Winners revealed for BBC Music Magazine Awards 2020

Gabrieli Consort’s performance of Purcell’s King Arthur winning both the Opera Award and overall Recording of the Year

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The winners of the 15th annual BBC Music Magazine Awards have been announced, with the Gabrieli Consort’s performance of Purcell’s King Arthur winning both the Opera Award and overall Recording of the Year. 

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Under the direction of Paul McCreesh, the Gabrieli Consort’s vivid interpretation of Purcell’s 1691 opera – recorded on the Signum label – reveals new textures and vivid characterisation. The recording is packed with historical detail: specially produced silver trumpets, a specific bow-hold for the string players, a low pitch and considered dividing of strings for dances and continuo for the strings. A work rarely performed, McCreesh explains that he’s ‘always had a soft spot for any composer’s “awkward child” – I’m instinctively drawn to music that requires skill to make it speak.’

This year’s BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year Award went to American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, who has had a triumphant year, appearing at the Last Night of the Proms and making her title role debut as Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera. She has been a force for change in the opera world, promoting equality, diversity and representation, and speaking out on issues of weight diversity and bi visibility on the opera and recital stages. Barton is a previous winner of the BBC Music Magazine Vocal Award, having won in 2018 for her debut recital album

Conductor John Wilson’s recording with his newly reformed Sinfonia of London of Korngold’s Symphony in F sharp (Chandos label) has won the Orchestral Award. After its catastrophic premiere in 1954, Korngold’s Symphony lay in obscurity for many years, but, as Jessica Duchen wrote in her review for BBC Music Magazine, ‘At long last, it finally has the recording it deserves.’ 

Czech pianist Ivo Kahánek has won his very first BBC Music Magazine Award in the Concerto category for his recording of concertos by Dvořák and Martinů with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Jakub Hrůša (Supraphon label). Composed some 80 years apart, Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G minor and Martinů’s Piano Concerto No. 4 ‘Incantation’ represent two cornerstones of Czech music. 

In another first, Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin takes home the Instrumental Award for the very first time for his recording of Shostakovich solo piano works (Hyperion label). With an astonishing range of colours and energies in his arsenal, Gugnin is a pianist to watch. 

The Choir of Merton College, Oxford and conductor Benjamin Nicholas were victorious in the Choral category with their vibrant, polished recording of Gabriel Jackson’s The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ (Delphian label), a work commissioned by the choir for the college’s 750th anniversary in 2014. The piece uses texts from the Gospels, as well as by poets associated with college. There is little doubt that Jackson’s work is a significant addition to the sacred choral repertoire, with this recording setting a superb benchmark.  

Tenor Nicky Spence’s recording of Janáček’s The Diary of One Who Disappeared (Hyperion label) won the Vocal Award. Spence is joined on the recording by mezzo-soprano Václava Housková, clarinettist Victoria Samek and pianist Julius Drake, the latter of whom has 15 years’ experience playing Janáček’s highly emotional song cycle. 

This year’s Chamber Award was presented to a brilliant line-up of soloists, co-ordinated by cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, whose recordings of Bartók’s Piano Quintet in C and Veress’s String Trio (Alpha Classics label) provide a stunning introduction to lesser-performed Hungarian chamber music. The artists featured on the disc include violinists Barnabás Kelemen and Vilde Frang, violists Katalin Kokas and Lawrence Power, pianist Alexander Lonquich and Altstaedt himself. 

The BBC Music Magazine Awards jury also awarded three additional awards: the Premiere Award went to composer Edmund Finnis for his debut album The Air, Turning (NMC label). Ranging from the title track, recorded live by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, to Elsewhere, a piece for solo violin with reverb, and Parallel Colour, a work written for an orchestra split in two and moving in parallel melodic lines, this is a disc that is packed full of translucent, shimmering soundworlds.  

Elicia Silverstein was announced as the 2020 Newcomer of the Year for her debut disc The Dreams and Fables I Fashion (Rubicon label), which pairs Baroque masterpieces with more experimental 20th-century works. 

DVD of the Year went to the Glyndebourne staging of Barber’s Vanessa (Opus Arte label), directed by Keith Warner. 

The awards ceremony was due to take place this month at Kings Place in London but was cancelled as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

You can listen to all the winning recordings in our Spotify and Apple Music playlists.

The full list of winners:

Recording of the Year

Purcell
King Arthur
Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Rowan Pierce, Carolyn Sampson (sopranos), Jeremy Budd (high tenor), James Way (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Ashley Riches (bass-baritone)
Gabrieli Players, Paul McCreesh
Signum SIGCD589

Orchestral Award

Korngold 
Symphony in F sharp; Theme and Variations; Straussiana
Sinfonia of London/John Wilson 
Chandos CHSA5220

Concerto Award

Dvořák * Martinů
Dvořák: Piano Concerto in G minor; Martinů: Piano Concerto No. 4, 'Incantation'
Ivo Kahánek (piano); Bamberg Symphony Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša
Supraphon SU 4236-2   

Chamber Award

Bartók * Veress
Veress: String Trio; Bartók: Piano Quintet in C major
Barnabás Kelemen, Vilde Frang (violins), Katalin Kokas (viola), Nicolas Altstaedt (violoncello), Alexander Lonquich (piano)
Alpha Classics ALPHA 458 

Choral Award

Gabriel Jackson
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ
Emma Tring (soprano), Guy Cutting (tenor); Choir of Merton College, Oxford, Oxford Contemporary Sinfonia/Benjamin Nicholas
Delphian DCD34222

Vocal Award

Janácek 
The Diary of One Who Disappeared; Nursery rhymes; Moravian folk poetry in songs
Nicky Spence (tenor), Julius Drake (piano); Václava Housková (mezzo) et al; Victoria Samek (clarinet)
Hyperion CDA 68282

Instrumental Award

Andrey Gugnin
Shostakovich 24 Preludes, Op. 34; Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2
Andrey Gugnin (piano)
Hyperion CDA68267

Premiere Award

Edmund Finnis
The Air, Turning
Eloisa-Fleur Thorn (violin), Mark Simpson (clarinet), Víkingur Ólafsson (piano), Benjamin Bellman (violin)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, London Contemporary Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Ilan Volkov, Richard Baker, Andrew Gourlay
NMC NMCD249

DVD Award

Barber
Vanessa
Emma Bell, Virginie Verrez, Edgaras Montvidas, Rosalind Plowright, Donnie Ray Albert (voices); The Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jakub Hrůša; Dir. Keith Warner (Glyndebourne, 2018)
Opus Arte DVD: OA1289D; Blu-ray: OABD7258D

Newcomer Award

Elicia Silverstein
The Dreams and Fables I Fashion
Works by Bach, Berio, Biber, Pandolfi and Sciarrino
Elicia Silverstein (violin), Michele Pasotti (lute), Mauro Valli (cello)
Rubicon RCD1031

BBC Music Magazine Personality of the Year

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton

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Listen to the winning recordings on our Spotify and Apple Music playlists.