The Royal Philharmonic Society Awards have named conductor Kirill Karabits, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and pianist Steven Osborne as the individual performing stars of 2012, while the success of the Cultural Olympiad was crowned by three of its events winning awards: Birmingham Opera Company’s Mittwoch aus Licht, community opera Cycle Song, and PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 commissioning series.
The awards were presented by RPS gold medallist Dame Janet Baker at a ceremony last night, hosted by Radio 3 presenters Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Sean Rafferty.
Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest (which receives its first full production at Covent Garden’s Linbury Theatre in June) was named best large-scale composition, and Rebecca Saunders won the chamber-scale composition award for the second time in her career for Fletch, premiered by the Arditti Quartet in November 2012.
Britten Sinfonia won the ensemble category after a year in which it launched its own choir and youth academy and became an associate ensemble of the Barbican.
‘The outstanding Britten Sinfonia players and their infectious passion for music are at the root of the orchestra’s success,’ said its chief executive, David Butcher, also current ABO/Rhinegold Orchestra Manager of the Year. ‘Their talent, enquiring musical minds and determination for excellence are celebrated with this award. We’re delighted to receive it, and as fitting for an orchestra that is 20 years young, we’re looking forward to the many musical challenges ahead.’
Music in the Round won the chamber music and song award and the Heath Quartet won the young artist category.
The Philharmonia’s Universe of Sound project at the Science Museum won the award for Audiences and Engagement (it is currently on tour, next at Birmingham Municipal Bank 25 May-16 June).
Classic FM won the award for creative communication in its 20th anniversary year, for its ‘remarkable record in broadening the reach of classical music, bringing British and international artists to new audiences and developing game-changing partnerships with regional orchestras’.
John Gilhooly, chairman of the RPS, opened proceedings with a celebratory but also hard-hitting speech, in which he hailed 2012 as ‘an extraordinary year for live classical music in the UK … despite a difficult political and economic climate’.
Referring to the recent call by Maria Miller to the arts community to ‘hammer home the value of culture to our economy’, Gilhooly said:
‘Making money never has, and never should be, the driving force for great art. The Philharmonic Society sent Beethoven £100 on his deathbed to ease his penury, and commissioned Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, not because they expected or even hoped for a blockbuster success, but because they, quite simply, wanted to hear more of his music.
‘So, whilst mindful of the absolute need to unite with the government and funders in framing the positive economic arguments for expenditure on the arts I want to make a direct plea to Maria Miller and the government: please let’s not allow creativity, vision, excellence, enjoyment and culture’s potential to change lives to be lost in the debate, even in times of austerity.’
However, he warned arts organisations that ‘It’s counterproductive to just moan with individual or organizational tales of woe and it’s important that we don’t come across to the wider world or government as being fragmented or self-serving.’
FULL AWARDS AND CITATIONS
Audiences and Engagement
Universe of Sound (Philharmonia Orchestra)
Southampton’s Musical Alphabet (Turner Sims)
The Big Concert (Sistema Scotland, Opening Night of London 2012 Festival)
The Universe of Sound partnership between the Philharmonia Orchestra, its principal conductor and the Science Museum provided a thrilling, interactive experience for all ages, continuing the orchestra’s exploration of digital media to find and engage new audiences. Many of them attended the associated Planets:Live concert at the Southbank Centre, and the project is now touring with the Philharmonia and other orchestras in the UK and abroad.
Chamber Music and Song
Music in the Round
Music in the Round is a week-by-week, year-round festival of chamber music based in Sheffield, which works indefatigably to create imaginative and eclectic programming and excellence in performance. Reaching a wide range of regional venues and audiences, it provides an exemplary model of working and continues to draw inspiration from its versatile resident ensemble, Ensemble 360.
Chamber-Scale Composition (supported by Boosey and Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell)
Rebecca Saunders: Fletch
Colin Matthews: String Quartet No. 4
Tansy Davies: Nature
The winning work seems to open up for its composer, the potential for the exploration of a new kind of language, through the vividness of its images, the clarity and integrity of its writing and its thrilling sonic effects. The award goes to Rebecca Saunders for Fletch.
Concert Series and Festivals
New Music 20×12 (PRS for Music Foundation)
Sound Festival (North East Scotland)
The Award goes to a project which combined an imaginative commissioning process with extensive dissemination, so that it was a truly national series for excellent new music. It was intelligent and brave, and brought new music to new audiences. As a response to the Olympics it was ambitious, had real artistic integrity and its achievement is a fitting legacy to an extraordinary year. The winneris New Music 20×12.
The award goes to a musician whose charisma, imagination, scholarly intelligence and vivid communication have touched audiences wherever he performs – whether with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, touring extensively throughout the South-West of England, or with other orchestras in London or at Glyndebourne. Kirill Karabits’s determination to explore and to excel enriches the British music world.
Jane Manning: Voicing Pierrot
Tom Service for Tom Adès: Full of Noises and Music as Alchemy (Faber)
Classic FM has a remarkable record in broadening the reach of classical music, bringing British and international artists to new audiences and developing game-changing partnerships with regional orchestras. This award recognises the station’s achievements in its 20th-anniversary year, including its accomplishments in music education, the continuing success of its CD label, and its newly re-launched and energetically maintained website.
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
The winning ensemble has had innovation and excellence at its heart for 20 years. It is a master at partnerships and collaboration. In 2012, it became Associate Ensemble at the Barbican, its own professional choir completed its first season and it launched an Academy to nurture talented young musicians. The players continue to be up for anything, covering a huge and ever-expanding range of repertoire. They make up an ensemble fit for the 21st Century: Britten Sinfonia.
Steven Osborne (piano)
Colin Currie (percussion)
Francesco Piemontesi (piano)
Steven Osborne’s performances up and down the country this year have confirmed his pre-eminence among British pianists. His un-showy brilliance, integrity, and very wide repertoire have long marked him out, but what now emerges most strongly is the unique magic of his sound combined with a profound musical intelligence.
Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest
Harrison Birtwistle: In Broken Images
Julian Anderson: The Discovery of Heaven
The winning work is by a composer who inspires strong reactions. The forceful originality of this work smashes conventions alongside plates, and miraculously provides the most well-worn quotes with a freshness and originality. Liberation and exhilaration marked its London premiere last year. The award goes to: Gerald Barry: for The Importance of Being Earnest.
Learning and Participation
Cycle Song (Proper Job Theatre Company and Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir)
Anthem for a Child (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Drake Music Scotland: Technophonia by Oliver Searle (New Music 20×12)
LSO On Track at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics
Cycle Song is an enormous, ambitious community opera with a score composed by Tim Sutton and libretto by Ian McMillan. It was driven by music and was spectacularly staged. The work is rooted in the communities of North Lincolnshire and the industrial heritage which binds them together. Inspired by a local Olympic hero and steelworker from 1920, Cycle Song shows what happens to a man committed to achievement and reaching his potential. An inspirational and educational adventure.
Opera and Music Theatre
Mittwoch aus Licht (Birmingham Opera Company)
English Touring Opera (autumn season)
Knussen double bill (Aldeburgh/Barbican)
In an Olympian year, rich with strong productions of contemporary and 20th century opera, the jury chose Birmingham Opera Company for its remarkable production of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht: a world premiere, bold in imagination and brilliant in accomplishment, both hallmarks ofthis company’s approach to reinventing opera for today.
Few singers of the current generation have exhibited such exceptional musicianship and consistency over an increasingly wide range of styles. 2012 gave us further revelations of her artistry from the baroque to the 20th century and extending to Wagner’s Ring. The winner is Sarah Connolly.
Daniil Trifonov (piano)
Duncan Rock (baritone)
Violinists Oliver Heath and Cerys Jones, viola player Gary Pomeroy and cellist Christopher Murray make up the Heath Quartet and together they combine their exceptional calibre of playing and youthful enthusiasm with an ambitious programme of outreach. They engage audiences in venues big and small, and in 2012 they travelled extensively around the UK, bringing diverse music to both seasoned concert-goers and many who had never experienced a live classical ensemble.