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As a wise man once wondered (it was Alex Ross), "Is there a deeper, possibly unnatural, connection between music and death? Why is classical music, more than other arts, so preoccupied with the works of the no longer living? What other art routinely celebrates anniversaries of deaths as well as births?"
We mark these anniversaries all year long because it's a great excuse to experience a lot of great music. For the most admired birthday boys (and it is mostly boys, with one notable exception in 2012), it's a time for the launch or completion of major recording projects, lavish boxed sets, pre-concert talks, radio saturation and, of course, Limelight features. If the job is properly done, we should be thoroughly sick of even the most beloved composer by the end of the year – Chopin 2010, anyone?
Last year Liszt was the centre of attention as we discovered a more serious, sensitive side to the showy virtuoso for the bicentenary of of his birth. Leslie Howard couldn't get enough of him, releasing his Guinness World Record-holding Hyperion series of the prolific composer's complete piano music in a 99-CD boxed set. If you were "over" Mahler following the 2010 sesquicentenary, tough luck: he got two bites of the cherry since the following year was the centenary of his death, and what better time to press the repeat button on that funeral march? It was also an opportune moment for Vladimir Ashkenazy to complete his live Mahler series with the Sydney Symphony, and for Valery Gergiev to release the last of his Mahler cycle on disc with the London Symphony Orchestra – for which feat he became the cover star of Limelight's June issue.
It's not all decomposing composers, either: in 2011 we paid tribute to the living with Australia's own Brett Dean turning 50, a milestone marked in a series of concerts around the world showcasing his skills as a composer, violist and conductor.
Who will we shine the spotlight on in 2012? Read on over the following pages to find out.