Conductor Claudio Abbado, pianist Maurizio Pollini and composers Jonathan Harvey and Sally Beamish were among the winners at this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, an annual celebration of live music in the UK.

The Italian conductor triumphed ahead of fellow nominees Gianandrea Noseda and Donald Runnicles thanks to the ‘indelible, life-changing’ concerts he gave with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2011. It was also at this venue that Maurizio Pollini gave the five recitals that won him the Instrumentalist Award: ‘Here is a giant of the piano,’ said the category jury, ‘an international figure whose fame has nothing to do with hype and everything to do with uncompromising brilliance.’

Other successes in this year’s Awards included English National Opera’s 'beautifully realised production' of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin in the Opera and Music Theatre category; cellist Oliver Coates, who took honours in the Young Artist category for his ‘diverse and virtuosic performances’; and tenor Toby Spence, whose ‘breakthrough year, vocal beauty and dramatic maturity' won him the Singer category. BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now 50 series took the Creative Communication Award for its exploration of 20th-century music, which the jury praised for its ‘clever mixture of personal perspective and expertise’.

Gareth Malone, choral conductor and TV presenter, gave a speech during the Awards at the Dorchester hotel, using the spotlight to discuss the importance of taking part in performing classical music. His sentiment was later echoed when pianist Dame Mitsuko Uchida accepted the Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal, saying that she was still driven by her love of playing new pieces badly at home.

Founded in 1813, the Royal Philharmonic Society has played an important role in the country's musical life ever since, particularly in commissioning new works. Beethoven's Ninth and Mendelssohn's Italian Symphonies were written for the Society. Since 1989, it has presented the RPS Awards for excellence in live performance.

The June issue of BBC Music Magazine, on sale now, includes coverage of all of this year’s RPS Award winers.

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Music Awards programme on Sunday 13 May at 2pm.

Award winners in full

Audiences and Engagement: Spitalfields Music: Buy One, Donate One

Chamber Music and Song: Apartment House

Chamber-Scale Composition: Sally Beamish: Reed Stanzas

Concert Series and Festivals: Aldeburgh Festival 2011

Conductor: Claudio Abbado

Creative Communication: BBC Radio 3: Hear and Now 50

Ensemble: National Youth Choir of Scotland

Instrumentalist: Maurizio Pollini

Large-scale composition: Jonathan Harvey: Messages

Learning and Participation: Spitalfields Music: We Are Shadows

Opera and Music Theatre: ENO: Eugene Onegin

Singer: Toby Spence

Young Artists: Oliver Coates

Gold Medal: Mitsuko Uchida


Rebecca Franks
Rebecca FranksJournalist, Critic and former Managing Editor of BBC Music Magazine

Rebecca Franks is the former Managing Editor of BBC Music Magazine and a regular classical music critic for The Times. She is currently writing her first children's book.