On October 6th 2020 the Gramophone Awards – regarded as the Oscars of classical music – presented international talent with the industry’s top recording prizes. The much-coveted ‘Recording of the Year’ prize went to Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica for their debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon of Mieczysław Weinberg’s Symphonies Nos 2 & 21. Weinberg is a Polish composer, once reportedly described by Shostakovich as “the best composer you’ve never heard”, whose music is enjoying something of a renaissance, in large part thanks to this recording, released in Weinberg’s centenary year. This album is noted by Gramophone as “one of the most important symphonic releases of the year”.
This marks the second award for this release from this year’s Gramophone Classical Music Awards, winning the previously announced ‘Orchestral’ award alongside Thomas Adès who took home ‘The Contemporary Award’ for the recording of his Piano Concerto with soloists Kirill Gerstein, Mark Stone, Christianne Stotijn and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
In her acceptance speech, Mirga said, “Seven years ago I hadn’t heard of the name of Mieczysław Weinberg. During the years since he has become one of the most important composers for me. He is the composer I would like to stay on for the rest of my life. I think that in days of ideological search and loss that we are living through right now, Weinberg stands as a symbol of humanism. His life and work are huge inspirations. Every score I’ve encountered so far is a masterwork. Words by Sandor Végh come to mind: “I don’t make Mozart. Mozart makes me.” I would say the say the same about Weinberg. It’s not that we or I am doing anything with Weinberg. He is doing something with us.”
Israeli-American violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman was bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement Award. One of his students from Juilliard, Randall Goosby, gave a heartfelt speech about studying with “the greatest violinist who’s ever lived”, and the composer John Williams also paid tribute to Perlman in a speech, saying, “This Award is certainly the reflection of decades of many great recordings that you’ve made […] It’s recognition of this great work that this Award comes to you as it should. I hope you can enjoy the significance of it, and recognise that these recordings have reached millions of people around the world who love you and love the spirit of the art that you’ve given them for so long.”
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Orchestra was named ‘Orchestra of the Year’ in the only award decided entirely by a public vote. The orchestra and its charismatic music director, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, released a new recording of Mahler’s Symphony No.8 on Deutsche Grammophon earlier this year.
This year’s ceremony was broadcast online, hosted by Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly and mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey from the stunning setting of Glyndebourne.