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Costanzo, Andsnes, Ehnes, Shaham, Ax make South Florida Classical Review's 'Top Ten Performances of 2018'

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Gluck's pathbreaking fusion of music, dance and drama was seamlessly integrated at Florida Grand Opera in director-choreographer Keturah Stickann's eye-filling production. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo dominated the stage vocally and dramatically as the minstrel Orfeo. 

Leif Ove Andsnes is one of the most intelligent, probing pianists on the contemporary concert scene. In February Andsnes joined MTT and the New World Symphony for a rare performance of Debussy's Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, a work that finds Debussy combining Russian bravura with his early impressionistic voice. Andsnes perfectly mixed powerful virtuosity with elegance and sensitivity. Stravinsky has long been an MTT specialty and the NWS players were in top form for a lustrous, edgy reading of the complete original version of The Firebird on the same program. Photo: Felix Broede

The violinist Gil Shaham has such a smooth playing style that the spiky Bartók Second Violin Concerto may not seem to be the right match for him. But in his performance of the work with the New World Symphony, he displayed the vast range of his talents. He brought grinding force to passages on the lower strings, romantic warmth to lyric sections of the first and second movements and played throughout with the sort of fiery intensity demanded by this difficult work. 

The Ehnes Quartet's annual Beethoven programs for Friends of Chamber Music have been highlights of recent concert seasons. At their February visit, violinist James Ehnes and his colleagues reached a summit in their continuing traversal of the complete Beethoven quartets with a bracing reading of the penultimate Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131. 

After more than four decades on the world's concert stages, there is still a light sparkle in Emanuel Ax's touch. The veteran pianist gave an exquisite and refined performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1 at New World's first downtown concert of the season in November at the Arsht Center. Tilson Thomas's fine detailing and balancing of orchestra lines was a textbook lesson in perfect collaboration. Long one of the world's best Sibelius conductors, MTT led an unhurried, magisterial rendition of the Symphony No. 5. With all sections in top form, this was one of New World's best nights of the year. 

SEE ALL South Florida Classical Review's 'Top Ten Performances of 2018'