Alina Ibragimova, Susan Bickley, Ludovic Tézier, Takács Quartet, The Tallis Scholars, Paavo Järvi, Sean Shibe, Piotr Anderszewski and Fatma Said among those receiving accolades this year
‘Recording of the Year’ to be revealed on October 5 alongside other special awards in streamed ceremony
September 22, 2021, London: Today, Gramophone reveals the 11 winning recordings in each of the named categories ahead of this year’s Awards ceremony on October 5.
The releases will now be in contention for the crowning accolade, ‘Recording of the Year’, announced on the evening of the ceremony, which will be available to stream on Gramophone’s website, YouTube and Facebook channels, by Classic FM and by medici.tv (and on their Facebook channel) from 7pm BST.
The digital gala will be hosted by Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly and Classical Chart-topping pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, from the VOCES8 Centre in London.
Newly-recorded performance footage will feature winners including Egyptian soprano Fatma Said, violinist Alina Ibragimova, guitarist Sean Shibe and Isata Kanneh-Mason.
The 2020 Awards, streamed from Glyndebourne, were watched by 330,000 households worldwide. For a second year, the Awards are presented in association with Apple Music, E Gutzwiller et Cie, Banquiers and, as charity partner, Help Musicians.
James Jolly, Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief, says: ‘Even though live music has been absent from so many of our lives over the past 18 months, recorded music has continued to provide us with solace, escape and joy, and the 2021 Gramophone Classical Music Awards celebrate the amazing quality and richness of 11 albums that have caught our attention. Do join us on October 5, when Isata Kanneh-Mason and I will be not only presenting these 11 awards, but will also be revealing the special awards, including our new Artist of the Year, Young Artist, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, our 2021 Orchestra of the Year, our new Label of the Year and our inaugural Spatial Music Award.’
Artist of the Year is sponsored by Raymond Weil, Young Artist by Classic FM and the Orchestra of the Year and Spatial Audio Awards are presented in association with Apple Music.
Beach & Elgar: Piano Quintets
Takács Quartet; Garrick Ohlsson (Hyperion)
The Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson, this year’s winners of the Chamber category, present two complementary piano quintets by Amy Beach and Edward Elgar. Written during a fruitful period at Brinkwells in 1918, Elgar’s Piano Quintet inhabits the same emotional landscape as its contemporary, the Cello Concerto. Beach’s commanding offering, written on the other side of the Atlantic in 1907, marked the ambitious dawn of a new century. In its review, Gramophone described the artists’ approach to the genre as ‘one of an epic nature, almost orchestral in its bold sound and texture’, with ‘vivid colours and vital energy’.
Dussek: Messe solemnelle
Soloists; AAM & Choir / Richard Egarr (AAM Records)
One of outgoing Music Director Richard Egarr’s final recording projects with the Academy of Ancient Music takes the Choral Award this year, following their live performance of Jan Ladislav Dussek’s two-century-old Messe Solemnelle at the Barbican in 2019. ‘A fascinating work and an important project, impressively recorded, exquisitely presented and enthusiastically recommended. Dussek himself could scarcely have hoped for a performance as fine as this one,’ wrote David Threasher in his Gramophone review.
Shostakovich: Violin Concertos
Alina Ibragimova (violin); State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ / Vladimir Jurowski (Hyperion)
In the first commercial recording of the First Concerto’s original version, this release of Shostakovich’s two violin concertos takes the top spot in the Concerto category. Joined by Vladimir Jurowski and the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia, ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’, violinist Alina Ibragimova’s performance was described as ‘the kind of playing that looks you unblinkingly in the eye and tells it like it is’ by Gramophone upon its release. Recorded in Moscow, the recording appears to bristle as much with personal histories as with musical heritage.
Pickard: The Gardener of Aleppo & other chamber works
Susan Bickley, Nash Ensemble / Martyn Brabbins (BIS)
One of two winning recordings featuring the inimitable mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, this year’s Contemporary Award (sponsored by PPL & PRS for Music) goes to this ‘generously full, marvellously rewarding’ recording of John Pickard’s The Gardener of Aleppo on BIS. Under the direction of Martyn Brabbins, Gramophone commended the Nash Ensemble’s ‘flawless performances’ and Bickley’s ‘devastatingly powerful presence’ in Daughters of Zion, composed in 2016 with words by Bristol University’s Head of Theology & Religious Studies Gavin d’Costa.
Josquin: Masses – D’ung aultre amer; Faysant regretz; Hercules Dux Ferrarie
The Tallis Scholars / Peter Phillips (Gimell)
Marking the end of a 34-year journey, The Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips receive this year’s Early Music Award for their ninth and final volume of Josquin Masses. Beginning in 1987, when their album of the Pange lingua and La sol fa re mi Masseswas voted Gramophone’s ‘Recording of the Year’, the singers and Music Director are awarded their fifth Gramophone Early Music Award. As David Fallows, who has followed the series from the beginning, comments, it is the ‘perfect conclusion to a long and challenging journey.’
JS Bach: Lute Suites
Sean Shibe (Delphian)
After winning the first Concept Album award in 2019 for ‘softLOUD’, guitarist Sean Shibe scoops his second Gramophone Award, and second for Delphian, in this year’s Instrumental category (in partnership with Nordoff Robbins) for his album of music for the lute by Bach, released in May 2020. Hailed by Gramophone as ‘the best-ever recording of Bach’ for the instrument, Shibe displays ‘characterful melodic instincts, with flourishes of rolling arpeggiations, exquisite harmonic placements and all kinds of textural delights… his Bach playing reveals the most interesting voice on the guitar for a generation’.
Britten: Peter Grimes
Stuart Skelton, Erin Wall, Roderick Williams, Susan Bickley, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Robert Murray, James Gilchrist, Marcus Farnsworth, Bergen Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra, Edward Gardner (Chandos)
The Opera category goes to Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring long-time collaborators Edward Gardner and Stuart Skelton, who each hold a deep understanding of the work. Recorded in late 2019 in Bergen and released on the Chandos label in 2020, Gramophone’s review hailed the ‘well-chosen’ choice of soloists, a line-up that includes the Canadian-American soprano Erin Wall who died at the tragically young age of 44 last year.
Franz Schmidt: The Complete Symphonies
Frankfurt RSO / Paavo Järvi (DG)
This year’s Orchestral award goes to Paavo Järvi conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra in a distinctive, rare recording of Franz Schmidt’s Symphonies Nos 1-4, released last year on Deutsche Grammophon. Gramophone’s Hugo Shirley suggested that ‘it makes as strong a case for both Schmidt and his symphonies as one could imagine. Essential for the composer’s fans, highly recommended for newcomers.’
JS Bach The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2 – excerpts
Piotr Anderszewski (Warner Classics)
The inaugural winner of the newly-named Piano category is Piotr Anderszewski, who presents this Warner Classics release featuring his own selection of preludes and fugues from JS Bach’s more introspective Book 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Peter Quantrill, reviewing for Gramophone, commended Anderszewski’s ‘scrupulously detailed voicing’, noting that ‘the luminous clarity of the studio engineering all add up to an artefact of enchantment and instruction, more than the sum of its considerable parts.’
Verdi Opera Arias
Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Frédéric Chaslin (Sony Classical)
Another renamed category for 2021, the winner of the Voice & Ensemble Award (previously Recital, and this year sponsored by medici.tv) goes this year to the French baritone Ludovic Tézier, accompanied by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna under the direction of Frédéric Chaslin. Tézier’s extensive stage experience brings Verdi’s ‘fully realised’ characters to life on a ‘mature’ recording, hailed by Gramophone as ‘the finest Verdi recital – from any voice type – to have appeared for several years, if not a decade’.
Malcolm Marineau et al, Vision Quartet (Warner Classics)
Soprano Fatma Said receives her first Gramophone Award in the renamed Song category this year with her debut recording ‘El Nour’ on Warner Classics. Her choice of repertoire is unique and innovative, programming French and Spanish art songs alongside music by Egyptian and Lebanese composers, exploring similarities and differences between Western and Middle Eastern traditions. Accompanied by Malcolm Martineau for the French works, with ney, qanun, guitar and jazz bass adding some Mediterranean warmth, ‘El Nour’ was declared a ‘wonderful album and a very worthy winner’ by Gramophone.
Elgar on the Beach: Piano Quintets by Amy Beach & Edward Elgar – Takács Quartet & Garrick Ohlsson [Hyperion]