New-look Gramophones split opinion, as Kopatchinskaja and Eötvös win top prize

- 18 September 2013

A new venue and new format for the Gramophone awards ceremony on 17 September has won general approval from the recording industry.

However, the event ‒ which saw an album of Bartók, Eötvös and Ligeti violin concertos performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Ensemble Modern and the Hessen Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Eötvös on Naïve voted Recording of the Year ‒ almost inevitably attracted some criticism.

Executives from at least two labels complained about the move of the £250-a-seat presentations and dinner from the Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane to LSO St Luke’s, the London Symphony Orchestra’s rehearsal base and concert hall.

Trumpeter Alison Balsom was named artist of the year. Photo: Pete Spinney

Trumpeter Alison Balsom was named artist of the year.
Photo: Pete Spinney

As well as regarding the new venue as less prestigious with no reduction in ticket price, the critics objected to the fact that only half a dozen of the awards were presented on the night, with 11 others announced three weeks earlier.

‘What is the point of inviting artists to a ceremony where they are handed an award before the ceremony begins?’ asked one.

Others, however, were delighted by the new look. EMI/Virgin Classics, now part of Warner Classics, won the pre-announced opera award with a recording of Puccini’s Il Trittico by the Royal Opera House under Sir Antonio Pappano, had its star trumpeter Alison Balsom named artist of the year and saw Virgin Classics mastermind Alain Lanceron given a special achievement award. A company spokesman said: ‘The organisers were wonderful and we have been working closely with them to make sure we had the right people there.’ The company invited 24 people to the event, including Balsom, Ian Bostridge, Xufei Yang and Sir Antonio Pappano.

Other awards on the night were: lifetime achievement for guitarist Julian Bream, celebrating his 80th birthday; young artist 18-year-old Polish-Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki, and label of the year for Decca.

James Jolly, Gramophone’s editor-in-chief, said of the changes: ‘This came very much from the industry who felt that the awards needed refreshing, that the format should change with a shorter ceremony and that it should take place in a more appropriate venue for classical music, preferably one with decent acoustics so that the live music element could be expanded.’

Because the Dorchester venue had been shared with another Haymarket Group magazine’s awards, moving to St Luke’s meant extra expense for Gramophone, he said. Presenting 16 awards made for a lengthy ceremony and the idea of pre-announcing 11, which came from retailers, had generated extra publicity.

The event had proved so popular that LSO St Luke’s had to be asked to provide 50 extra places, Mr Jolly said.

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