For release: 22.00hrs on Tuesday 14 May 2013

The UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music

Triple success for events in London 2012 Festival:
  • Stockhausen ‘helicopter’ opera; community opera inspired by 1920
  • Olympic cycling hero and 20x12 New Music commissions all win awards
  • Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly, pianist Steven Osborne and conductor Kirill Karabits amongst big name winners
  • Britten Sinfonia and Classic FM celebrate their 20th birthdays in winning style
  • Composer Gerald Barry demonstrates the importance of “Being Earnest” by scooping Large-Scale Composition award
  • Rebecca Saunders wins her second Chamber-Scale Composition prize.
  • Heath Quartet becomes first ensemble in 15 years to take Young Artists award
  • Philharmonia Orchestra cements its position as a world leader in the use of digital media with Audiences and Engagement award.
  • Music in the Round’s 360 degree approach to music making takes Chamber Music and Song award

    Royal Philharmonic Society celebrates its 2013 Bicentenary with series of International Awards to visionary music-makers on four continents

    RPS Chairman, John Gilhooly says “making money never has and never should be the driving force for great art” Events in the London 2012 Festival have taken home the cultural silverware at this year’s Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, winning in three categories at the UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music.

    Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medallist Dame Janet Baker presented the ‘silver lyre’ RPS Music Awards trophies to winners in 13 categories at a ceremony at London’s Dorchester Hotel (Tuesday 14 May – evening). The RPS Music Awards, for outstanding achievement in 2012, are presented in association with BBC Radio 3. BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special awards programme on Sunday 19 May at 2pm.

    Speaking at the Awards Ceremony, RPS Chairman John Gilhooly heralded an ‘outstanding year’ for classical music despite the difficult economic climate. He cautioned about forgetting the ‘true value of culture’ “Making money never has, and never should be, the driving force for great art. The Philharmonic Society sent Beethoven £100 on his deathbed to ease his penury, and commissioned Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, not because they expected or even hoped for a blockbuster success, but because they, quite simply, wanted to hear more of his music. So, whilst mindful of the absolute need to unite with the government and funders in framing the positive economic arguments for expenditure on the arts, let’s not allow creativity, vision, excellence, enjoyment and culture’s potential to change lives to be lost in the debate, even in times of austerity”.

    RPS Music Awards – The Winners London 2012 events strike gold Birmingham Opera Company’s sky-bound performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s monumental six-hour opera cycle, Mittwoch aus Licht, staged in a former chemical plant in central Birmingham, won the RPS Music Award for Opera and Music Theatre. Featuring two choirs, flying solo instrumentalists, live electronic and acoustic music and a string quartet streamed live from four flying helicopters, the production was described by the distinguished RPS jury as “bold in imagination and brilliant in accomplishment” and delivered a third RPS Music Award in 12 years to the pioneering opera company.

    In the Learning and Participation category, Proper Job Theatre Company and Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir took the top prize for its outdoor community opera, Cycle Song. With a cast of 1200, Cycle Song was described by the RPS jury as an “inspirational and educational adventure”. Written by Ian McMillan and Tim Sutton, it was inspired by the life of local cycling legend Albert ‘Lal’ White. Steel worker by day, White was often seen training by night, and at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp won a silver medal in the 4000m cycling team pursuit.

    New Music 20x12
    PRS for Music Foundation's series of 20 commissions that celebrated the quality and imagination of new music in the UK in collaboration with Southbank Centre, BBC Radio 3 and NMC Recordings ran out the winners in the Concert Series and Festivals category. The jury commented that the ambitious programme, which featured performances nationwide, was “a fitting legacy to an extraordinary year”.

    RPS Music Awards for Singer, Conductor and Instrumentalist
    In the individual performance categories, mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly was a popular winner of the RPS Music Award for Singer for an outstanding year in which she exhibited “exceptional musicianship and consistency over an increasingly wide range of styles; 2012 gave further revelations of her artistry from the baroque to the 20th century and extending to Wagner’s Ring”. Scottish pianist Steven Osborne took the RPS Music Award for Instrumentalist for performances up and down the country that demonstrated his “un-showy brilliance, integrity… and the unique magic of his sound …”.

    The dynamic young Ukrainian Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kirill Karabits won the RPS Music Award for Conductor, praised for his “charisma, imagination, scholarly intelligence and vivid communication” and “inspirational” programming.

    Ensemble; Creative Communication
    “An ensemble fit for the 21st century”, Britten Sinfonia joined an elite list of triple RPS Music Award winners by taking the Ensemble category (adding to its awards success in 2007 and 2009). The “up for anything” chamber orchestra is celebrating its 20th birthday this season, and launched its own choir and youth academy, and became a Barbican Associate Ensemble in 2012. Classic FM, which also celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2012, won the RPS Music Award for Creative Communication for its work in “broadening the reach of classical music” via its artistic collaborations and partnerships with regional orchestras, its website, CD label, and its wide-ranging accomplishments in music education.

    Young Artists; Chamber Music and Song
    The Heath Quartet, rapidly emerging as one of the most original voices on the international chamber music scene, beat a strong and varied shortlist to take the RPS Music Award for Young Artists (the first ensemble to win since 1997). The quartet was praised for its “exceptional calibre of playing and youthful enthusiasm with an ambitious programme of outreach.”

    Sheffield-based Music in the Round, the biggest provider of chamber music outside London, which “works indefatigably to create imaginative and eclectic programming and excellence in performance” won the RPS Music Award for Chamber Music and Song.

    Composer Awards
    Irish composer Gerald Barry was awarded the RPS Music Award for Large-Scale Composition for his opera, The Importance of Being Earnest. The opera, which received its UK concert premiere in 2012, was praised for “smashing conventions alongside plates, and miraculously providing the most well-worn quotes with a freshness and originality”. It receives its British stage premiere (featuring Ensemble category winners Britten Sinfonia) at the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre in June. Berlin-based British composer Rebecca Saunders won the RPS Music Award for Chamber-Scale Composition for a “new kind of language” explored in her string quartet, Fletch, premiered by the Arditti Quartet at Wigmore Hall in November 2012. She previously won the award in 2007 and is only the fourth composer to have claimed it more than once.

    Audiences and Engagement
    Following a double-success at the RPS Music Awards in 2011, the Philharmonia Orchestra’s position as world leaders in the innovative use of digital media to engage new audiences was confirmed with the RPS Music Award for Audiences and Engagement for Universe of Sound. The project provided a “thrilling, interactive experience for all ages” at London’s Science Museum, taking audiences into the heart of a virtual performance by a 123 strong orchestra of Holst’s The Planets and a new companion work by Joby Talbot. Universe of Sound is currently on tour and can be seen at Birmingham Municipal Bank from 25 May – 16 June.

    International Royal Philharmonic Society Honorary Memberships Awarded
    The Royal Philharmonic Society is celebrating its Bicentenary throughout 2013. To mark this auspicious moment, a series of international awards were made at the RPS Music Awards dinner to musical visionaries working on four continents. In Association with the British Council and in partnership with The Guardian, Royal Philharmonic Society Honorary Membership was presented to:
  • Armand Diangienda, a former airline pilot who founded a symphony orchestra in one of the poorest cities on earth, Kinshasa, DR of the Congo.
  • Dr Ahmad Sarmast, the founder of Afghanistan’s first national music school in Kabul.
  • British viola player Rosemary Nalden, founder of Buskaid, who persuaded distinguished musicians to busk at British railway stations to raise funds for a string project in South Africa, and now directs the thriving Buskaid stringed instrument school and ensemble in Diepkloof, Soweto.
  • International pianist (and former winner of the Leeds Piano Competition) Ricardo Castro, who established a flourishing youth music programme in Bahià, Brazil.
  • Aaron P. Dworkin, the founder of the Sphinx Organization, which gives opportunities and assistance to aspiring Black and Latino musicians in the USA. Sphinx is based on a mission that, to be truly in tune, classical music must embrace diversity inherent in the society that it strives to serve. A rare honour, the award has only been presented 131 times since the first honorary membership was made to composer Carl Maria von Weber in 1826. British Council Chairman, Sir Vernon Ellis joined John Gilhooly to present the certificates of membership.

    Commenting on the international awards, RPS Chairman John Gilhooly said:
    “The recipients of these awards understand the fundamental importance of culture in society and its potential to change lives. It is for this reason that the Royal Philharmonic Society has chosen to honour them. Each has shown tenacity and vision, and each is driven by a “love of their art” which is very much in keeping with the founding principles of the RPS. In the UK, the arts are often regarded as an unnecessary luxury. These awards are a salutary reminder of why culture matters.”

    Sir Vernon Ellis comments:
    “As keen supporters of the mission of the Royal Philharmonic Society we at the British Council are delighted to bring our own mission to this partnership – to build trust and understanding between the UK and the rest of the world through the sharing of knowledge, creativity and art. We are pleased to have enabled the new Honorary Members of the Society to be with us today to share their inspiring stories. Through such sharing, we become closer, and stronger”.

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