MA’s Annual Joy

by Sedgwick Clark

December is a special time for us at Musical America because we have the great pleasure of honoring a group of the finest musicians in the world and introducing the latest issue of our annual Directory. At our Awards party Joy to the World reigns, we forget about our typos, gnashing of teeth over cancelled bookings, dried up press outlets, and orchestra deficits.

Last night (Thursday, December 6) was no exception. Our five 2013 awardees were eloquent and humble in their expression of the art to which they have committed their lives. They are:

Musician of the Year: Gustavo Dudamel

Composer of the Year: David Lang

Instrumentalist of the Year: Wu Man

Vocalist of the Year: Joyce DiDonato

Educator of the Year: José Antonio Abreu

As always on this favorite annual night of my professional life, I felt honored in being able to present the awards to such incredibly musical artists who have made my distinctly unmusical but appreciative life such an immense pleasure night after night in New York’s concert halls for the past 44 years. I don’t mean to slight the first four of the artists above when I say that I had an extraordinary reaction when Maestro Abreu arrived with his large family and associates. We shook hands and he smiled and spoke warmly of how pleased he was to be here, and I just lost it. To be in the same room as the conductor and teacher hailed as creator of the most imaginative approach to music education in our time was simply overwhelming. I sputtered a few ridiculous words of our pleasure to have him here and had to turn away. Thinking about my reaction, the only word I have been able to come up with to describe him is “saintly,” a word that astonishes me I could utter.

Oh, well . . . .

The very first issue of the Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts in 1961 hailed a single Musician of the Year on our cover, Leonard Bernstein. In 1992, the number of artists was increased to include a Composer of the Year, a Conductor, an Instrumentalist, and a Vocalist. The thinking was—rightly so—that there are so many extraordinary musicians deserving of recognition that we should widen the field. Since then, awards have gone to Ensembles, Educators, Collaborative Pianists, and an Impresario as well.

Years ago, the late Audrey Michaels called to tell me that bookings of one of her clients, the violinist Cho-Liang Lin, had increased noticeably after being named Instrumentalist of the Year (2000). Nothing has made my time at Musical America more satisfying.

Looking Forward

My week’s scheduled concerts (8:00 p.m. unless otherwise noted):

12/7 Carnegie Hall. Venezuelan Brass Ensemble/Thomas Clamor.

12/8 Zankel Hall at 1:00. El Sistema lecture and panel. Leon Botstein (keynote lecture), José Antonio Abreu, Gustavo Dudamel (panelists), Jeremy Geffen (moderator).

12/8 BAM Harvey Theater at 7:30. Anonymous 4. David Lang: love fail.

12/9 Juilliard School. Willson Theater at 2 p.m. Juilliard Opera/Mark Shapiro. Britten: Curlew River. Vaughan Williams: Riders to the Sea.

12/10 Carnegie Hall. Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel. Revueltas: La noche de las Mayas. Chávez: Sinfonía india. Orbón: Tres versiones sinfónicas.

12/11 Carnegie Hall. Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela/Gustavo Dudamel; Aquiles Machado, tenor; Gaspar Colón. Baritone; Westminster Symphonic Choir. Esteban Benzecry: “Chaac (Maya Water God)” from Rituales Amerindios. Villa-Lobos: Chôros No. 10. Antonio Estévez: Cantata criolla.

12/12 Symphony Space. Ensemble for the Romantic Century. Jekyll and Hyde. The drama of Dr. Jekyll and his demonic double unfold in a psychoanalytic tale of horror in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Featuring music by Mahler, Schubert, Schumann, Webern, Berg, Zemlinsky, Brahms, Pfitzner, and Schoenberg. Written by Eve Wolf.

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