowitz and Friends," the KSO's new Concertmaster Series. This series is quite important for Knoxville's classical music scene for at least two reasons: it explores works that probably won't be heard otherwise and it makes use of alternative spaces for music.
#3 - Beethoven's String Quartet in F minor, op. 95 - This work, on the April 2013 Chamber Classics concert was clear indication of the remarkable direction in which the KSO's principal string players are now moving.
#2 - Verdi's Requiem (April, 2013) - It seems odd to call this seemingly religious work "Verdi's greatest opera," but many will agree. Despite some shaky and questionable guest vocalist performances, the orchestral and choral performances were incredibly satisfying. (runner-up: the entire March Chamber Classics concert of Bach and Handel, conducted by James Fellenbaum. One can only hope that this was a taste of what is to come in next season's Baroque offerings--all the Brandenbergs.)
#1 - Korngold's Violin Concerto (runner-up: Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings) Concertmaster Gabriel Lefkowitz's performance in the Korngold was simply and utterly stunning. The Britten work, with tenor Cody Boling and hornist Jeffery Whaley, was one of the true surprises of the season, and an extremely pleasant one at that.
The 2013-14 KSO season starts up in September with the Eroica Trio (below) joining the orchestra for Beethoven's Triple Concerto--and another of my favorite Wagner overtures, the Overture to Rienzi.