The Royal Philharmonic Society’s annual music awards ceremony has shifted its venue from a slightly stuffy Park Lane Hotel to the giant barn that is the Brewery round the corner from the Barbican, all historic associations, wooden rafters and cool exposed brickwork. Result: more room, more people, more vibe, and a sense that the focus, too, may have shifted. To the forefront was a passion for education, outreach and edgy matters involving technology; this time it was all about the audiences of tomorrow, with fine industry recognition for those who are making that happen today.
The music director of the Royal Opera House, Sir Antonio Pappano, was presented with the RPS Gold Medal – the 100th recipient, with this venerable charity that commissioned Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 – and made an impassioned speech recalling the joys of children’s spontaneous responses to music and, indeed to La Traviata. Composers, conductors, concert series and much more followed, with Dame Felicity Lott quietly presenting the little silver lyres. All that was missing, really, was a piano, as the winner of the Young Artist Award, the soprano Mary Bevan, had had to pre-record her performance for the evening (glad to say it was by Fauré).
Violist Laurence Power and violinist James Ehnes, both shortlisted in the Instrumental category, lost out to the dynamic Colin Currie, playing percussion in a kilt, and the Arditti Quartet, though shortlisted in two categories, were ultimately left out in the cold. But the real winners – and the unsung heroes and heroines of the entire caboodle – are the orchestral players who make it possible for the head honchos of their ensembles to step up and be cheered by the industry. The Philharmonia’s iOrchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, English National Opera, the ROH Orchestra, the CBSO (whose outgoing maestro, Andris Nelsons, scooped the conductor award) and the various brilliant forces who ploughed their way through the Birtwistle at 80 at the Barbican and the Britten War Requiem project at the Southbank – should all feel free to give themselves a hefty pat on the back.
A special programme featuring highlights from the RPS Music Awards ceremony, interviews and music will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Monday 11 May at 7.30pm (and on BBC iplayer).
Here’s the complete list of winners. (And more info here.)
Singer – Christian Gerhaher
Instrumentalist – Colin Currie
Conductor – Andris Nelsons
Young Artists – Mary Bevan
Large-Scale Composition – Hans Abrahamsen
Chamber-Scale Composition – Graham Fitkin
Opera and Music Theatre – English National Opera
Ensemble – London Contemporary Orchestra
Chamber Music and Song – Oxford Lieder Festival
Concert Series and Festival – The Barbican: Birtwistle at 80
Audiences and Engagement – Philharmonia iOrchestra
Learning and Participation – Southbank Centre: War Requiem
Creative Communication – Royal Opera House: The Opera Machine
Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal – Sir Antonio Pappano