The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) is delighted that its recording of Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage with Principal Conductor Edward Gardnerhas won Gramophone’s Opera Award 2023. The winner was announced this evening, Wednesday 4 October, at the annual Gramophone Awards ceremony, held this year at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London. The LPO was also nominated for Orchestra of the Year and in the Contemporary category for its premiere recording of James MacMillan’s Christmas Oratorio.
Released on the Orchestra’s own LPO Label in September 2022, this release of The Midsummer Marriage is the first commercial recording of the opera in over 50 years. It was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall on the opening night of the LPO’s 2021/22 season, which also marked the beginning of Gardner’stenure as Principal Conductor and the first concert to a full audience following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gardner, unable to attend in person as he is on tour with the Orchestra in South Korea and Taiwan, sent a video acceptance, in which he said: ‘I’m thrilled to accept this Gramophone Award. I very well remember that first rehearsal, when one of the principal players came up to me and said “this is almost impossible!” Well, luckily, “almost impossible” for the LPO is not impossible at all, as they’ve shown on this recording. I must also thank the LPO for their very brave decision to allow me to go through with this at a time when we did not even know how many people would be allowed on stage.’
With a libretto by the composer, The Midsummer Marriage is a modern myth of hope and renewal, ritual and romance. Drawing on a wide variety of influences including Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and English folklore, the story traces the path of two couples to marriage: Jenifer and Mark, and Jack and Bella, over three acts: morning, afternoon, and evening & night.
‘It’s a drug, this piece,’ Gardner continued in his acceptance speech, ‘like all Tippett’s music, and you’re completely intoxicated by its vivacity, its virtuosity, its playfulness and I’m so happy we have a document of that one evening.’
The cast comprises tenor Robert Murray as Mark; soprano Rachel Nicholls as Jenifer; bass-baritone Ashley Riches as King Fisher; soprano Jennifer France as Bella; tenor Toby Spence as Jack; mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones as Sosostris;mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley as She-Ancient; bass Joshua Bloom as He-Ancient; tenor John Findon as Dancing Man; bass-baritone Paul Sheehan as Half-Tipsy Man; bass Robert Winslade Anderson as A Man; and mezzo-soprano Sophie Goldrick as A Girl with the London Philharmonic Choir and English National Opera Chorus.
David Burke, Chief Executive of the London Philharmonic Orchestra says: ‘I am delighted that this recording has won Gramophone’s Opera Award 2023 – we were in a really strong category with other brilliant nominees. This award really is an exceptional achievement, especially when you consider the ever-changing COVID rules at the time, and the fact that we recorded it live in one evening. The London Philharmonic Orchestra has such a strong reputation for its quality of ensemble, flexibility, and ambition of programming, which is reflected in all three nominations this evening. This award belongs to all those who were involved in the recording; I’d also particularly like to thank the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation in memory of Dennis Marks, Sally Groves, and all those who supported the Royal Festival Hall performance.’
The Midsummer Marriage and the entire LPO back catalogue are now available on Apple Music Classical, the streaming app designed specifically for classical music, as part of our new partnership with them. The Midsummer Marriage is also exclusively available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos on the app.
The next LPO Label release is another live recording with Edward Gardner: Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust which will be available on the Apple Music Classical app for three months from Friday 3 November 2023, and on general digital and physical release from Friday 3 February 2024.