The Music Section of The Critics’ Circle
is delighted to announce the winners of our
Awards for 2020 and 2021

Young Talent (Composer) Alex Ho
Young Talent (Conductor) Jonathon Heyward
Young Talent (Voice) William Thomas
Young Talent (Piano) Nicolas Namoradze
Lockdown Star Dr Hugh Mather and the volunteers at St Mary’s, Perivale

Outstanding achievement, Joint award: VOPERA’s 2020 production of
streaming and digital L’enfant et les sortilèges by Maurice Ravel, and
the OperaGlass Works production of The Turn
of the Screw by Benjamin Britten
Outstanding achievement Birmingham Opera, in memory of
in opera the work of Graham Vick

Our Young Talent Awards applaud the way our award winners have
triumphantly overcome the hardships and challenges of the last two years to
make significant breakthroughs in their careers.

The Critics’ Circle Awards are unique, decided by the country’s most
experienced professional arts journalists and critics on the basis of hearing the
widest range of performances across the UK and Ireland.

This year we also recognise the outstanding achievements of individuals and
organisations in response to the uniquely adverse circumstances of the pandemic in two
• A Lockdown Star Award for efforts and results during the pandemic of a level
far beyond anything that could be reasonably expected
• A Digital/Streaming Award for performance without live audience, of a
particularly admirable standard
Our Outstanding Achievement in Opera Award recognises the unique value of the
ultimate collaborative artform, and celebrates the ambition and achievement of British
opera companies.
The Music Section of The Critics’ Circle comprises the country’s most respected
critics and music journalists. Membership of the Circle is by invitation.

Young Talent (composer)
Alex Ho is an exciting composer who has had a
determinedly creative lockdown, putting out valuable
works and winning major commissions at a difficult
time. He combines a coherent individual voice with a
breadth of styles, genres and instrumental disciplines,
all fired by the spark of his imagination, combining his
Chinese heritage and Western Classical form in a
compelling and individual way.
His AMAZON, one of the most original multi-media
works to come out of lockdown, was commissioned by London Sinfonietta and Music
Theatre Wales, and created over Zoom using stop-motion animation, narration and
ingenious use of ‘found sounds’. Other works he has had performed over the last two
years include Breathe and Draw for sinfonietta, two conductors and audience
participation, Gambit, premiered in Salzburg, and In Significance for seven players,
written for the London Symphony Orchestra and performed at St Luke’s in February

Young Talent (conductor)
American by birth (from Augusta, Georgia),
Jonathon Heyward is proving an indispensable
asset to British musical life. In 2020-21, he
conducted Hannah Kendall’s The Knife of Dawn at
Covent Garden, championed Elgar in Germany,
and made a rapturously acclaimed Proms debut
with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
in a scintillating performance of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti,
and a “fast and fearless… exuberant” Eroica conducted from memory. His rapport with
the young players was manifest throughout. Equally at home in Stravinsky as in Haydn
and Dvořák, Jonathon Heyward seems the complete musician.

Young Talent (voice)
In the few years since he first came to attention
with competition successes followed by debuts
with important companies and at major venues,
the young British singer William Thomas has
impressed not only with the exceptional quality of
his bass voice, but also with his serious and
developing artistry, demonstrated as an operatic
performer on the stage and as a recitalist in the world of song on the concert platform.
His appearances during the 2020/21 season included The Magic Flute at Glyndebourne,
Masetto in Don Giovanni for Seattle Opera, Jesus in a tour of Bach’s St John Passion
under Sir John Eliot Gardiner; he made his BBC Proms debut in Mozart’s Requiem, and
sang Colline (La bohème) for ENO at Alexandra Palace and Sciarrone in Tosca for the
company at Crystal Palace.
In 2021 he also joined the BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists and appeared on Jess
Gillam’s This Classical Life on Radio 3.

Young Talent (piano)
Nicolas Namoradze may be a top-flight pianist,
but he is very much more than that. He is a
ceaseless hunter-out of unjustly forgotten
repertoire – for example his championing of the
works of York Bowen – and he is also a composer
in his own right. And his neuroscientific research
into how the brain processes music may alter the
way musicians both practice pieces and learn them.
His UK performances are as yet few and far
between, but two recent ones have been
exceptionally memorable. At the Wigmore Hall in 2020 he electrified his audience – and
also seemed to electrify himself – with a performance of his own intricate piano studies.
And at the Royal Festival Hall he gave a riveting account of Stravinsky’s Capriccio for
Piano & Orchestra, as well as a performance of Beethoven’s 4th piano concerto with the

Lockdown Star

St Mary’s, Perivale – a tiny, Grade
1-listed redundant church in west
London – has punched far above its
weight with the range and quality of
its streamed recitals. Dr Hugh Mather and the team – all volunteers – carried on with
their three weekly recitals when Covid hit, providing young artists with paid employment
and a platform during this hardest of times, raising their own funds, largely through
donations, to pay the artists without any public subsidies. Both the quality of the
concerts on offer and the diversity of performers and repertoire put the response of
many larger, subsidised venues to shame. The concerts were streamed live using very
high quality equipment installed by two former BBC engineers, Simon Shute and George
Auckland. Live audiences are now back at the free-of-charge concerts, and live
streaming continues. St Mary’s broadcast 154 live concerts and 53 recordings during the
pandemic, and a full schedule of recitals for the year ahead is already in place.

We also wanted to give a special mention to Tom Poster and Elena Urioste. Among
the many people who streamed live performance during lockdown they stood out for
their sheer joyousness, eclectic musical choices and beautiful playing. Something that
started just for a small circle of friends spread much more widely and reached a huge
number of people, and brightened up our lives.
Similarly, The Wigmore Hall was a figurehead of the kind the music world needs: and
it eagerly grabbed the role. It was an absolute beacon, and despite all its obvious
advantages, the hall went far beyond what it needed to do. We would like to express our
admiration of John Gilhooly, not only for the remarkable series of free online streams,
which brought solace for audiences and work for musicians, but also for speaking up for
the industry at a time when many leaders of arts organisations in the UK were
conspicuous for their silence.

Outstanding Achievement, Streaming and Digital
Joint Winners: OperaGlass Works – The Turn of the Screw, and VOPERA –
L’enfant et les sortilèges
OperaGlass Works’ swift pivot from a planned live-staging to not just filmed but fully
reimagined and conceptualised digital opera in The Turn of the Screw represented both a
highly creative response to circumstances and a satisfying digital product. Both musical
and cinematic values were of the highest standard, and we hope this film will go on to
have a long legacy on Marquee and beyond.
We loved the ingenuity of VOPERA’s production of L’enfant et les sortilèges – showing
us something fresh and new in its blend of animation and live performance, as well as
offering a meaningful and topical response to extraordinary circumstances. We hope it
too can go on to find a wider audience online.

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
We wanted to express our admiration and gratitude
to Birmingham Opera, and the late Graham Vick, for
their extraordinary achievement over the years. This
company, Vick’s brainchild, represents something
unique in opera, and not only for the UK: a genuine
attempt – and genuinely successful – to do
something thoughtful, demanding and different (but
not simply for the sake of it) – with huge
imagination and energy, seeking to find what opera
could mean in and for contemporary society. Never
comfortable or safe, with lots of sharp edges,
performed in highly unusual venues, the operas
completely rethought for modern times, this was an
annual reminder that opera has the power to be the most direct, unbeatably powerful,
entertaining and involving medium to address things that really matter.