On 21 April, the Award Ceremony organized by the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) took place in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie Luxembourg, followed by the ICMA Gala Concert in the Grand Auditorium. Both events represent the culmination of musical achievements in the classical sector during the past year, which were accompanied and judged by the members of the ICMA association. Pizzicato’s Uwe Krusch reports.
After the welcome speech by Philharmonie Director Stephan Gehmacher, ICMA President Remy Franck thanked the house which helped organize both events for their hospitality and the professionalism that ICMA and he had experienced in preparing this event.
Remy Franck pointed out the ICMA’s approach of awarding interpretations according to quality rather than economic aspects.
Following the widespread lifting of sanitary measures in Luxembourg and also elsewhere, many winners came to receive their trophy and their 2022 ICMA diploma. Some absent laureates, for the most part due to fortunately resumed concert dates elsewhere, sent video greetings.
In the often whimsical, sometimes thoughtful, but always deeply grateful words of thanks from the honorees, the thought of Frank Peter Zimmermann, which Michael Korstick was able to confirm, remained in the memory. He expressed his satisfaction that with his independent and fine label he had found a partner with whom he could realize the recordings with which he was just artistically at home and did not have to do what a so-called big label just considered economically sensible. And he wished all young artists that they could experience such support.
The gala concert featured no less than nine soloists as well as the Boreas Quartet Bremen, six conductors and, in addition to the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg (OPL), the Orchestre de l’Opéra Royal de Versailles. The ICMA concert was streamed live. The event was watched by nearly a thousand listeners in the Philharmonie’s Grand Auditorium and tens of thousands more on radio in Luxembourg as well as Romania and online on the Deutsche Welle and the Philharmonie web.
The OPL was mostly directed by Adam Fischer, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award. These two main participants of the evening opened the concert with a third Leonore Overture by Beethoven that carefully explored many details and was shaped by the powerful language of the composer.
In the second program item, the audience was treated to a particularly outstanding performance. The 16-year-old violinist Julian Kainrath from Merano, winner of the Discovery Award, not only gave a brilliant rendition of the Introduction and Rondo capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saens, but also, despite his young age, knew how to give this work a very personal interpretation, after which one can hope for much more to come from this true artist.
Giulio Prandi conducted Domine Deus from the Petite Messe solennelle by Gioacchino Rossini, with which he had won the Choral Music Award. Together with the OPL, he accompanied tenor Edgardo Rocha, co-winner of the same award. They crafted a beautiful version of this sacred movement imaked by the spirit of opera composer Rossini, without overdoing its mood.
The Composer Award this year went to the Romanian composer Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi. He premiered the revised version of his work Lan Huahua – The Dark Blue Flower. Here Ivan Boumans, the winner of last year’s Composer Award, was the conductor. With clear and textural conducting, he got the OPL to sound the plays of color and moods with East Asian echoes.
An Italian violinist had also been found for the Young Artist of the Year Award, Gennaro Cardaropoli. Together with the OPL and again Adam Fischer, he offered as contribution the final movement from the Violin Concerto by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. At the age of 24, one might have noticed his awe at the work he was performing in public for the first time. But this quickly subsided and he was able to convey his ability, and thus the jury’s decision in his favor, without a doubt in his playing.
The winner of the Special Achievement Award, pianist Michael Korstick, played the first movement of Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto. If Fischer proved that this work is still related to Mozart, but has a typical Beethoven character too, he came together harmoniously with Korstick, who must be regarded as one of the most distinguished interpreters of Beethoven in particular. Thus they showed an extremely coherent and pulsating interpretation, which still breathed the spirit of the preceding epoch and did not emphasize the revolutionary so much.
Before the intermission, the finale from the Fourth Piano Concerto by the unfortunately little-performed Nikolai Kapustin followed as a bouncer, so to speak, but in the musically finest and most appealing sense. Pianist Frank Dupree and drummer Meinhard Obi Jenne, both winners of the Assorted Programs Award, were joined by the OPL under Fischer to form a jazz trio, so to speak, that with life-affirming and exuberant energy hopefully made this composer known.
After the so joyfully heated audience had been able to cool down during the intermission, two small ensembles performed, which had also musically enriched the Award Ceremony before. First with In nomine by Thomas Tallis and then with the modern Three Gadgets: Flashing Flutes by Piet Swerts, the four ladies of the Boreas Quartett Bremen, as recipients of the Early Music Award, were immediately able to capture the attention of the auditorium again, especially with the highly virtuosic shimmering second work with their various recorders.
The chamber ensemble Orchestre de l’Opera Royal de Versailles had arrived as representatives of the Label of the Year, Château de Versailles Spectacles, and offered baroque at its finest with a movement from the Summer of the Seasons and also by Vivaldi the aria ‘Alma oppressa’ from La fida ninfa. Mezzo-soprano Adèle Charvet sang this vocal work with an impressively flexible and soft voice.
Perhaps the most touching moment of the evening was the aria from La Giuditta, Dormi, o fulmine di guerra, by Alessandro Scarlatti, which seems to offer a quasi-commentary on world politics. The title ‘Schlafe, oh Donnerkeil des Krieges’ (Sleep, oh thunderbolt of war) does not hint at the beauty of the music, which was celebrated by countertenor Filippo Mineccia with equal sensitivity and vocal grandeur, and accompanied intensely and sensitively by the ensemble. One could really listen breathtakingly.
The two contributions of the Artist of the Year, the clarinettist Martin Fröst, were unfortunately omitted, as he was not present, due to COVID.
Then the OPL took center stage again, freshly tackling Antonin Dvorak’s Carnival Overture with yet another conductor. Jakub Hrusa, Symphonic Music Award, had evidently already in the rehearsals not only held the baton safely, but in a delicate and carefull way, so that the OPL could once again brilliantly exploit its possibilities, which was especially evident in the homogeneous, intonation sharpened and polished playing of the strings.
Francisco Coll (Contemporary Music Award) not only appeared as conductor of his work Aqua Cinerea, but at the same time he won the Orchestra Award and the ICMA Jury’s CD of the Year Award. The multifaceted piece with onomatopoeic sounds offered another facet of his modern yet accessible compositional style.
Frank Peter Zimmermann offered great art at the end, performing the final movement from the Brahms Concerto with the OPL and Fischer. As a winner of the Chamber Music Award and the Concerto Award, he had received two trophies at once and knew how to overwhelm with his inimitably unpretentious playing with consummate quality.
All participants had shown that they had earned the awards through their performances and not through extra-musical aspects. Probably not a single member of the audience regretted having followed the concert, which ended at 11 p.m., until the very last note. A great evening for the ICMA and the performing artists.
For those who missed this evening on site, the ceremony and the gala concert are available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue5l_tyIjQM