Since I am not particularly big on top-ten lists, I decided to set myself the exercise of trying to identify one event for each month of this year that I would be only too glad to experience for a second time. Here are the results:
January: The San Francisco Performances recital by violinist Christian Tetzlaff accompanied by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. This was one of the most imaginative programs I have experienced, bringing together Leoš Janáček, Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Franz Schubert. The encores were then by Jean Sibelius.
March: Frank French's two recitals covering all 48 preludes and fugues in Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, performed on a modern piano tuned according to a system developed by Thomas Young in 1799. This could well have been the most fascinating recital of the year, and we have a local artist to thank for it. French's intention was to restore the distinctive character of each of the keys covered in Bach's two cycles, a character that is totally lost under equal temperament. By the end of the first recital, my capacity for listening was just beginning to grasp what he was trying to demonstrate. Of all the experiences I would like to repeat, this is the one that means the most to me, just in my own interests of being a better listener.
April: My discovery of selections from György Kurtág's Játékok, performed by Jonathan Biss in a "Concert with Conversation" event organized by San Francisco Performances at the Community Music Center at 544 Capp Street in the Mission District. I was first exposed to Kurtág during Marino Formenti's "San Francisco Piano Trips" recitals in 2007. Since then my primary exposure to his music has come from recitals at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Not only would I enjoy hearing Biss' performance again, but also I suspect I could get more out of his remarks by being more familiar with the music.
June: The coupling of Alban Berg's 1925 "Chamber Concerto" with Schubert's D. 944 C major ("Great") symphony during the Dawn to Twilight series of concerts by the San Francisco Symphony.
July: Tien Hsieh's recital for the InterHarmony Music Festival, in which she demonstrated her capacity for giving equal "justice" to both Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms.
August: A thoroughly compelling performance of Frederick Rzewski's "Coming Together," given as part of an evening of chamber music at the Old First Concerts series, at the Old First Church.
September: The opening program of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra season, particularly in the approach Nicholas McGegan took to the seventh symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven.
October: Osmo Vänskä's visit as guest conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and the delightful repertoire he prepared for his two concerts.
November: The visit to Davies Symphony Hall by the Berlin Philharmonic under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, particularly with regard to the program Rattle prepared to cultivate an appreciation for the music of Arnold Schoenberg.
December: The two Aspects of the Divine recitals arranged by pianist Marino Formenti for his second San Francisco Performances visit.
From this point of view, 2009 was definitely a stimulating year. Furthermore, not all of the stimuli came from the usual venues of Davies Symphony Hall and Herbst Theatre, which should serve as encouragement to see what lies beyond the beaten path in 2010!