My best movies, music, books and other moments from 2022

As regular readers will know, I’ve been posting my personal ‘year’s best’ lists ever since I started writing here in 2016, and each time I’ve prefaced the survey of my favourite movies, music, etc, with complaints about the dreadful state of British and international politics followed by the expression of (mostly forlorn) hopes for an improvement the subsequent year. During that time, of course, we’ve also suffered the onset of Covid and seen the climate crisis go from bad to worse at an alarmingly precipitous pace. I will not comment further on the most recent developments here, since this post is intended as a celebration of human creativity, not a rant about humanity’s capacity for ignorance, ignominy and destruction. All I will add, once again, is that the arts – even as they are sidelined and undermined by politicians and others – feel increasingly important and valuable in terms of providing consolation, comfort and cause for uplift. 

I didn’t see as many films this year as I did before Covid struck, and I am still yet to catch up with some which come highly recommended (Aftersun being an obvious example). I listened to a lot of music and went to an unprecedented number of live concerts; I also read quite a few books, and managed to catch a fair few exhibitions (though not the Cezanne show as yet). I’ve watched almost no television, but I did like Herzog’s The Fire Within, and have greatly enjoyed both series of Slow Horses. On the downside, I was saddened by the deaths of two musicians whom I much admired – composer Harrison Birtwistle and pianist-conductor Lars Vogt – and by those of two friends: singer-actor-presenter-bon-viveur Paul Ryan and filmmaker Mike Hodges. 

Anyway, here are some of the things that brought pleasure to me in 2022 (some of them rather unexpected, as you’ll see if you read to the end). I hope you too can perhaps derive pleasure from some of them yourselves.

NEW FILMS (15, in the order I saw them):

Grand Jeté (Isabelle Stever)

The Art Teacher from Drohobycz: Bruno Schulz (Brothers Quay)

Tori et Lokita (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, picture at top)

RMN (Cristian Mungiu)

Mariner of Mountains (Karim Aïnouz)

Il buco (Michelangelo Frammartino)

Kimi (Seven Soderbergh)

Leonora Addio (Paolo Taviani)

My Imaginary Country (Patricio Guzmán)

In the Court of the Crimson King (Toby Amies)

Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Elvis (Baz Luhrmann)

Both Sides of the Blade (Avec Amour et acharnement) (Claire Denis)

A Bunch of Amateurs (Kim Hopkins)

The Wonder (Sebastián Lelio)

Both Sides of the Blade

OLDER FILMS SEEN FOR THE FIRST TIME (5):

Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson)

Mandabi (Ousmane Sembene)

Easy Living (Mitchell Leisen)

Kanal (Andrzej Wajda) 

Motian in Motion (Michael Patrick Kelly)

NEW CDs

‘Classical’ (10, in the order I encountered them):

Nash Ensemble: Harrison Birtwistle – Chamber Works (Bis)

Lapland Chamber Orchestra, John Storgårds: Hans Abrahamsen – Schnee (Da Capo)

Oslo Philharmonic, Klaus Mäkelä: Sibelius Symphonies (Decca)

Carolyn Widmann: Aurore (ECM)

Cédric Tiberghien, Stéphane Degout, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth: Ravel – Concertos pour piano, Mélodies (Harmonia Mundi)

Christian Gerhaher, Kammerorchester Basel, Heinz Holliger: Othmar Schoeck – Elegie (Sony)

Ensemble Modern Ochestra, Vimbayi Kaziboni: Heiner Goebbels – A House of Call (ECM)

Holst-Sinfonitetta, Klaus Simon: Luke Bedford – Besilvering (Bastille Musique)

Ian Bostridge, Lars Vogt: Schubert – Schwanengesang (Pentatone)

Ruby Hughes, Huw Watkins: Echo (Bis)

Others (5, in the order I encountered them):

King Crimson: 2021 (Live in Washington and Albany)  (DGM

Mark Turner: Return from the Stars (ECM

Oded Tzur: Isabela (ECM)

Dave Douglas: Secular Psalms (Greenleaf)

Jon Balke’s Siwan: Hafla (ECM)

plus a belated release and a re-reissue:

Mike Westbrook: London Bridge Live in Zurich 1990 (Westbrook Records)

Centipede: Septober Energy (Esoteric)

LIVE MUSIC

Classical concerts (25, in chronological order).

Christian Tetzlaff, London Philharmonic Orch, Karina Canellakis: Borisova-Ollas, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Royal Festival Hall, 19/1

Carducci Quartet: Shostakovich – complete string quartets (five concerts), Wigmore Hall, 22 & 23/1

Julien Prégardien, Lars Vogt, Tanja Tetzlaff, Isabelle Vogt: Janácek, Brahms, R Schumann, Wigmore, 26/1

Danny Driver, Andrew Zolinsky, Arditti Quartet, Chloë Hanslip. Alec Frank-Gemmill: Ligeti, Kurtág, Nancarrow/Adès, Wigmore, 9/2

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Budapest Festival Orch, Iván Fischer: Stravinsky, Bartók, RFH, 17/2

Tamara Stefanovich: 20 Sonatas (three concerts), Queen Elizabeth Hall, 27/2

Lucy Crowe, Anna Tilbrook: Schubert, Weir, Schoenberg, Strauss, Wigmore, 11/3

Alban Gerhardt, Steven Osborne: Shostakovich, Britten, Dutilleux, Brahms, Rachmaninov, Wigmore, 15/3

Igor Levit: Shostakovich – 24 Preludes and Fugues, Wigmore, 4/4

Viktoria Mullova, Alasdair Beatson: Beethoven, Wigmore, 18/4

Mark Padmore, Mitsuko Uchida: Beethoven, Schubert – Schwangesang, Wigmore, 15/5

Lise Davidsen, Oslo Philharmonic Orch, Klaus Mäkelä: G Mahler, Berg, Sibelius, Barbican, 3/6

Christian Gerhaher, Anna Lucia Richter, Ammiel Bushakevitz: Wolf – Italian Songbook, Wigmore, 3/7

Belcea Quartet, Jean-Guihen Queyras: Schubert, Wigmore, 11/9

Elisabeth Leonskaja, Staatskapelle Streichquartett: Brahms, Wigmore, 20/9

Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, Simon Lepper: G Mahler, Liszt, Wagner, Barber, Marais, spirituals, Wigmore, 19/10

Alina Ibragimova, Cédric Tiberghien: Cage, Schubert, Strauss, Wigmore, 26/10

Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau: Schubert – Winterreise, Wigmore, 10/11

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet: Fauré, Debussy, Bartók, Wigmore, 13/11

Kyrill Gerstein: Busoni, Liszt, Bach-Busoni, Wigmore, 23/11

Katalin Karolyi, Steven Isserlis, Timothy Ridout, Dénes Várjon, et al: Dohnányi, Adès, Kurtág, Schubert, Wigmore, 26/11

Leonidas Kavakos, Yuja Wang: Brahms, Janácek, Schumann, Bartók, Wigmore, 4/12

Allan Clayton, Kate Golla: Schubert – Winterreise, Barbican, 7/12

Mattias Goerne, Vikingur Ólafsson: Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, RFH, 9/12

Pawel Kolesnikov: Schubert, Bach, Adès, R Schumann, Rota, Wigmore, 22/12

(I saw some of these artists and ensembles more than once in 2022, but chose to restrict each of them to a single appearance here, regardless of how much I enjoyed their other performances. That said, Christian Gerhaher, Christian Tetzlaff, Igor Levit, Tamara Stefanovich and a few others have repeatedly provided enormous pleasure this year. Another thing: any ‘top 25’ that doesn’t include terrific concerts by such performers as Roderick Williams, Beatrice Rana, Boris Giltburg, Leila Josefowicz, Lawrence Power, the Doric and Castalian Quartets, et al, is clearly questionable – not least for him who compiled it! London offers such remarkable musical riches.

Speaking of which, I also greatly enjoyed two operas at Covent Garden – Britten’s Peter Grimes, with the aforementioned Allan Clayton quite remarkable in the title role, and Strauss’s Salome, with a superb Malin Byström – not to mention several rehearsals at the RFH, the most fascinating and satisfying being Igor Levit performing Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto with the Philharmonia under Santtu-Matias Rouvali. Sadly, I caught only one ‘jazz’ concert – Jason Moran’s solo recital at the Wigmore in November – but it was, as expected, very fine indeed.)

Jason Moran

BOOKS

It was only in the summer of this year that I first encountered the writing of Josephine Tey. I’d been given a copy of Nicola Upson’s new crime mystery, Fear in the Sunlight, in which Tey features as a character, wondering whether she should agree to let Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Revill adapt her own crime mystery, A Shilling for Candles. This was the novel the Hitchcocks turned into Young and Innocent; after finishing the Upson book, I revisited the movie, before reading Tey’s original to see how much it had been changed for the screen. (Quite a lot, as it happened.) I liked A Shilling for Candles so much that I decided to try more Tey; since then I’ve read and greatly enjoyed The Franchise Affair, Brat Farrar, The Singing Sands and The Man in the Queue. I suppose, then, that Tey counts as my most significant literary ‘discovery’ since I first encountered Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible in early 2020; incidentally, Strout features alongside Tey in my favourite books for this year, too, with both Oh William! and the new Lucy by the Sea. Anyway, in addition to these highly recommended Tey and Strout titles, the dozen books I have most enjoyed this year have been (in the order I read them):

Ian Bostridge:A Singer’s Notebook

William Boyd: Trio

Christopher Isherwood: Prater Violet

Elizabeth Gaskell: Cranford

Edith Wharton: The Reef

Orlando Figes: The Europeans – Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture

EM Forster: A Room with a View

James Runcie: The Great Passion

Susan Tomes: Out of Silence – A Pianist’s Yearbook

Emeric Pressburger: The Glass Pearls

Barbara Pym: No Fond Return of Love

Claire Keegan: Small Things like These

EXHIBITIONS (5, in the order I visited them)

Hogarth and Europe (Tate Britain)

Walter Sickert (Tate Britain)

Winslow Homer (National Gallery)

Milton Avery (Royal Academy)

Bill Brandt: Inside the Mirror (Tate Britain)

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Mostly these highlights were to do with returning to an activity denied me for a long time due to pandemic restrictions. So they included giving a talk on the films of François Truffaut for the BFI Southbank in January; making a return to live teaching at the London Film School in May; and hosting on-stage interviews with Walter Salles (University of Reading, July), Gary Oldman and the Dardenne brothers (BFI Southbank, October and December). Also cherishable were a brief summer holiday in the Pays Basque and Pyrenees – my first time out of the UK in two-and-a-half years – and a couple of short breaks in north Norfolk. The first, in April, will perhaps remain particularly memorable, not so much for my first-ever sighting of a white-tailed eagle, nor even for a totally unexpected encounter with someone I hadn’t been in touch with for more than 50 years but who had been one of my best friends at junior school. No, what my wife and I will probably remember the most from that trip was a walk through the dunes to an especially lovely beach, where areas were roped off in an attempt to prevent endangered ground-nesting birds from being disturbed by careless walkers and dog-owners. Suddenly, out of the pines ran a black spaniel, followed by a couple in sunglasses and three kids. Immediately, I politely but firmly advised the adults that if they wanted to proceed to the beach, they would have to make a detour around the roped-off area to avoid disturbing the nests. The man said, ‘Oh… thank you,’ and off the family trudged as instructed. Only after he had spoken did I realise that the couple were famous royals. Republican that I am, forever trying to avoid news of the monarchy, I had not initially recognised them. Still, at least they did as I requested…

All the best for 2023!

North Norfolk

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