Leading artists, members of the media and record industry executives gathered in London today to learn the names of the winners of this year's Classic FM Gramophone Awards, long regarded as the Oscars of the classical music world. In addition to the awards, the results of a major research project commissioned by Gramophone were announced at a unique industry event that took place just before the awards presentation. The industry forum and awards presentation were both held at London's Dorchester Hotel.
2006 Gramophone Award Winners
Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra received the prestigious 2006 Record of the Year Award for their performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 (DG).*
Editor-in-Chief James Jolly, who hosted the awards ceremony, commented: "Here is a thrilling memento of a great orchestra welcoming back a former music director with playing of titanic power and sensitivity. Abbado's Mahler Sixth has matured and grown down the years and it's hard to imagine this intense and intensely personal music receiving a greater interpretation by any other living conductor."
The five other finalists for Record of the Year, each given a 2006 Gramophone Award, reflect the breadth and imagination of the industry:
- Abendbilder, a collection of Schubert songs with the young German baritone Christian Gerhaher (RCA). *
- Polish pianist Piotr Anderszewski performing music by his compatriot Karol Szymanowski (Virgin Classics). *
- clarinetist Kari Kriikku and the Finnish RSO conducted by Sakari Oramo in Magnus Lindberg's Clarinet Concerto — a 100% Finnish winner (Ondine). **
- pianist Mikhail Pletnev joined by an all-star line-up for a pair of Taneyev chamber works (DG). *
- Joseph Keilberth conducting Wagner's Ring cycle live at Bayreuth in 1955 — which is, despite previous claims by a rival version, the first stereo recording of the work (Testament).
* = downloadable from iTunes
** = downloadable from iTunes and eMusic.com/ eMusic.co.uk
The Record of the Year was voted for by Gramophone judges — a voting academy made up of retailers, critics and broadcasters.
The Artist of the Year Award was given to Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, of whom James Jolly said: "She made her name with the music of Bach, but Angela Hewitt has demonstrated her musical sympathies in many other composers' work. Her Chabrier enchants, her Ravel amazes and her Bach continues to reward and impress in equal measure."
The hotly contested Label of the Year Award in Association with SFH UK Ltd. was picked up by Virgin Classics. Jolly said that the decision had been a difficult one, but that "under the leadership of Alain Lanceron, Virgin Classics has had a vintage year, combining rare repertoire with classics of the repertoire and matching supreme artists with that music with a sureness of touch and a taste that has few equals."
This year's Editor's Choice Award went to baritone Gerald Finley's disc of Stanford "Songs of the Sea," etc. (BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Hickox; Chandos), commended because "these hearty, very British songs succeed in doing everything they set out to do perfectly! Finley is on magnificent form and Hickox and his Welsh forces are in their element!"
Classic FM's Listeners' Choice Award was given to the glamorous trumpet player Alison Balsom. Jolly explained: "Marrying thrilling musicianship with the looks of a marketer's dreams, Alison Balsom is the very model of a modern classical musician. If a single young artist puts the trumpet on the map, it will be Alison Balsom!"
This year's Lifetime Achievement Award in Association with the BPI was presented to Charles Mackerras. Jolly explained when handing over the award: "No conductor has made such a contribution to recorded music across such a wide range of genres and so successfully as Sir Charles Mackerras. He's been a towering presence on the music scene for decades and continues to thrill, impress and entertain with his committed, stylish conducting."
WQXR Gramophone American Awards
In addition to these awards, Gramophone and New York-based radio station 96.3 WQXR-FM announced four winners of the first annual WQXR Gramophone American Awards, which honor the year's best recording achievements by American artists and in American repertoire, with a special award for an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the world of classical music:
Peter Lieberson and Lorraine Hunt Lieberson:
Rilke Songs, The Six Realms & Horn Concerto (Bridge)
Osvaldo Golijov: Ayre (Deutsche Grammophon)
You Are (Variations) (Nonesuch)
Special Recognition Award — in gratitude for invaluable contribution to classical music and musicians.
James Jolly comments: "Gramophone has always had a close relationship with the U.S. Throughout the 1950s we carried a monthly 'Letter from America' penned by the distinguished critic Harold C. Schonberg, and for the past 15 years we have produced a separate North American edition. These awards focus on recordings that were characterized by the imagination, flair, and innovation that attaches to some of the U.S.'s finest music-making."
"Each of these three recordings is absolutely unique, and yet together they represent the great swath of variety, and the vitality, that characterize the state of American music and music-making today," said WQXR Program Director Margaret Mercer. "And the stratospheric level of performance, and the distinctiveness of the interpretations, express this music in the strongest possible way."
"For 25 years, Mark Morris has taken one great work of music after another and galvanized it with his own visual voice to create great art anew," said WQXR Music Director Hester Furman. "We are grateful for his love of music, and his commitment to it, and we are honored to give him the first Special Recognition Award."
Selections from the WQXR Gramophone American Award winners will be played on WQXR (and streamed at www.wqxr.com) this evening (September 28) at 7:00 pm (US Eastern time), and Gramophone's Record of the Year will be played in its entirety at 9:05 pm (US Eastern time). Selections from all of the award-winning recordings will be featured in programming throughout the day during the week of October 2-6.
To download the winning recordings and a special Awards podcast, visit www.gramophone.co.uk. Full details of the winning recordings and artists are published in the Awards issue of Gramophone, which will be on sale from September 29.
High brow & high tech:
results of a new Gramophone-commissioned study
Far from being fuddy-duddy traditionalists, classical music fans are embracing new technology as never before, new research reveals. Three-quarters of them listen using 21st-century media such as PCs, DAB digital radio, radio via the internet, digital TV and MP3 players, and 57% have 'ripped' (converted to digital format) at least some of their classical CD collection.
The survey of classical music buyers was commissioned by Gramophone to mark the Classic FM Gramophone Awards 2006. It reveals the following trends in buyers of classical music:
From high-brow to high-tech
- 1 in 5 download classical music legally from the internet.
- The same number prefer to listen to classical music on their MP3 or other digital music player.
- The average number of classical downloads per person in the last year was 12, a fraction less than the average 12.7 CDs purchased.
- Downloaders aged over 50 keep in time with younger classical music fans; they each bought an average of 11.5 downloads last year.
- 30% of classical music buffs who don't already have an MP3 player say they will buy one in the next year, with another third saying they will do so at some point.
Classical music is getting more popular
- Classical music is a booming pastime, with 30% of CD buyers saying they'll buy more CDs next year.
- 22% say they will start downloading in the next year.
- Buying downloads is more likely to stimulate than threaten the CD market, with only 6% of downloaders saying they would buy fewer CDs next year.
Listening habits change but old favorites still have a place
- Beethoven and Mozart were the most popular choices for a first download.
- However, the over-50s showed a penchant for more contemporary music for their first download, with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (who has embraced the digital future with his own web site) emerging as an equal favorite with Beethoven.
- Radio emerges as the most trusted source of classical music information, with Classic FM and BBC Radio 3 cited as the most opinion-shaping. Gramophone.co.uk, the online arm of Gramophone magazine, was cited as the second most authoritative source.
- In spite of the obvious appeal of new technology, 83% of classical music buyers still listen to traditional audio equipment, such as CD players, and 74% tune into AM/FM radio for classical listening.
"These findings overturn our preconceptions about the kind of person who buys and listens to classical music," says Gramophone Editor-in-Chief James Jolly. "All ages actively enjoy classical music, with the over-50s showing themselves to be particularly dynamic. Not only do they prove that they have considerable purchasing power, buying more CDs — an average of 17 a year — than any other age group, but they are also technologically adept. We can see a whole new group of mature MP3 listeners — "iPod oldies", perhaps — emerging who are far from old in their outlook."
Awards criteria and voting
This year's Classic FMGramophone Awards cover CDs released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006.
The voting process passes through three rounds:
- Round one reduces the initial list of several hundred discs down to just six in each of the 15 categories. This is undertaken by Gramophone writers working in their individual specialties.
- Round two, in which any of Gramophone's 45 writers can vote, reduces the six per category to a single Best of Category winner.
- Round three is undertaken by a specially convened Gramophone Voting Academy. A number of broadcasters, writers and retailers listen to the 15 Best of Category releases and meet for a morning to argue and lobby, finally voting to produce the final six winners.
Some previous winners of Record of the Year
1985 - Elgar Violin Concerto with Nigel Kennedy
1987 - Josquin Missa La sol fa re mi and Missa Pange lingua
by the Tallis Scholars
1988 - Mahler Symphony No. 2 conducted by Simon Rattle
1992 - Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1-9
conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt
1993 - Anne Sofie von Otter singing Grieg
1995 - Prokofiev and Shostakovich Violin Concertos No. 1
with Maxim Vengerov
1997 - Puccini La rondine conducted by Antonio Pappano
2001 - Vaughan Williams - London Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Richard Hickox
2003 - Schumann string quartets played by the Zehetmair Quartet
2004 - The Marriage of Figaro conducted by Renê© Jacobs
2005 - J. S. Bach Cantatas conducted by John Eliot Gardiner
For a full list see www.gramophone.co.uk.
Previous winners of Artist of the Year
2005 _ã_ Michael Tilson Thomas
2004 _ã_ Magdalena Kozenê
2003 _ã_ Marin Alsop
2002 _ã_ Maxim Vengerov
2001 _ã_ Cecilia Bartoli
2000 _ã_ Antonio Pappano
1999 _ã_ Martha Argerich
1998 _ã_ Riccardo Chailly
1997 _ã_ Yo-Yo Ma
1996 _ã_ Anne Sofie von Otter
1995 _ã_ Pierre Boulez
1994 _ã_ Sir John Eliot Gardiner
1993 _ã_ Sir Simon Rattle
1992 _ã_ Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
1991 _ã_ Luciano Pavarotti
Previous winners of Lifetime Achievement Award
2005 _ã_ Marilyn Horne
2004 - The London Symphony Orchestra
2003 _ã_ Leontyne Price
2002 _ã_ Mirella Freni
2001 _ã_ Victoria de Los Angeles
2000 _ã_ Carlo Begonzi
1999 _ã_ Isaac Stern
1998 _ã_ Menahem Pressler
1997 _ã_ Mstislav Rostropovich
1996 _ã_ Yehudi Menuhin
1995 _ã_ Sir Michael Tippett
1994 _ã_ Klaus Tennstedt
1993 _ã_ Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
1992 _ã_ Sir Georg Solti
1991 _ã_ Dame Joan Sutherland