The prestigious Gramophone Awards shortlist has been announced, showcasing the finest classical recordings over the past year, as chosen by the leading classical music magazine's critics and specialists.
Seventy-two recordings have been shortlisted across twelve categories. The top three recordings in each category will be revealed in next issue of the magazine, which goes on sale on August 12.
There are particularly strong contenders in the Vocal categories, with French soprano Sabine Devieilhe - noted by Gramophone for her "pure, sweet timbre and dazzling virtuosity" - up against the likes of Jonas Kaufmann and Max Emanuel Cencic for her multi-award-winning Mozart album The Weber Sisters (Recital category).
Fresh from singing David Bowie at the BBC Proms in London, French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is in the running for another prize, this time as one of the cast-members in Il Pomo d'Oro's magnificent triple-album recording of the Handel opera Partenope, welcomed by Gramophone as “a landmark event”.
Joyce DiDonato is a strong candidate for the Solo Vocal category for her live double album from Wigmore Hall Joyce & Tony, with her esteemed recital partner Sir Antonio Pappano at the piano in everything from Italian arias to the Great American Songbook.
In Opera, Pappano's Verdi Aïda, the all-star triple album studio recording from Rome, is a clear frontrunner, with tenor Jonas Kaufmann as Rademes - he is nominated again in the same category for his Pagliacci. Gramophone declared soprano Anja Harteros "the most interesting Aïda on record since Callas"; both she and maestro Pappano have been nominated for the public-voted Artist of the Year.
Among the Instrumental selections, Bertrand Chamayou does his countryman Ravel proud in the complete works for solo piano on a double album.
The Concerto category sees young Norwegian violin virtuoso Vilde Frang holding her own alongside the likes of Janine Jansen, with the recent Gramophone Recording of the Month, her "urgently communicative" Britten and Korngold Violin Concertos.
The Chamber category sees two Erato string quartets nominated for two sublime releases: the French Quatuor Ebène for their Schubertalbum featuring baritone Matthias Goerne and cellist Gautier Capuçon, and the German Artemis Quartet's searing Brahms, their last recording with the late, lamented violist Friedemann Weigle, which cellist Eckart Runge sees as "imbued with a sense of warmth, immediacy, friendship and love that is interwoven with a more spiritual, timeless beauty”.
See the full shortlist of the 2016 Gramophone Award nominees here.
It’s the second year in a row that Warner Classics and Erato have taken the lion’s share in the ECHO Klassik Awards, the prestigious German classical music prizes revealed today. Artists from the two labels claimed a total of twelve accolades for excellence in classical recording and performance, including one for the Warner Classics-distributed Euroarts DVD label.
Philippe Jaroussky has been crowned Singer of the Year for the second time (his 5th ECHO Klassik) – the only countertenor ever named in this category to date. He receives the prize for his album Green, a journey through French chanson settings of poetry by Paul Verlaine.
From the Francophile flair of his last recital album, Jaroussky chose to sing in German for the first time for his highly-anticipated recording of Bach and Telemann cantatas with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, to be released in October. And as this year’s artist in residence at the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg, set to sing at the opening night of Hamburg’s new concert hall Elbphilharmonie, he has developed stronger connections to German musical life than ever before.
Conductor of the Year goes to Antonio Pappano for his monumental studio recording of Aïda. The Italian-British maestro recorded Verdi’s masterpiece with an all-star cast (including Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann) in Rome and received international critical acclaim, including the BBC Music Award for Album of the Year and a Diapason d’Or.
Diana Damrau is the second Erato singer who picks up a prize this year, for her tour-de-force Violetta in the Paris Opera production of Traviata released on DVD (Music DVD Production of the Year: Opera).
Young French cellist Edgar Moreau receives the ECHO Klassik 2016 as Newcomer of the Year for his Baroque album Giovincello, on which he brings his youthful energy and virtuosic thrills to 18th-century cello concertos by Haydn, Vivaldi, Boccherini, Platti, and the world-premiere recording of a concerto by Carlo Graziani. He was just 21 at the time he made this vibrant recording with Baroque ensemble Il Pomo d’Oro.
Classical without Borders is a category of the ECHO Klassik for music productions that build a bridge either to or from the classical genre. Two awards in this category go to Warner Classics artists: the John Wilson Orchestra (for Cole Porter in Hollywood), which will make its German concert debut in September, and the German quartet Salut Salon for their delightfully whimsical album Carnival Fantasy.
Two Erato pianists receive prizes: Bertrand Chamayou (Solo Recording of the Year) for his multi-faceted recording of Ravel’s complete works for solo piano, and Alexandre Tharaud (Music DVD production of the Year: Concert) for the majestic and detailed film of him playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, which was released as a bonus DVD accompanying the album.
The ECHO for Concert Recording of the Year (19th-century music) goes to Il Pomo d’Oro for their Haydn Concertos album, in which joint music directors Riccardo Minasi on violin and harpsichordist Maxim Emelyanychev take turns leading this refined yet lively Baroque band.
Violinist Vilde Frang receives the prize for Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st century music) for her latest album of violin concertos by Korngold and Britten, an unusual but riveting pairing that Frang has said it was her dream to record.
The Artemis Quartet receives the prize for the Chamber Music Recording of the Year. Their intense Brahms’ String Quartets 1 & 3 is the final album the Quartet recorded with their late violist Friedemann Weigle, who tragically passed away last year.
The DVD label EuroArts music, distributed via Warner Classics Label Services, takes home the ECHO for Music DVD Production of the Year: Documentary for Ralf Pleger’s The Tschaikovsky Files.
Congratulations to all the winners. The full list of Erato and Warner Classics ECHO prizewinners below makes for a wonderfully comprehensive Best of 2015. The awards ceremony will take place in October. More information about the ECHO Klassik Awards here.
Singer of the Year (male):
Philippe Jaroussky (Green) – Erato
Conductor of the Year:
Antonio Pappano (AIDA) – Warner Classics
Newcomer of the Year (Cello):
Edgar Moreau (Giovincello) – Erato
Classics without Borders:
John Wilson Orchestra (Cole Porter in Hollywood) – Warner Classics
Salut Salon (Carnival Fantasy) – Warner Classics
Concerto Recording of the Year (19th-century music):
Il Pomo d’Oro (Haydn: Concertos) – Erato
Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music):
Vilde Frang (Britten/Korngold) – Warner Classics
Solo Recording of the Year (20th/21st-century music / piano):
Bertrand Chamayou (Ravel) - Erato
Chamber Music Recording of the Year (19th century music / strings):
Artemis Quartett (Brahms) - Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (Opera):
Diana Damrau (La Traviata) – Erato
Music DVD Production of the Year (concert):
Alexandre Tharaud (Bach: Goldberg Variations) – Erato
Music-DVD-Production of the Year (documentary):
Ralf Pleger (The Tschaikovsky Files) - EuroArts
In the past six months, while mourning the death of violist Friedemann Weigle, the Artemis Quartet also came to the decision to continue as an ensemble. Dedicating last year's Mendelssohn album ECHO Klassik award to their late, lamented friend and colleague, they said that they were determined to "keep going and look forward to the future, as this is what Friedemann would have wanted."
After several months of reflection and careful consideration, the Artemis Quartet introduce their new member: American violinist Anthea Kreston, who will take over the second violin position with immediate effect. In a musical chairs scenario, Gregor Sigl will assume the viola position in the quartet.
Anthea Kreston, born in Chicago, studied with Felix Galimir and Ida Kavafian at the renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, as well as chamber music with the Vermeer Quartet and Emerson String Quartet. She was a member of the Avalon Quartet, with whom she won the ARD Competition in 2000. for seven years. In 1999, she founded the Amelia Piano Trio. She has given many concerts in the United States and Europe with both ensembles.
Eckart Runge and Anthea Kreston have known each other for twenty years. They met, as members of different ensembles, at a masterclass given by the Juilliard String Quartet.
Eckart Runge says: “Already then, Anthea struck me as an extraordinarily brilliant musician and someone who has a big personality. She applied for the available position, travelled to the audition from the West Coast [of the United States] and impressed us with her warmheartedness, boundless energy and, above all, her fantastic qualities as a musician and violinist.
"All three of us immediately felt that, in her own way, Anthea reflects the soul of Friedemann and will bring new energy to our quartet.”
Anthea Kreston adds: “It is with a full heart that I join the Artemis Quartet, my favourite quartet since we were all students together at the Juilliard Quartet Seminar 20 years ago. To share a life with these tremendous souls and musicians will be the fulfilment of a dream.”
The Artemis Quartet looks forward to an exciting new chapter of its life as a quartet. Their first European tour with the new line-up begins in March 2016. The upcoming concerts of the In Memoriam Friedemann Weigle tour will take place as planned.
The Jahrespreise der deutschen Schallplattenkritik - the annual German music critics' awards - have been awarded to twelve outstanding albums of the year. The jury nominated 111 productions from the last 18 months.
Of the final twelve winners, the Artemis Quartet have received a nod for their poignant album of Brahms String Quartets; one of the last recordings to feature their late, lamented violist Friedemann Weigle.
The jury declared the album a "unique and passionate way to read Brahms from multiple points of view...You could see the album as an epitaph; a farewell as well as a triumph."
In the opera category, the winning album is a Baroque rarity and world-premiere recording: Steffani's Niobe, Regina di Tebe, featuring the dream team of soprano Karina Gauvin, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, and the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra co-directed by Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs.
Photo: (c) Sinssey/BVMI
It was an emotional moment at the Konzerthaus Berlin over the weekend when three members of the Artemis Quartet - Vineta Sareika, Gregor Sigl (violins) and Eckart Runge (cello) - claimed the ECHO Klassik Award for their Mendelssohn album, named Chamber Music Recording of the Year.
In July this year, they lost their violist, Friedemann Weigle, following his long struggle with depression. The exquisite Mendelssohn album, and the Brahms Quartets released in September, are the final recordings to feature Weigle.
Accepting their award, the three Artemis members said they were still four when they were informed of winning the ECHO earlier this year. They dedicated the prize to their fallen friend in a touching tribute.
"It's important to us to save young musicians from a similar fate," they said. "This is why we have initiated the Friedemann Weigle Programme as part of the Deutsche Depressionshilfe organisation."
They added that they are going to keep going and look forward to the future, as this is what Friedemann would have wanted.
The Artemis Quartet violinists and cellist return to the concert stage to pay tribute to their fallen colleague and friend, violist Friedemann Weigle, who passed away in July.
They will be joined in concert by pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja for performances in Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt and Antwerp in September and October, in a programme including Schumann and Brahms piano quartets.
The group's final recording featuring Weigle, Brahms Quartets, will be released on 18 September. Erato has released a touching video of the quartet together during and after the recording sessions.
The team at Warner Classics is deeply saddened by the loss of German violist Friedemann Weigle, a member of the Artemis Quartet since 2007.
"Friedemann Weigle left us last weekend after a long battle with illness," his fellow musicians in the quartet announced today. "With his death, Vineta Sareika, Gregor Sigl and Eckart Runge have lost a colleague, companion and friend; the music world has lost a wonderful, inspiring and extraordinary person, musician and teacher."
Berlin-born Friedemann Weigle began his first violin lessons at the age of six, and later studied with Professor Alfred Lipka at the Hochschule für Musik 'Hanns Eisler' in Berlin. He was a founding member of the Petersen Quartet, which won numerous prizes at major international competitions. While still a student he was appointed to the principal viola position with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra, which after four years he gave up due to his increasing solo and chamber music activities.
Friedemann joined the Artemis Quartet in 2007, recording a critically acclaimed Beethoven cycle with the group, as well as albums of Schubert, Piazzolla and Mendelssohn. The Artemis Quartet had recently returned to the studio for a yet-to-be-released programme of Brahms.
He was an honorary professor of viola and chamber music at the Hochschule für Musik 'Hanns Eisler' and taught together with his quartet colleagues at the Universität der Künste in Berlin and as a guest professor at the Chapelle Reine Elisabeth in Brussels.
The Artemis Quartet has asked for time to mourn, reflect and regroup.
"We will always remember the violist standing on the rightmost side of the stage, his feet firmly planted on the ground and his dark hair flowing with the music.
"Above all, the sound of his viola — so special and so moving — will remain with us for a very long time to come."