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The Beckmesser Awards of 1987

December 27, 1987|MARTIN BERNHEIMER

It was a happy, sad, frustrating, exhilarating, discouraging, encouraging, soothing, frazzling, stimulating, depressing, uplifting, jolting, bracing, benumbing, painful, dull, exciting, hysterical, lackadaisical, exceptional, humdrum year. Just like 1986.

To commemorate the high--and low--points, we proudly and shamelessly presentthe 19th-annual awards dedicated to the spirit and memory of Nurnberg's immortal and most noble, most misunderstood humanitarian, critic, musicologist, lutanist, poet, bon vivant and guardian of public virtue, Sixtus Beckmesser.

Let us know if we have overlooked anything.


Maestros of the year: Andre Previn, conducting his Los Angeles Philharmonic in a sweeping, poignant, polished performance of the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony; Georg Solti, conducting the itinerant Chicago Symphony in a dazzling Beethoven Fifth at the Orange County Performing Arts Center; Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting a perfectly poetic and perfectly ecstatic "Poem of Ecstasy" with the Philharmonic.

More maestros of the year: Zubin Mehta (remember him?) at his heroic best in the Mahler Second; Pierre Boulez conducting Boulez and Stravinsky with calm, analytical clarity and virtuosic flair; Leonard Bernstein, on good, subdued behavior for a sensitive Mahler Fifth with the Vienna Philharmonic at Hollywood Bowl, of all places; Armin Jordan, transforming the gentle Orchestre de la Suisse Romande into the muscular apparatus required for the Shostakovich Fifth, in Orange County.

Pressurized-debut award: To young David Alan Miller, who covered himself with something akin to glory as a late replacement for an indisposed Previn.

Most-historic-exhumation award: To Robert Joffrey for permitting and facilitating the epochal re-creation and resuscitation of Nijinsky's scandale -ridden "Sacre de printemps" of 1913.

Unexpected-sugarplum awards: To the San Francisco Ballet, for bringing a really delightful, unkitschy, child-oriented "Nutcracker" to San Diego; to American Ballet Theatre, for bringing a really lovely, unkitschy, adult-oriented "Nutcracker" to Shrine Auditorium.

Bolshoi-bravura awards: To the flying superman, Irek Mukhamedov, to the most glittery of ballerinas, Ludmila Semenyaka, and to the noblest danseur of them all, Alexei Fadeyechev.

Nicest realization: That opera can proliferate in Southern California, against the odds, with companies now flourishing (after a limited fashion) in Long Beach, Costa Mesa, San Diego, and even Los Angeles.

Most encouraging achievement: The steady growth, adventurous spirit and--a few major lapses notwithstanding--world-class attitudes of the Music Center Opera as led by Peter Hemmings.

Most outrageous and most stimulating opera production: The original Moliere-inspired "Ariadne on Naxos" as staged, superfunkily, by Christopher Alden for the Long Beach Opera. Close runner-up: Prokofiev's wildly iconoclastic "Fiery Angel" as staged by Andrei Serban and designed by Robert Israel for the Music Center.

Fischer-Dieskau award for the most probing recital of the year: To Jorma Hynninen, who upheld the honor of the serious Lied at Ambassador Auditorium.

Neatest demonstration of decadent romanticism: Sidney Weiss' elegant performance of the Korngold Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic.

Not-so-incidental music of the year: Georges Delerue's jaunty, charming, stylish, live sound track for the restoration of Volkoff's 1927 film, "Casanova."

Lukas-Foss-is-the-Leonard-Bernstein-of-music award: To the ever-facile Foss himself, for his eminently clever piece d'occasion for Tashi, called, of all things, "Tashi."

Nicest new locale for chamber music on a summer night: The reasonably intimate, gently remodelled Ford (a.k.a. Pilgrimage) Theater, across the freeway from Hollywood Bowl.

Most comforting sound on the airwaves: The calm, restrained and erudite voice of Gail Eichenthal on KUSC. Jeers

Biggest operatic bomb: Elijah Moshinsky's Kabuki-nightmare "Macbeth" at the Music Center. First runner up: Frank Corsaro's leaden "Cenerentola" production, same company. Second runner up: The tired "season" by the New York City Opera in Orange County.

Biggest balletic bomb: Gail Kachadurian's "Altered States" at the Joffrey.

Biggest Bolshoi bomb: The simple-minded circus polemic Yuri Grigorovich called "The Golden Age."

Biggest modern-dance bomb: The puerile Michael Clark show at the L.A. Festival. Runner-up: The slam-dance semi-punk quasi-orgy of La La La Human Steps under the same dubious, terminally trendy auspices.

Biggest symphonic bomb: The inexplicably tawdry performance by Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra at Ambassador.

Invisible concept of the year: Jonathan Miller's vision of Wagner's Isolde as a vampirical angel of death--a vision that seemed intriguing when stated in an interview but could not be found in Jeannine Altmeyer's performance at the Music Center.

Slipping-duty ballet prize: To American Ballet Theatre for its all-too-somnolent "Sleeping Beauty" at the Shrine.

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