The Royal Philharmonic Society honoured some of the most innovative and inspiring artists, ensembles and organisations in British live music-making at their annual Awards this evening.
While the recipients included international stars such as Finnish soprano Karita Mattila in the Singer category (for performances in Janácek’s Jenufa at the Royal Festival Hall and The Makropoulos Case at the BBC Proms), the ceremony was most notable for giving welcome and highly deserved attention to projects, artists and organisations spread throughout the regions of the UK.
A good evening for Scottish festivals saw both the Lammermuir and East Neuk Festivals honoured, while further south, Leeds-based Opera North was acclaimed for its Ring Cycle. That latter project’s conductor Richard Farnes proved a particularly popular choice for the gathered audience at London’s Brewery when he was announced as winner of the Conductor Award.
Another recipient to receive rapturous ovation was pianist Joseph Middleton, winner in the Young Artist category, who spoke of his gratitude for the musical opportunities offered him through his local comprehensive school, and the importance of making sure music remained a readily available part of education today. Exemplifying the idea of openness of music to everyone, the South-West Open Youth Orchestra, whose work with disabled musicians has really pioneered performance possibilities for all, received the Learning and Participation prize.
Other speeches were made by pianist Stephen Hough, who handed out the Awards, and who spoke of the importance of audiences to the live performer - not just for the obvious reason of having people to play for, but for acting for performers as a ‘psychic soundboard’.
Another highlight was a witty excerpt from Edward Dusinberre’s book of life lived with the Takács Quartet, and indeed with Beethoven’s quartets, Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet, which won the Creative Communication category. You can hear Dusinberre talk to Gramophone's Editor-in-Chief James Jolly about the book in a recent Gramophone Podcast, recorded at the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury.
Fretwork, meanwhile, a viol consort whose ever-questing journey through repertoire both Early and completely contemporary is now 30 years old, received the Chamber Music prize, before offering an even more vivid insight into chamber music-making by, appropriately enough given the RPS Award's remit, performing live.
For a more details, visit the RPS Awards website. BBC Radio 3 will be broadcast a programme dedicated to the RPS Music Awards on Sunday May 14 May at 7.30pm.