wed 10/08/2022

2009 Classic FM Gramophone Awards, Dorchester Hotel | reviews, news & interviews

2009 Classic FM Gramophone Awards, Dorchester Hotel

2009 Classic FM Gramophone Awards, Dorchester Hotel

Gramophone Awards keep it strictly classical

The term "Awards Ceremony" can strike terror into the stoutest of hearts, but hats off to the masterminds of the 2009 Classic FM Gramophone awards. Their shindig at the Dorchester was enjoyable, educational, and even intermittently hilarious (and for the right reasons).

Mathieu Herzog, viola player with France's Quatuor Ebène who carried off the lusted-after Recording Of The Year award for their disc of Debussy, Ravel and Fauré, even ran Antoine "Eurotrash" de Caunes close as the Frenchman the Brits love to love. Having tried, and failed, to phone his French amis back home to share the moment ("no signal," he shrugged), he took photos of the audience instead, before warning us that since the Quatuor's next disc would be pop and jazz, it might be years before Gramophone critics gave his combo the nod a second time.

Refreshingly lacking in the glittery crossover celebs who drape themselves over the Classical Brits, the event packed in nutritious quantities of classical bang-per-buck. Octogenarian Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt made a worthy recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award, speed-fingered 22-year-old pianist Yuja Wang collected Young Artist of the Year, and the Artist of the Year paperweight went to the very lovely Harry Christophers and his ensemble The Sixteen.

Solo Vocal award was scooped by baritone Gerald Finley (an ex-member of The Sixteen, as he reminded us) and pianist Julius Drake, while Bryn Terfel (pictured right) loomed onto the stage to collect the Choral gong on behalf of the Dream of Gerontius recording by the Hallé Orchestra under conductor Sir Mark Elder.

Steven Osborne cheerily trousered the Concerto award for his Britten Piano Concerto, then amazed the house by springing to the piano and rocketing through Oscar Peterson's scarily rapid (Back Home Again In) Indiana, skilfully managing not to sound like a classical pianist at all. Assorted live performances, from The Sixteen singing plainsong to slightly bonkers contemporary music, were sprinkled refreshingly throughout the proceedings.

It was a sign of the times in the record biz that so many awards went to recordings on independent labels (tenor Jonas Kaufmann, picking up the Opera doorstop for EMI's Madama Butterfly set, confessed to being amazed that the big labels still funded projects like this). Manfred Eicher's heroically adventurous ECM was awarded Label of the Year, while Harmonia Mundi's Bernard Coutaz appeared on film from his desirable home in Arles to say thanks for his Special Achievement award.

And, adding a little newsworthy relevance, Tony Hall from the Royal Opera House picked up the Classic FM Innovation award for the ROH's hookup with The Sun to promote opera to tabloid readers. "Not everyone can say they've got the support of The Sun this week," Hall observed drolly.


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