mon 10/08/2020

Classical Brits - do we care? | reviews, news & interviews

Classical Brits - do we care?

Classical Brits - do we care?

What value do these awards have?

Classical Brits 2010 at the Royal Albert Hall: glitz, glamour, Myleene Klass... and quality?

Who cares about the Classical Brits? Should we be carrying you the news? Should the seriously serious conductor Antonio Pappano and his Accademia di Santa Cecilia be trumpeting their double win yesterday for his Verdi Requiem (Critics' Choice - the top "serious" award) and his Madama Butterfly, for which the soprano Angela Gheorghiu won Female Artist of the Year?

These are moot points and tricky questions, since the Classical Brits were established in 2000 by the record labels' trade association the British Phonographic Industry to boost CD sales rather than live performance, and its categories and winners owe much to both the best-seller lists in shops and on the radio. These are of a different tone entirely from the Royal Philhamonic Society's Awards, which oddly enough were held the day before and which celebrate the best of live music-making (ie, strictly non-commercially driven). Still, with winners of the calibre of Pappano, Santa Cecilia and Thomas Adès (Composer of the Year for The Tempest) it seems churlish not to place the Classical Brit news here for you to read or not as you choose - and perhaps comment on what role you think these awards have.

Yesterday’s ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall will be broadcast on ITV1 on 18 May, and how often does classical or "classical" music get primetime on the leading commercial TV channel? It will certainly attract a large mass audience to watch the performances by among others Gheorghiu, Rolando Villazón, Bryn Terfel and Only Men Aloud - the Welsh male choir who won the rather nice BBC Radio 3 choral talent show Last Choir Standing and got the NS&I Album of Year with their disc Band of Brothers. Admittedly this last was chosen by Classic FM listeners and mag readers from a list of the top 10 best-selling albums in that broadest and now most bastardised of recording industry categories "classical", and yet the fact that they beat X-Factor's Rhydian and Britain's Got Talent's girl singer Faryl surely indicates some aesthetic intelligence in the listeners.

The blurring between "serious" and "populist" classical music seems to have become far more contentious in these belt-tightening times, as "The Arts" are increasingly serviced by TV talent shows and microphone tours - one artist going deliberately populist may be condemned, while another remains unspotted by the association with commons. It usually depends on whether they start in "popular" and claim to be trading up to "classical", or the other way round. However, it can get pretty tricky to find firm ground in the argument when a great "serious" opera star was the original inspiration for Billy Elliott or a legendary ballet dancer hankers to be in musical theatre. Classical Brit 2010 awards listed below:

  • Critics' Choice: Pappano's Verdi Requiem (EMI: voted by a panel of specialist music critics)
  • Female Artist of the Year: Angela Gheorghiu for Madama Butterfly under Pappano (EMI)
  • Male Artist of the Year: Vasily Petrenko, chief conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for Shostakovich and Rachmaninov recordings, with pianist Simon Trpceski (Naxos)
  • Young British Classical Performer: violinist Jack Liebeck
  • Composer of the Year: Thomas Adès for his opera The Tempest (EMI)
  • NS&I Album of the Year: Only Men Aloud's Band of Brothers (Decca: as voted by Classic FM listeners and readers, selected from top 10 selling “classical” albums of 2009)
  • Soundtrack of the Year: Thomas Newman’s score to Sam Mendes’ feature film Revolutionary Road (Nonesuch: voted by a panel of film and television critics)
  • Lifetime Achievement in Music: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

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