The Royal Philharmonic Society – the organisation which commissioned Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and which has sat at the heart of British classical musical life for over 200 years – last night hosted its annual awards ceremony in the City of London. Thirteen awards were made, including honorary membership of the Royal Philharmonic society to the director Graham Vick. RPS Chairman John Gilhooly, in his welcome, commented that 'At the heart of all great music is the idea of looking outwards, of trying to make sense of the world around us, and articulating our thoughts and lives. And in the 21st century, this should be all lives!'
Graham Vick gave an impassioned speech in which he spoke of the revitalising effect of working each year on a production with his Birmingham Opera Company – with an amateur chorus and in non-traditional settings, offering a totally immersive experience for the audience, many of whom are experiencing the art-form for the first time. Last year’s production of Tippett’s The Ice Break featured as a nomination in a couple of categories. The citation for his award stated that ‘Graham Vick has single-handedly changed the way we think about opera. An opera director of worldwide renown, everything he does stems from a passionate belief that opera that has excellence and accessibility at its core, speaks to everyone. He has taken opera out of the opera house and revitalised the repertoire, creating productions that engage both operatic new comers and the most hardened devotees...The point of opera, he says, is “to spark a debate about the way you live your life, about the society you’re in, the way we relate to each other and the choices we make".’
The awards were:
Audiences and Engagement: ‘Multi-Story’ for its regular, and hugely popular, concerts in a car-park in Peckham.
Chamber Music and Song: Carducci String Quartet for last year’s cycle of the complete Shostakovich string quartets.
Chamber-Scale Composition: composer Julian Anderson for his chamber work, Van Gogh Blue.
Concert Series and Festivals: Kings Place for ‘Minimalism Unwrapped’, a festival of music which explored the powerful effect of music that employs repetition that ‘spanned from early plainsong to the newest of the new’.
Conductor: Sakari Oramo for his work with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and for his catholic musical tastes and the ‘the combination of passion and searching intelligence’ he brings to his music-making.
Creative Communication: for the book The Other Classical Musics (Boydell Press, edited by Michael Church).
Ensemble: National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
Instrumentalist: the 25-year-old pianist Daniil Trifonov for his ‘technical brilliance, deep musicality and a fearless sense of adventure’.
Large-Scale Composition: Luca Francesconi for his orchestral work Duende: The Dark Notes, first heard at the 2015 BBC Proms.
Learning and Participation: Tri-borough Music Hub for Seven Seeds, with a libretto by Hazel Gould and music by John Barber, a retelling of the Persephone myth, performed by 1200 children from three London boroughs.
Opera and Music Theatre: Glyndebourne Festival Opera’s production, by Barry Kosky, of Handel’s Saul seen both at Glyndebourne and on tour.
Singer: the baritone Roderick Williams.
Young Artists: the pianist Clare Hammond for her ‘commitment to new repertoire ... talent for creating inventive programmes and her compelling presence as a performer’.
Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society: Graham Vick.
Highlights from the evening, including speeches, performances and interviews, will be broadcast this evening at 7.30pm (and thereafter on the iPlayer) on BBC Radio 3, in association with whom the Awards are given.