Classical Brit Awards 2010 Review

Written by: Chris Caspell


André Rieu & the Johann Strauss Orchestra

Johann Strauss I – Radetzky March

Johann Strauss II, Lehár and others – Strauss & Co

London Chamber Orchestra and Christopher Warren-Green

Brahms – Hungarian Dances No.5 and No.6

Angela Gheorghiu

Puccini – Un bel di vedremo from Madama Butterfly

Rhydian and Only Men Aloud

Hooper/Armstrong/de Vries – O Verona

Orff – O Fortuna from Carmina Burana

Rolando Villazón

Offenbach – Legend of Kleinzach from The Tales of Hoffmann

Bryn Terfel

Puccini – Tre sbirri, una carrozza from Tosca

The Band of the Coldstream Guards

Elgar – Nimrod from Enigma Variations

Coates – Dambusters March

Elmer Bernstein – March from The Great Escape

Blake, Enchanted Voices, Camilla Kerslake and Howard Goodall

Puccini – Nessun dorma from Turandot

London Chamber Orchestra and Christopher Warren-Green

Mussorgsky – Night on a bare mountain

Julia Lezhneva

Rossini – Fra il padre, e fra l’amante from La Cenerentola

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Mozart – Ach, ich fühl’s from Die Zauberflöte

Award Winners

Male artist of the year – Vasily Petrenko

Female artist of the year – Angela Gheorghiu

NS&I Album of the year – Only Men Aloud Band of Brothers

Young British Classical Performer or Group – Jack Liebeck

Composer of the year – Thomas Adès

Soundtrack of the year – Thomas Newman Revolutionary Road

Critics Award – Antonio Pappano Verdi Messa di Requiem

Thursday 13 May 2010, Royal Albert Hall, London

Lambasted by many in the classical music press, the Classical Brits returned to the Royal Albert Hall for this year’s award ceremony. Combining the traditional mix of visual spectacle with high-profile celebrity endorsement that we have come to expect from the event the awards concert remains well supported by the music industry and public at large.

Myleene Klass, nominated for Album of the Year 2004 but now better known as that safe pair of hands presenter after Popstar to Operastar earlier this year, returned to the awards for the third time. Her style is one of real enthusiasm for the music that she is presenting – enthusiasm that can sometimes appear over the top but never false which is, after all, what enthusiasm should be.

Christopher Warren-Green, another Classical Brits regular, brought his London Chamber Orchestra to the awards both to accompany and to perform in its own right. Sadly, as is always the case, the balance and subtlety of the orchestra’s playing was swept away by unnecessary electronic amplification. Putting to one side this issue, the orchestra’s two solo sessions – the Brahms Hungarian Dances and Mussorgsky’s Night on a Bare Mountain (in Rimsky-Korsakov’s re-orchestration) showed some fine playing particularly in the latter.

As accompanist Warren-Green and the LCO showed remarkable sensitivity throughout. Angela Gheorghiu’s stunning performance as Cio-Cio San demonstrated that the fine day of which she sang had clearly arrived – especially so since she later picked up the award for Female artist of the year.

André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra were more a visual spectacle than musically substantial but since this is being recorded for later television broadcast perhaps that can be forgiven. Even more so Rhydian and Only Men Aloud in their unremarkable rendition of Carl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ dressed in diabolic red and lending more to The Omen than to the composer’s original dialogue on luck and fate. From diabolic to diabolical in two and a half minutes!

Rolando Villazón, now apparently recovered from his throat surgery, was in fine voice, putting the classical back into the Classical Brits. Villazón, more than Myleene Klass, benefitted from public beatification and now is celebrated as heir apparent to the Pav-Dom-José trio. Such recognition is not without merit as his wholly nice-guy enthusiastic approach to the opera repertoire rings through every performance. I do wish, however, he would find a better catchphrase than “Chaka Chaka”, though it did get a laugh.

Complementing the first half female Puccini aria, Bryn Terfel’s performance as the menacing Scarpia was as breathtaking as it was sinister. Though as near to a perfect performance as you will get at such an event, better was yet to come.

Russian soprano Julia Lezhneva, in her early twenties, received rave reviews last year when she made her UK debut with Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Lezhneva lit up the stage with her well-paced and technically deft performance of ‘Fr ail padre, e fra l’amante’ from Rossini’s La Cenerentola – certainly she was the discovery of the evening for many.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa received the Lifetime Achievement in Music award, giving heartfelt thanks to, among others, her parents, before being presented with a bouquet by three members of the Coldstream Guards – pomp and circumstance all the way!

To the winners of the awards, generally they were given to the most deserving with the odd surprise – Vasily Petrenko beating Terfel and Antonio Pappano to Male artist of the year for instance. Only Men Aloud took the confusingly named NS&I Album of the year award, which is drawn from the top-selling recording of 2009 and so the list of possibilities is skewed towards crossover artists. Thomas Adès took the well-earned title of Composer of the Year for The Tempest and Pappano’s Verdi Requiem on EMI earned him the Critic’s award.

Now in its eleventh year, the Classical Brit awards are here to stay and, judging by this performance, the organisers have raised their game in terms of the quality of performances. Naturally there is one or two that make even the most ill-informed listener wince but clearly these awards are becoming more and more valued by mainstream recording artists who recognise that marketing their recordings to a wider population has real merit after all.

  • The Classical Brit Awards are being broadcast on ITV1 at 10.35 p.m. on Tuesday 18 May 2010

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