Recording of the Week Gramophone Awards 2013 Disc of the Year: Violin Concertos by Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti
The annual Gramophone awards have been recognising brilliance in recorded classical music since 1977; among the most prestigious honours a record can receive, being named as a category or overall winner is often seen as the classical music equivalent of winning an Oscar.
This year the number of categories was reduced to 11, and from those the overall Record of the Year as well as other special awards were announced last Tuesday evening at a new style ceremony at LSO St Luke’s.
I was a guest of Sony Classical and found myself opposite the living legend - British guitarist Julian Bream – who was there to pick up a much deserved Lifetime Achievement Award. One great element of the awards is the way in which Gramophone recognise and celebrate great musicians of yesteryear (in this case Julian Bream) alongside those of today (Artist of the Year was trumpeter Alison Balsom) and those of tomorrow (Young Artist was Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki)
However, the major winner on the night was that of Record of the Year, which went to Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja for her recording of three concertos by Hungarian composers of the 20th and 21st Centuries - Bartók (No.2), György Ligeti and Peter Eötvös. It was a bold choice, for this is complex, multifaceted music which is both difficult to play and (apart from arguably the Bartók) difficult to listen to.
The Bartók is by far the most well known, and I talked about it in this newsletter a couple months ago when reviewing Isabelle Faust’s new recording so I won’t go over it again, other than to say that Kopatchinskaja’s recording, while perhaps slightly less polished than Faust’s, lacks nothing of the bite and raw energy integral to this work, and it is hard not to be drawn into such a vigorous and passionate performance.
The Ligeti (in its final revised form dating from 1993) is a truly great concerto – and is becoming increasingly recognised as such. With its cornucopia of instruments (including recorders and ocarinas), compositional techniques and special effects it can come across as slightly bonkers, but the sheer commitment of the musicians combined with the technical brilliance of their playing elevate this recording to a new level and the more I’ve heard it, the more impressed (with both composer and performance) I’ve become.
The third concerto on here is that of Peter Eötvös (who also conducts all three concertos) and was written in 2006. Named simply ‘Seven’ it was composed in memory of the seven astronauts who lost their lives in the Columbia space shuttle disaster in 2003.
We’ve set up a special Gramophone Awards page which lists full details of all the winners including all the special awards and the other finalists. Also worth mentioning though is that we’ve managed to negotiate special prices on the Disc of the Year and indeed all the other category winners – and with discounts in some cases up to 30%, it is well worth a look! All these are available to browse on our Gramophone Awards Winners Special Offer page.
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin), Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Peter Eötvös
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