Thomas Adès, Les Arts Florissants, Boston SO, Elim Chan, CBSO, Joyce DiDonato, Vilde Frang, Benjamin Grosvenor, Igor Levit, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Sandrine Piau are among the artists and ensembles recognised by awards
One of these recordings will go on to win the prestigious Recording of the Year Award, to be announced on October 6 alongside other special awards
Gramophone today [Tuesday September 22] announced the winners of the 10 categories of its annual classical music awards, widely regarded as the ‘Oscars of classical music’. Each of these winning recordings is now in the running for the ultimate prize, Recording of the Year, which will be announced at the awards ceremony on October 6 at an online gala streamed live on gramophone.co.uk and medici.tv.
The special digital event will be hosted by Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly and the mezzo Kate Lindsey – filmed largely around the beautiful grounds at Glyndebourne – with newly recorded original performances by present and past Award winners, including Bach Collegium Musicum, Bertrand Chamayou, Benjamin Grosvenor, Carolyn Sampson and Stile Antico, as well as announcements of other special Awards such as Artist of the Year (sponsored by Raymond Weil), Lifetime Achievement and Orchestra of the Year (presented with Apple Music, and the only public vote), as well as a one-off Beethoven 250 Award for 2020, the composer’s anniversary year.
James Jolly, Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief, said: ‘What a line-up of fantastic recordings – a wonderful reminder of the power and variety of classical music. 2020’s crop is truly vintage and the range of music and music-making is inspiring. A number of artists are returning to the Awards but it’s good to see some fine artists recognised for the first time, including two terrific women conductors. I hope you’ll join Kate Lindsey and me on October 6 to celebrate this wonderful feast of music, and when we’ll also be revealing our artist awards.’
Following her 2016 Concerto win, Vilde Frang takes this year’s Chamber category alongside fellow players Barnabás Kelemen, Lawrence Power, Nicolas Altstaedt and Alexander Lonquich. Their recording of Béla Bartók’s Piano Quintet and Sándor Veress’s String Trio on Alpha Classics was deemed ‘unmissable’ by Gramophone on its release this year.
In their second Gramophone Award (having previously won the same award in 2017) Bach Collegium Japan win this year’s Choral category under Masaaki Suzuki with their recording of Bach’s St Matthew Passion on the BIS label. This is their second recording of the work and, after 20 years of performing the music of Bach, they have reached new levels of insight and expression resulting in an album that, as Gramophone put it, ‘takes us on a journey which will continually enthral, move and surprise’.
Gramophone’s 2012 Young Artist of the Year, Benjamin Grosvenor (still in his twenties!), returns to the Awards this year with his recording of two Chopin piano concertos winning the Concerto category (sponsored by Classic FM). Joined by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Elim Chan on the Decca label, Gramophone hailed the ‘bold decisions’ taken by the musicians that makes you rethink these works and appreciate them all over again.
Thomas Adès is no stranger to the Awards and, in his fourth win across 22 years, he takes this year’s Contemporary category (sponsored by PPL) conducting his own Piano Concerto and Totentanz on Deutsche Grammophon. With soloists Kirill Gerstein, Mark Stone, Christianne Stotijn, Adès conducts the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Gramophone said, ‘for proof that Adès does what he does with mind-boggling brilliance, look no further’.
The Early Music category has been won this year by Les Arts Florissants and Paul Agnew with their recording of Gesualdo’s Madrigali, Libri primo & secondo on Harmonia Mundi. The group continue to record at their renowned Award-winning heights, this being their ninth win since their first in 1982.
Having entered onto the recording scene just six years ago, pianist Igor Levit continues to astound, winning this year’s Instrumental award (and marking the tenth year running that this award has gone to a pianist). His recording of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas for Sony Classical completes the cycle he stated at the age of just 26, showcasing his ‘beguiling’ attention to detail and technical panache, as Gramophone’s review put it.
The Opera category (sponsored by E Gutzwiller et Cie, Private Bankers) goes to Handel’s Agrippina on the Erato label, featuring a star-studded cast with the likes of Joyce DiDonato, Elsa Benoit, Luca Pisaroni, Franco Fagioli, Jakub Józef Orliński, Andrea Mastroni, Carlo Vistoli, Biagio Pizzuti and Marie-Nicole Lemieux with Il Pomo d’Oro and Maxim Emelyanychev. ‘This now becomes a first choice for Handel’s Venetian masterpiece’, Gramophone’s review declared.
This year’s Orchestral award goes to the widely-acclaimed recording of Weinberg’s Symphonies Nos 2 & 21 by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica led by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, released by Deutsche Grammophon. This album, alongside their UK premiere of Symphony No 21 last year, has completely transformed Weinberg’s reputation in the UK – a feat perhaps only achievable with newly-appointed dynamo, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, who may have created what Gramophone has dubbed ‘one of the most important symphonic releases of the year’.
In her first ever Gramophone win, Sandrine Piau receives the Recital prize this year for her album ‘Si j’ai aimé’ on Alpha Classics. With Le Concert de la Loge and Julien Chauvin, the musicians explore relatively unfamiliar French repertory with which they are very much at home, Piau giving her silvery tone and ‘immaculate sense of line’ throughout a ‘most engaging’ release.
Nicky Spence clinches the Solo Vocal category (sponsored by Glyndebourne) this year with his recording of Janáček’s The diary of one who disappeared, with Julius Drake very much an equal partner on piano. On the Hyperion label, this solo outing showcases the Scottish tenor with songs by a composer ‘for whom his gifts – both vocally and temperamentally – seem to be ideally suited.’
The Gramophone Awards will be available to watch for free on Gramophone’s website, Facebook and YouTube pages and on medici.tv, reaching audiences in more than 180 countries. Last year, more than 100,000 people tuned in from across the globe and with this being conceived and broadcast as a digital event, numbers are expected to exceed that. The broadcast will then be available for catch-up until January 2021, with highlights available on applemusic.com/gramoawards.
The Gramophone Classical Music Awards are presented in association with Apple Music, medici.tv and Help Musicians UK, Gramophone‘s charity partner.
Gramophone’s Awards issue, published on October 7, will contain full information on the Awards and all of this year’s winners.
In a special Awards winners Podcast today, Gramophone’s Editor, Martin Cullingford, and Gramophone’s Reviews Editor, Tim Parry, talk to James Jolly about the ten winning albums.
Listen to the winning albums and a winner’s playlist on Gramophone‘s curator page on Apple Music.