The Austin Chronicle

Top 10 Dance/Classical Music Treasures of 2015

Leaving deep impressions from 2015's dance and classical music works were the unexpected elements, like screen doors, trees, and car horns

By Robert Faires, January 1, 2016, Arts

1) Miró Quartet (UT Butler School Of Music)

The precarious ride that is Schubert's String Quartet No. 15 in G Major, with its hairpin turns of emotion and mood, was handled so smoothly and with such joy by this ever-amazing group that I felt I was in a perfectly tuned Porsche with an expert hand at the wheel: nary a bump, just power and passion at 9,000 rpms.

2) Season of Innocence (Ballet Austin II)

The Crucible in all its pained, paranoiac fury, but without words – just the eloquence of Nick Kepley's intense, agonized movement and Steve Parker's tension-ratcheting music. I've never felt so close to the torment and tragedy of Salem.

3) The Poet Sings: Emily Dickinson (Conspirare)

In 32 settings of Dickinson poems, soprano Sonja DuToit Tengblad, tenor Eric Neuville, and pianist Michelle Schumann channeled the unique exuberance and mystery of this writer with an intimacy that put us in her parlor, with her whispering in our ears.

4) Medieval Pilgrimage in Iberia (Texas Early Music Project)

The gratitude and joy in this concert of songs honoring the Virgin Mary, St. James, and God's creation was infectious, and made all the more so by stellar musicianship from the instrumentalists and divine vocals by a female choir.

5) How Little You Are (Austin Classical Guitar/Conspirare/Texas Performing Arts)

Twelve guitars, embodying nature in all its beauty and cruelty, and scores of singers representing settlers of the American West – awestruck, grief-stricken, and lonesome past description – forged a riveting tension in this haunting premiere by composer Nico Muhly.

6) The Trees Of Govalle (Forklift Danceworks)

Seeing a tree get planted was the most moving dance moment of 2015 for me. As workers from the city's Urban Forestry Division showed how they keep Austin's trees thriving and Eastside residents shared memories of Govalle Park, my connection to a neighborhood's life and to nature deepened.

7) Aida (Austin Opera)

The pageantry was striking, but the deepest impressions in this staging of Verdi's tragedy came from the personal moments with Karen Slack's despairing Aida, Issachah Savage's conflicted Radamès, and Tuija Knihtilä's haughty Amneris.

8) True Story (Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company)

Screen doors took on a Proustian resonance as dancers entered and exited through them, their transparency and old-timey creak and slam recalling past times at beaches, camps, grandparents' homes, where one discovered individual freedom and bonded with others.

9) The Lodger (Austin Classical Guitar)

Pre-talkies Hitchcock given fresh tension by Joseph V. Williams II's score for four guitars and cello. The eerie sounds and suspense crafted by the Texas Guitar Quartet and Bion Tsang, playing for 90 minutes straight, would have made the Master smile.

10) Traffic Jam (Fusebox Festival)

Steve Parker's concert of mobility-inspired music was just inspired, repeatedly sounding notes of wonder with trombones blaring from pedicabs, percussionists drumming on car parts, and a symphony of 80 car horns, flashing hazard lights, and moving windshield wipers.

Honorable Mentions

North Star (Austin Chamber Music Center)

soft (Line Upon Line Percussion)

In Your Shoes (Tapestry Dance Company)

Edge Of Grace (Blue Lapis Light)

Gloria In Excelsis Deo (Ensemble Viii)

Soundspace: Deep Listening (Blanton Museum Of Art)

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