Best classical events of 2012

Posted: Tue Dec 18 2012

The year's top five chosen by Time Out


'Universe of Sound: The Planets'
Science Museum
Gustav Holst's astrological suite was the subject of a marvellous interactive display allowing visitors to walk around inside the virtual Philharmonia Orchestra. Captured by 37 cameras, the band was presented on large screens in digital sound, with each room offering the perspective of a particular section (strings, percussion, brass…). There were scores to follow, instruments to play, and even a chance to conduct along with Eka-Pekka Salonen.
(See it at

'Hearing Voices'
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Mezzo-soprano Melanie Pappenheim gave a stunning performance of Jocelyn Pook's dramatised song cycle. Scored for singer, BBC Concert Orchestra and recorded voices, it brought to life five women's views on their mental illness, including Pook's mother and great aunt. Underscored with lyrical minimal music, it was touching, charming and even funny.

Sir Colin Davis
St Paul's Cathedral
The eminent British maestro conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, massed choirs and a battery of percussion, not to mention four groups of offstage brass high up in the cathedral's galleries, in a pair of concerts of 'Berlioz Requiem' to open the City of London Festival. The result was a powerful and emotional elegy, masterfully controlled and perfectly paced for the long reverb.

'Toujours et Près de Moi'
Hoxton Hall
Devised by Patrick Eakin Young for his Opera Erratica company, this 'holographic puppet opera' was one of the most unusual events of the year. A pair of actors opened and closed boxes on a table, interacting with miniature ghostly figures that had been created by a Victorian illusion called Pepper's Ghost. Meanwhile, arranged in the darkness behind, the choir Exaudi sang madrigals.

'Total Immersion'
Barbican Centre
This excellent series hosted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra presented a portrait of living composers through talks, film and concerts. This year it explored the work of Brett Dean, Jonathan Harvey, Arvo Pärt and Oliver Knussen. (Next is 'Sounds from Japan' on February 2.)


The Cultural Olympiad
What was that? While there were many commendable educational schemes under the auspices of this four-year project, the bigger cultural shows that crammed the final year (the London 2012 Festival) seemed to be an appropriation of unrelated, pre-arranged events, presented as an incoherent, theme-less series.