Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson took home the top prize at this year's BBC Music Magazine Awards for his recording Johann Sebastian Bach. This stunning collection of JS Bach transcriptions and original keyboard works was awarded Recording of the Year and the Instrumental Award.

‘Víkingur Ólafsson’s beautifully crafted Bach programme is a balm for the ears’, wrote our jury. ‘His mix of original keyboard works and arrangements by a host of pianist-composers is played with such joy – his articulation is pin-sharp, his dynamic and tonal control constant delights. If ever there was an album to demonstrate Bach’s timelessness, this is it.’

This is a real achievement for Ólafsson, as this is only his second album on Deutsche Grammophon. ‘I am very touched to win this important award and to know that people enjoy listening to it,’ says Ólafsson. ‘Playing and recording Bach is in many ways the most personal thing one can do in music, and I am very grateful for the incredibly kind and generous reactions.’

A new category was added to the Awards this year: the BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year. This was awarded to violinist Tasmin Little for her contribution to classical music over the course of her career.

A new recording of Mahler’s blistering Symphony No. 1 by the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra under Adám Fischer won the Orchestral Award. This disc was part of a cycle of all Mahler’s nine symphonies, the Third of which was also longlisted for this year’s Awards.

The Concerto Award went to Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, for his recordings of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 4, performed live with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

In a year of dozens of major Debussy releases to mark the composer’s centenary, one came out top in our Chamber category. Debussy: The Late Works, a collection of works performed by a crack team of Harmonia Mundi artists including violinist Isabelle Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov, playing on period instruments from the time of the music’s writing, took home the Chamber Award.

A recording by Christian Curnyn’s Early Opera Company of Handel’s Acis and Galatea won in the Opera category this year, with stunning performances from soprano Lucy Crowe and tenor Allan Clayton.

Our Choral Award went to the latest disc by the Gabrieli Consort, in its third BBC Music Magazine Awards victory, for A Rose Magnificat. This breathtaking programme of works from the 15th century to present day follows victories for Paul McCreesh’s ensemble in 2012, with Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts and in 2014, with Britten’s War Requiem.

Baritone Florian Boesch has won this year’s Vocal Award, with a powerful performance of songs by Schumann and Mahler, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau.

The winners were chosen by the public from a longlist of 21 nominated discs, chosen by our expert jury, chaired by BBC Music Magazine’s managing editor Rebecca Franks. Also on the jury, critic, writer and editor Claire Jackson; critic, composer and senior editor of Wales Arts Review Steph Power; Reader in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London, Anthony Pryer; critic and journalist Paul Riley; presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Record Review, Andrew McGregor; and Oliver Condy and Michael Beek, editor and reviews editor of BBC Music Magazine respectively.

The jury whittled down the 21 nominees from a list of over 200 recordings that were awarded five-star reviews in the last 12 months.

As always, there were three Jury Awards given this year. Premiere of the Year went to Jörg Widmann’s blazing Viola Concerto, performed by Antoine Tamestit, with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding. DVD of the Year was awarded to Britten’s Billy Budd, filmed at Teatro Real in Madrid with baritone Jacques Imbrailo singing the eponymous role. Newcomer of the Year has been awarded to cellist Laura van der Heijden, the winner of BBC Young Musician in 2012 who released her debut album 1948: works by Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Shaporin and Lyadov in 2018, which was met with huge praise.

The winners were announced at a ceremony at Kings Place in London, hosted by BBC Music Magazine's editor Oliver Condy with Radio 3's Sara Mohr-Pietsch. Guest presenters included Gareth Malone, BBC TV and Radio 3 presenter Katie Derham, saxophonist Jess Gillam, cellist and principal of the Birmingham Conservatoire Julian Lloyd Webber, comedian Steve Punt, actor and star of The Arches Carole Boyd.

Some of the winners performed works from their award-winning discs, with Recording of the Year award-winner Víkingur Ólafsson playing Bach's Organ Sonata No. 4 and Widerstehe doch der Sünde, both transcribed for the piano. Newcomer of the Year Laura van der Heijden performed Lyadov's Prelude in B minor from his Trois Morceaux with pianist Petr Limonov, before BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year Tasmin Little took to the stage with the Gavotte from Bach's Partita No. 3.

To see the full list of nominated recordings, click here.

Full list of winners:

Recording of the Year

JS Bach
Works by JS Bach; transcriptions of Bach by Wilhelm Kempff, August Stradal, Ferrucio Busoni, Víkingur Ólafsson, Sergei Rachmaniov and Alexander Siloti
Víkingur Ólafsson (piano)
Deutsche Grammophon 483 5022


Symphony No. 1
Düsseldorf Symphony/Adam Fischer
Avi AVI8553390


Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 4; excerpts from JS Bach’s Partita in E for solo violin, arr. Rachmaninov
Daniil Trifonov (piano); Philadelphia Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Deutsche Grammophon 483 5335


Acis and Galatea
Lucy Crowe, Allan Clayton, Benjamin Hulett, Neal Davies, Jeremy Budd; Early Opera Company/Christian Curnyn
Chandos CHSA 0404(2)


A Rose Magnificat
Works by Leighton, Tallis, Warlock, White, MacMillan, Sheppard, Park, Wylkynson, Howells, Lane and Martin
Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
Signum SIGCD 536


Schumann • Mahler
Schumann: Liederkreis, Op. 39; Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister; Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Florian Boesch (baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Linn CKD 511


Debussy The Late Works
Isabelle Faust (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Xavier de Maistre (harp), Antoine Tamestit (viola), Magali Mosnier (flute), Alexander Melnikov, Javier Perianes, Tanguy De Williencourt (piano)
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902303


JS Bach
Works by JS Bach; transcriptions of Bach by Wilhelm Kempff, August Stradal, Ferrucio Busoni, Víkingur Ólafsson, Sergei Rachmaniov and Alexander Siloti
Víkingur Ólafsson (piano)
Deutsche Grammophon 483 5022

Jury Awards

Personality of the Year

Tasmin Little (violin)

Newcomer of the Year

Laura van der Heijden (cello)

Works by Prokofiev, Shaporin, Myaskovsky and Lyadov
Laura van der Heijden (cello), Petr Limonov (piano)
Champs Hill Records CHRCD136


Widmann Violin Concerto

Widmann Concerto; 24 Duets (selection); Hunt Quartet
Antoine Tamestit (viola); Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding; Mark Bouchkov (violin), Bruno Philippe (cello); Signum Quartet
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902268


Billy Budd
Jacques Imbrailo (Billy Budd), Toby Spence (Edward Fairfax Vere), Brindley Sherratt (John Claggart) et al; Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Real Madrid/Ivor Bolton; dir. Deborah Warner (Madrid, 2017)
BelAir Classiques BAC554

Listen to tracks from all the winning discs here:


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.