The Royal Philharmonic Society has unveiled the shortlist of candidates for its annual Awards, presented in recognition of achievement in live performance and outreach work in the UK.
Shortlisted for the Conductor Award (sponsored by BBC Music Magazine) are music director of Opera North Richard Farnes, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s new music director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and Donald Runnicles, outgoing chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
31-year-old Gražinytė-Tyla – who blew audiences away at her outstanding BBC Proms debut last summer – is also nominated in the Young Artists category alongside fellow conductor Andrew Gourlay, soprano Héloïse Werner, and pianist Joseph Middleton.
Middleton, who has made a name for himself as an excellent accompanist to many top singers, also enjoys a double nomination. The Leeds Lieder festival – of which he is music director – has been nominated in the Chamber Music and Song category, alongside accompanist James Baillieu and viol consort Fretwork.
A notable nominee is the Ulster Orchestra, which was on the brink of closure in 2014 until a last-minute funding deal from Stormont and the Belfast City Council saved it from bankruptcy. The orchestra – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year – is the only full-time professional orchestra in Northern Ireland. It goes up against the Manchester Camerata and Southbank Sinfonia in the Ensemble category.
A formidable line-up of soloists make up the Instrumentalist and Singer nominees. Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, violinist James Ehnes and cellist Alisa Weilerstein will compete for the Instrumentalist award. The singers nominated are the British tenor Allan Clayton and mezzo Christine Rice, and Finnish soprano Karita Mattila.
Alisa Weilerstein performs Elgar's famous cello concerto, conducted by Daniel Barenboim
‘This year, the RPS Music Awards jurors were struck by the depth of quality and imagination of artists and organisations from right across the country,’ says RPS chairman John Gilhooly. ‘The shortlists are fizzing with energy, ambition and invention. They celebrate not just musical excellence, but a very tangible pioneering artistic spirit: outstanding musicians and organisations who want to share and encourage musical excellence, investigate new creative avenues and to see music make a real difference to the world we live in.'
Nominations for the RPS Awards are submitted by members of the Royal Philharmonic Society and organisations within the music profession. They are then put to an independent panel to be shortlisted, before the final decision is announced at a ceremony on 9 May.
This year, the ceremony will be presented by BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor and Sarah Walker, and the winners’ trophies will be presented by pianist Stephen Hough. In 1980 Hough won the first ever RPS Julius Isserlis prize, enabling him to study abroad at the Julliard School of Music in New York, and in 2009 won the Instrumentalist Award.
The full shortlist of nominees is as follows:
Audiences and Engagement
Birmingham Opera: #DnA (Dido and Aeneas, Purcell)
East Neuk Festival, in collaboration with 14-18 NOW: Memorial Ground (David Lang)
Chamber Music and Song
Liza Lim: How Forests Think
Rebecca Saunders: Skin
Mark Simpson: Hommage à Kurtàg
Concert Series and Festivals
Cheltenham Music Festival
Philharmonia Orchestra: Stravinsky – Myths and Rituals
Welsh National Opera: Figaro Forever
15 Second Harp
BBC Radio 3: The Listening Service
Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet by Edward Dusinberre (Faber)
Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music by Anna Beer (One World)
Anders Hillborg: The Strand Settings
Enno Poppe: Speicher
Philip Venables: 4.48 Psychosis
Learning and Participation
Age UK Oxfordshire: The Voyage Project (Bob Chilcott)