The RPS Music Awards are widely recognised as the most prestigious in the field of live classical music. Awards are decided by independent panels consisting of some of the music industryís most distinguished practitioners. The awards, in 13 categories, honour musicians, composers, writers, broadcasters and inspirational arts organisations for their work in 2004. This yearís ceremony was hosted by BBC Radio 3ís Stephanie Hughes, with awards presented by conductor Sir Andrew Davis. The keynote speech was given by theatre director Jude Kelly.
The Royal Opera House was another big winner on the night, with three awards: Its music director Antonio Pappano won the Conductor award; the singer award went to Ben Heppner for his ìtowering performanceî in the title role of Peter Grimes and composer Thomas AdËs was awarded the RPS Music Award for Large-scale Composition for The Tempest. Opera North, however, triumphed over the Royal Opera House in the Opera and Music Theatre category, with Eight Little Greats, its acclaimed series of short, rarely staged operas.
Manchesterís HallÈ Orchestra took the RPS Music Award for Ensemble, the jury commenting: ìThe revival of the HallÈ under Mark Elder is one of the great success stories of British classical music ". Edward Gardner, 30 year old music director of Glyndebourne Touring Opera, and until recently, assistant conductor to Elder at the HallÈ, was awarded the RPS Music Award for Young Artists. Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimardís ìadventurous commitment to 20th century and contemporary musicî was rewarded with the award for Instrumentalist.
The RPS Music Awards also recognise the wealth of extraordinary work taking place beyond the traditional concert hall. Birmingham Contemporary Music Group won the RPS Music Award for Audience Development for its tours of contemporary classical music to rural village halls in Shropshire (a programme which has played to full, and enthusiastic houses for the past five years). The education award went to Operaction Hackney: On London Fields, a ground-breaking project involving over 700 people, in which Hackney Music Development Trust devised and produced a new community opera celebrating Hackneyís history and diversity.
The RPS Music Award for Creative Communication, a new award which recognises the contribution of words and images, across all media, in furthering the understanding of classical music was awarded to director John Bridcut for Brittenís Children (Mentorn for BBC) a ìtouching revelatory film [which] explored one aspect of a composer's life in great depth, avoiding the temptation of sensationalismî.
Composer Howard Skempton was a popular choice as winner of the Chamber Scale Composition category for his string quartet Tendrils. The passing of one of the 20th centuryís musical giants was marked with the award of the Festival and Series category to the South Bank Centre, Royal Academy of Music and London Sinfonietta for Omaggio, a season centred on the work of Luciano Berio (and planned with the composer shortly before his death).
Tony Fell, Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society comments:
The overriding criterion for the RPS Music Awards is excellence and it was clear from the deliberations of all our juries, that this is not in short supply: there are literally hundreds of both professional and non-professional musicians, of all ages, from all backgrounds, up and down the country who are making a significant contribution to classical music in the UK.The Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal: Sir Charles Mackerras
However, we encourage juries to recognise not only excellence, but to seek out those who provide musical experiences which have a fundamental effect on both audiences and music makers, and are helping to shape our musical future. It is those artists and organisations which dare to submit themselves to intense self-questioning, brave and often risky enterprises, idealism and a willingness to look at music with fresh eyes and ears who have triumphed at this yearís RPS Music Awards.
The Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal is the Society's most prestigious honour, initiated in 1870 to commemorate the Centenary of Beethoven's birth. The medal bears the effigy of Beethoven, and has become one of the most privileged honours in the world of music, having been awarded only ninety times since its inception.
In making the award of the RPS Gold Medal to Sir Charles Mackerras, the RPS citation commented: ìSir Charles Mackerras is one of the great musicians of our age who as a conductor and scholar has illuminated a vast range of familiar and less well-known repertoire and who has maintained the highest musical standards throughout his varied and distinguished careerî.
Sir Charles Mackerras, who turns 80 later this year, is only the 91st recipient of the RPS Gold Medal and joins an outstanding list of musicians, composers and conductors, including (most recently) Alfred Brendel, Colin Davis, Elliott Carter, Rafael Kubelik, Pierre Boulez, Simon Rattle, Placido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Claudio Abbado and Gyorgy Ligeti.