[Note to those encountering this JDCMB tradition for the first time: please do not adjust your sets. It’s party time!]
A very warm welcome on this, the Winter Solstice, to the JDCMB Ginger Stripe Awards 2009! Please step into the ballroom of our Cyberposhplace: I hope you are in your finest Virtualblacktieattire and ready to sample the delightful Cybercanapes, musical joys and exceptional company here present. Will you welcome, please, our guest of honour: all the way from 19th-century Leipzig, MR FELIX MENDELSSOHN!
Due to inclement weather conditions, our Cyberbubbly is currently trapped in the Channel Tunnel on its way direct from the caves of Champagne country, and in any case it’s so cold that we thought we’d do Cybergluhwein instead. The dominance this year of a Germanic and Scandinavian slant makes this singularly appropriate, though of course you are welcome to try Cybervinchaud instead if you prefer. Later you may consume as much Virtualstrudel as you like without putting on one gram of weight.
And now let’s have a round of applause for every musician who has touched the hearts of his or her audience during the past 12 months.
Thank you…quiet, please. Now, would the following winners please approach the podium where Solti, ensconced upon his silken cushion, will allow you to stroke the ginger stripes and will give you your very own prize purr.
Icon of the year: Christopher Raeburn, who passed away from cancer back in February. He is sorely missed by all of us who knew, loved and admired him and his work for the recording industry as it used to be.
Pianist of the year: Radu Lupu, who kindly agreed to play the ‘Emperor’ Concerto with Tom’s orchestra especially for me on my birthday the other week…oh, what’s that, Mr Lupu? What do you mean, coincidence? But according to Freud…all right, never mind… but you were amazing. You drew a sound out of the piano that would have been astonishing even if it had emanated from the greatest Steinway in heaven: so pure, so songful and so intimate. You brought the mysticism of Op.110 to the Fifth Concerto and I felt privileged to be alive to hear you. And we were all very, very happy that you were willing to play at the Royal Festival Hall. Please come back again soon.
Violinist of the year: Shared this time between two Czechs: Pavel Sporcl, for a Korngold concerto that has fire, swashbuckle and real attitude; and the veteran Josef Suk, Dvorak’s great-grandson, who made a surprise reappearance on Supraphon playing music that keeps it in the family: marvellous, full of personality and vibrant individual tone, one to treasure.
Singer of the year: Nina Stemme, Swedish glory of Wagner, Isolde incarnate: the sound of her in Covent Garden’s Tristan stays with me and lights up the darkest winter evenings. A voice as strong and shining as a scimitar in the sun.
Youthful artist of the year: Benjamin Grosvenor, British teenage wunderkind, whose recording of Chopin rarities in EMI’s Chopin edition box (just on its way to release) is one of the best things in it. Looking forward to hearing more of this terrific young musician in due course, and glad that he is being sensible about things.
Conductor of the year: Valery Gergiev, despite everything. The best orchestral concert and worst opera performance I’ve seen all year were both under this electric marvel’s control: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle with the LSO, Elena Zhidkova and Willard White back in January was the former, and the utter farce that was the Mariinsky Ring was the latter. But there’s no denying his power, his transformative, unstoppable energy.
Interviewee of the year: Nigel Kennedy. Monster! That was fun.
Creative Musical Experience of the year: Mikhail Rudy’s The Pianist, performed by him in Manchester with actor Peter Guinness. An astonishing and profoundly moving transformation of Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir into devastating musical performance art. I wish they would bring it to London.
CD of the year: Jonas Kaufmann’s Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Wagner disc, which had me flat out on the floor gasping with delight. In German, it is entitled Sehnsucht. They couldn’t translate the word for the UK release, it seems, but you only need to listen to the CD to understand the meaning. It’s not only the voice, although that’s glorious enough: most of all, it’s the way he inhabits his characters. You feel you are listening to Tamino, Florestan, Lohengrin et al in person – almost as if this was how the composers themselves must have imagined them. They’re ideal and real at the same time. And I don’t care if he has signed an advertising deal with BMW. I should, but I don’t. Let’s just call it BWV instead. (I also don’t really care that the guest chorus for Parsifal is atrociously, spectacularly flat – whoever passed that for release?!? It’s the last thing on the disc, though, so you can get past it by switching off just in time.)
Lifetime Achievement Award: Please step forward, Felix Mendelssohn! You’ve had an exceptional bicentenary and it’s been a privilege to be your representative on the BBCR3 website. I’ve learned a lot about you and your world, and realized how much more there is to learn. And you’ve got me into Goethe in a big way. I hope you realise you have a lot to answer for. Maybe one day we’ll learn about what really happened when you and Jenny Li – oh, right, you don’t want to talk about that…fair enough. This is your day. This was your year.
Take a bow, everybody…Thank you. Thank you for your moving, uplifting, inspiring, life-enhancing music-making. You’re wonderful. We love you.
And a few personal highlights:
Proudest moment: There’ve been a few: the Hungarian Dances concerts, the publication of Songs of Triumphant Love and the move of JDCMB to Standpoint. But really I’m just grateful to be feeling well again after my bout of pleurisy in the spring.
Weirdest moment: Realising that this year I’ve attended three of the worst performances in significant venues I ever heard in my life, or four if you count Siegfried and Götterdämmerung as two rather than one. At Kings Place, a singer who couldn’t sing, foisted unwittingly upon two wonderful colleagues who didn’t deserve it. At Covent Garden, the dear old Mariinsky Ring. At Lucerne, a pianistic fiasco. Question of the year: has ignorance now triumphed over discernment at every level of our industry? There’s only one response to this at present, which is: please pass the gluhwein.
Quote of the year: From Dennis Marks, former head of ENO: “I’m in Strada with Hansel and Gretel”. In case you’re wondering, Jennifer Holloway (Glyndebourne’s Hansel) and Adriana Kucerova (Gretel) and Dennis all turned up to the launch of Songs of Triumphant Love in July and we went for a pizza afterwards.
Biggest sigh of relief: Getting through the Kings Place Hungarian Dances concert without my voice conking out completely – it waited until the next morning for that. They call this syndrome “Doctor Theatre”.
Guest stars of the year: Huge, huge thank-yous to my beloved Hungarian Dances teams: Philippe Graffin and Claire Désert, and up north Bradley Creswick and Margaret Fingerhut. It was a joy and an honour to work with you and I hope we can do it again sometime soon.
Feline of the year: Solti, pusskin, you cannot give yourself a prize. You have to present it to your four adorable, good-hearted, gentle and very friendly cousins in Cheshire…oww! Get those claws out of my cybereveningdress!
Personality of the year: Georg Friedrich Händel. He says he thought it was all a very, very good laugh and was tickled pink to be discussed on the Today programme.
Wonderful Webmaster of the Year: The top award always goes to Horst Kolo, who puts up with my idiosyncrasies as nobody else could over at www.jessicaduchen.co.uk, which he designed and manages. But huge thanks too to Standpoint’s Frances Weaver and BBCR3’s Graeme Kay, the former for keeping me from going off the wall too often, the latter for making sure that every word I’ve written for him about Mendelssohn this year successfully complies with compliance.
Thank you, everyone. Now please relax, keep warm and enjoy the music…
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