Berlin, 8 October 2023. No fewer than ten of this year’s prestigious OPUS KLASSIK awards were presented to Deutsche Grammophon artists earlier today. The gala awards ceremony took place at the Konzerthaus Berlin, with music provided by the Konzerthausorchester and its new Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Joana Mallwitz, herself an exclusive DG artist since June this year. Orchestra and conductor were joined on stage at the Konzerthaus by an array of stars from the classical music world, including Anne-Sophie Mutter, Víkingur Ólafsson and David Garrett. The ceremony was hosted by actress and television presenter Désirée Nosbusch.
“Music,” says Anne-Sophie Mutter, “should grip people, move people, it should tell stories, it should have impact.” It always does this and more in the hands of this most exceptional of artists, who not only performed at the gala but also picked up an Instrumentalist of the Year award for her world premiere recording of John Williams’s Violin Concerto No. 2, a work written for and dedicated to the violinist by the legendary Hollywood composer. In her acceptance speech, Anne-Sophie Mutter also referred to the current situation in Israel: “There is an incredible unifying power in music that can embrace us all because it accepts us as we are – regardless of our ethnicity and religion. It is a power that politicians internationally must finally become aware of. So I dedicate this OPUS KLASSIK to all those who stand up for democracy, for peace and also for music.”
Pianist Víkingur Ólafsson won in the same category with From Afar, an album inspired by childhood memories and his encounter with one of his musical heroes, Hungarian composer György Kurtág. Its tracklist includes Icelandic and Hungarian folk songs, and music by Schumann, Brahms and Thomas Adès, as well as a selection of works by Kurtág.
Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša paid tribute on his recent album with the Bamberger Symphoniker to Hans Rott, a composer praised by his friend Mahler as the “founder of the new symphony”. Hrůša was named Conductor of the Year for his interpretation of Rott’s Symphony No. 1 in E major. His DG album, co-produced with BR-KLASSIK, reveals the original genius of this Austrian composer who died at the age of just 25.
Andrè Schuen discovered Schubert’s Schwanengesang long before embarking on his career as a professional singer, and still calls it his “greatest love among the Schubert Lieder”. His recording of the collection was honoured in the Solo Song category. The baritone is accompanied on the album by his longstanding duo partner Daniel Heide – the pair developed and refined their interpretations together in a series of acclaimed recital performances before going into the studio.
Jonathan Tetelman saw his DG debut album Arias as both a starting point and destination.“This album creates a portrait of what I feel represents my path as an artist,” says the Chilean-American tenor. His exploration of the operatic world of Verdi, verismo and beyond impressed the OPUS KLASSIK jury and won him a Young Artist of the Year award.
The world premiere recording of Teddy Abrams’ Piano Concerto earned Yuja Wang a Concerto of the Year award. The work was written especially for her, as was the other piece on her album The American Project, Michael Tilson Thomas’s You Come Here Often?. Both were recorded with the Louisville Orchestra, conducted by Abrams, for an album that reveals the richness of American music as well as Yuja’s pianistic brilliance.
Cameron Shahbazi was this year’s winner in the Innovative Concert category. In December 2022, working with Opera for Peace and Oper Frankfurt, the Iranian-Canadian countertenor organised the Woman.Life.Freedom benefit concert. The proceeds were used to support the efforts of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, which promotes democratic values in that country and documents the human rights violations committed by its current regime.
David Garrett is known for reaching new audiences worldwide with everything from classical sonatas to arrangements of rock ballads and film music. His latest DG album, ICONIC – Deluxe Edition, was named Bestseller of the Year. The star violinist took his inspiration for ICONIC from the work of some of his best-known predecessors, recording a personal selection of more than 20 atmospheric miniatures and virtuoso showpieces.
For the first time in the awards’ history, a group of Berlin students joined the ranks of the jury. The young people, aged between 15 and 18, cast their votes for the Video Clip of the Year. The winners of the inaugural OPUS KLASSIK School award are Max Richter, violinist Elena Urioste and the musicians of Chineke! Orchestra for The New Four Seasons. This new initiative was launched in cooperation with Germany’s Rhapsody in School project, which arranges visits to schools by classical and jazz musicians with the aim of igniting a passion for music in the next generation.
A special award of the evening, an OPUS KLASSIK for lifetime achievement, went to the conducting legend and “longest-serving conductor in the world” Herbert Blomstedt (96), who was honoured in absentia.
Finally, this year’s Lifetime Achievement award was presented to a true “elder statesman of classical music”, Herbert Blomstedt who was honored in absentia. The Swedish maestro’s debut DG album, on which he conducts the Gewandhausorchester in Schubert’s Symphonies Nos. 8 and 9, came out in time for his 95th birthday last July. Blomstedt’s extensive discography ranges from the symphonies of Beethoven, Bruckner, Nielsen and Sibelius to works by Mahler, Richard Strauss and Berg. The conductor has spent over six decades working with the world’s leading orchestras. “The older you get, the more responsibility you’re prepared to take on,” he says. “You’re also willing to take more risks.”
“I’d like to congratulate all the Deutsche Grammophon artists honoured by OPUS KLASSIK – we’re delighted by their achievements,” says Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “They continue to offer inspiration through socially significant and artistically distinctive programmes – instrumental or vocal, chamber or orchestral – whether they’re at the beginning of their career or looking back over a lifetime of exceptional music-making. This year’s awards, however, reflect not only the diversity of releases, but also the high levels of creativity and quality we at the Yellow Label are so proud of fostering. My sincerest thanks to everyone who has contributed to this success.”
Frank Briegmann, Chairman & CEO Universal Music Central Europe and Deutsche Grammophon, adds his own words of praise: “My congratulations too go to all our talented winners. It was a wonderful ceremony and Deutsche Grammophon and its artists have shown once again just how vibrant and innovative classical music can be. The wide range of categories in which they won demonstrates the sheer variety of their musicianship, from individual instrumental brilliance to the creative riches of entire lives dedicated to the service of music. I’d also like to thank and congratulate both our media partner ZDF and host Désirée Nosbusch, who did so much to make this another memorable event.”
The OPUS KLASSIK is Germany’s most prestigious classical music prize. Designed to honour outstanding artists and recordings, it is awarded by the Verein zur Förderung der Klassischen Musik e.V. (Society for the Promotion of Classical Music), whose members are drawn from record labels, promoters, publishers and other representatives of the classical music world. The OPUS KLASSIK awards are decided by a jury of industry experts.
Today’s ceremony was broadcast at 22.25 (CET) by OPUS KLASSIK’s media partner ZDF.
DETAILS OF THE AWARD-WINNERS: