At the end of an electrifying evening of music-making and heartfelt speeches, Gramophone's Editor-in-Chief James Jolly closed with these words: ‘At a time of uncertainty and chaos, not just in this country, but globally, there is one thing that brings us all together. In this room we have people from all over the world, and yet we all share a common language – music. Music not just brings us together but it’s what holds us together. It provides hope and certainty, but also fantasy and escape. And in a world of increasing and shameless dishonesty it also provides truth. So, a simple request before we part – “Let us all remain brothers and sisters in music”.’
The event was attended by many Award winners, including Jean-Guihen Queyras, Lionel Meunier and Hervé Niquet. There were also stunning live performances from some of the special Award winners including Víkingur Ólafsson, Bertrand Chamayou and Sean Shibe. The pianist Denis Kozhukhin represented Label of the Year, Pentatone.
Former Gramophone Award winners, Arte dei Suonatori played, and guest performer, Delphine Galou, sang a spectacular Vivaldi aria. Jakub Józef Orliński and Emma Kirkby closed the evening with a moving Bach duet.
In the only Award decided by public vote, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra was named Orchestra of the Year.
The Hong Kong Philharmonic and its Music Director Jaap van Zweden triumphed in a shortlist of 10 world-famous orchestras, largely because of their outstanding and ambitious recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle which underlines the orchestra’s growing stature and excellence under van Zweden, and has captured the hearts of the public at this difficult time in their home city. The Orchestra of the Year Award is sponsored by Apple Music.
The much-coveted Recording of the Year prize went to French pianist Bertrand Chamayou, for his recording of Saint-Saëns piano concertos on Erato, which also won the Concerto category. This is the first time since 2002 that any work by Saint-Saëns has appeared on a Gramophone Award-winning recording. In Chamayou’s own words, for a composer who is so often dismissed in his own country as ‘superficial’, his music contains ‘moments of astonishing depth, as well as a strange and entrancing charm – a charm laced with venom’.
Dame Emma Kirkby, praised for ‘radically changing the music of our time’ with her distinctive voice, focused artistry and highly intelligent music-making was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. This Award recognises her profound impact on the early music revival across five decades as a lynchpin of one of the most important and influential movement’s in today’s musical world.
Víkingur Ólafsson, the Icelandic pianist who has been making increasingly big waves in the music world, from his early recordings to his recent signing with Deutsche Grammophon was named Artist of the Year. Ólafsson was praised for having the gift of ‘making something familiar feel entirely his own, drawing you into a world where no other interpretation seems possible’ (Gramophone, 2019). This Award is sponsored by Classic FM.
Aged just 28, Jakub Józef Orliński has certainly proved himself worthy of being named Young Artist of the Year. Not many singers could switch roles at short notice to play the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo at Glyndebourne, whilst maintaining a side-hustle as a professional model and break-dancer. The potential pitfall for style over substance clearly doesn’t apply to Orliński, whose debut album ‘Anima Sacra’ on Erato was also deservedly shortlisted for this year’s Recital Award. Young Artist of the Year is presented in partnership with Nordoff Robbins.
Guitarist Sean Shibe becomes the first recipient of a newly-created Award for Concept Album, which celebrates imaginative A&R, ear-catching programming and, above all, faultless execution. Shibe’s album ‘softLOUD’ on Delphian, juxtaposes Scottish Dances and music by James MacMillan played on a traditional acoustic instrument with contemporary works on electric guitar by Julia Wolfe, David Lang and Steve Reich, including a performance of the latter's Electric Counterpoint described by its composer as ‘one of the best recordings ever’. This is the first time that music for electric guitar has featured at the Gramophone Awards. This Award is sponsored by Classical: NEXT.
Only founded in 2002, this year’s Label of the Year is Pentatone. Flaunting an incredibly classy roster of artists, this Netherlands-based label has proved itself with its range and impressive style, especially in the past year. Representing them at the Awards ceremony and giving a stunning live performance was pianist Denis Kozhukhin, an artist whose album of Grieg and Mendelssohn miniatures was selected only last month as Gramophone’s Recording of the Month.
Gramophone also gave a Special Achievement Award to an organisation that has supported the legacy of a great artist with notable imagination and loyalty: the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. In the singer’s centenary year, the Foundation’s campaign has not only beautifully celebrated her extraordinary talent and artistry but is now also responsible for introducing Nilsson to a generation who were never able to experience her live. A magnificent 31-CD set of live performances (released by Sony Classical), a DVD, 'A League of Her Own' (C major/Unitel) and a magnificent hardback book of photographs (published by the Foundation) were the impressive pillars of the campaign.
The Gramophone Classical Music Awards were presented in association with Apple Music, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and Medici.tv.
You can explore all of this year's winners in more detail at 2019 Gramophone Awards