This year’s ICMA Award Ceremony was followed in the evening by the Gala Concert in the sold-out Great Hall of the Witold Lutoslawski National Forum of Music (NFM) in Wroclaw, Poland. Both events represented the highly deserved conclusion for musical performances in the classical sector reviewed during the past year, which were accompanied and judged by the members of the ICMA Jury. Uwe Krusch shares his impressions of the concert.
In his introductory message Remy Franck, president of the jury, thanked NFM Wroclaw for organizing both events and for their commitment as well as hospitality, which ICMA had experienced in preparing these Awards. Both events were attended by many prize winners as well as the members of the jury from the participating classical music media from all over Europe.
The Philharmonic Orchestra of the NFM Wroclaw under its chief conductor Giancarlo Guerrero then started the concert together with the first prize winner Alessandro Marangoni on the piano, who had been awarded a Special Achievement Award. With the Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante op. 22 by Frederyk Chopin, they offered not only a rarely heard work by one of the greatest Polish composers, but also an opener that already experienced interpretive depths and did not merely remain in virtuoso splendor.
This was followed by the final movement from the Concerto for Violin, Piano and String Orchestra by Nikolai Kapustin, in which the two chamber music prize winners, Maxim Lando, piano and Tassilo Probst, violin, again of course with the orchestra of the house under Giancarlo Guerrero as accompanist, were allowed to present a much livelier music, which, in addition to all the technical demands resulting from the whirling tempo, also demanded in the interplay the undivided attention of all participants to the common path. Thus they whirled expressively through this terrific contribution.
The Young Artist of the Year Award was presented to Sào Soulez Larivière. In the Romance op. 85 for viola and orchestra by Max Bruch, the soloist convincingly demonstrated the advantages of the instrument. Thus, especially for a romance, the viola had the sonorous and soft sound that allowed for dreaming and indulging together with the romantic blossoming orchestral landscape.
What an important and versatile instrument the human voice is was shown by the Artist of the Year, Ermonela Jaho. This Albanian soprano let all her skills shine in the movingly performed aria Io son l’umile ancella from Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea under the sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra.
In the Havanaise by Camille Saint-Saëns, Leonhard Baumgartner made clear on his violin why he had received the Discovery Award. At the age of 16, he offered a musically sensitive interpretation of the piece without virtuoso posturing, in which the technical mastery of the composition was only a prerequisite and not an end in itself. The orchestra once again showed its skill with attentive accompaniment and fine soloistic accents. The audience celebrated the highly charismatic soloist with sustained applause.
Naxos was honored as label of the year. Representing this award, Gabriel Schwabe played the third movement of Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto. Soloist and orchestra showed the romantic character of the work without going overboard in expression. With this rousing piece, the performers took their leave for the intermission.
The second part began with a small ensemble, winner of the Early Music Award. Carles Magraner led his Capella de Ministrers with music on verses after Ibn Hazm. This ensemble of five voices plus vocals, with a very old Iberian title, took us to a completely different, long gone, but just fascinating world.
After this excursion, the NFM Wrocław Philharmonic Orchestra with Guerrero again became the constant companion of the performers. First, the pianist Josu de Solaun, as the winner of the Solo Instrument prize, intoned Joaquin Turina’s Symphonic Rhapsody for piano and string orchestra. This kept them in the Spanish cultural sphere, but offered a more recent work. After the opening chord strokes, Solaun was able to demonstrate his dexterity and subtlety in playing along with the strings of the orchestra.
The music of neighboring France then came to the fore in Gabriel Fauré’s Elegy for Cello and Orchestra, though arranged for the largest string instrument, double bass. Marc-André Teruel was the first winner of the new ICMA Classeek Award. The recently launched collaboration between ICMA and Classeek allows for the promotion of one outstanding young musician each year, selected from the list of finalists in Classeek’s flagship ambassador program for talented artists. During this Elegy, Teruel demonstrated how well the double bass lends itself to solo performance when played as he just can. He illustrated that in the right hands, the unwieldy-looking double bass can sound just as elegant and upbeat as it can sound sensitive and sensual, rather than grumpy and sluggish.
The next work was the ‘con moto for orchestra’ by David Philip Hefti, winner of the composer prize. In compressedly purposeful appearance, this work shows that Hefti is adept at making modern music nonetheless appealing in sound.
In a second appearance, the eminent Artist of the Year, Ermonela Jaho, sung In Ombra di nube by Licinio Refice, and managed a performance that allowed her technically flawless voice a great freedom and a captivating operatic flair.
Perhaps the best-known name of the evening, with an equally familiar work, was cellist David Geringas, who won a lifetime achievement award, with the Jewish prayer without words Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch. Geringas is experienced enough to allow the music to unfold freely, bringing the private nature of the prayer situation to life.
Before the evening came to an aural close, Remy Franck presented the award for the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw to director Andrzej Kosendiak. This was to honor the Forum as a nucleus of art education and for the breadth and intensity as well as the quality of its activities. Kosendiak dedicated the prize to the musicians and, above all, to the Forum’s audience, without whose interest and devotion the place alone would be meaningless.
The sounding conclusion was the Toccata from the Symphonie concertante op. 81 by Joseph Jongen. Here the organist Karol Mossakowski and the NFM Philharmonic Orchestra with Giancarlo Guerrero, who had also recently recorded this work, showed that they could also combine their strengths together on stage, and why this Polish organist had been awarded the prize of the orchestra.
The live stream of the concert is available in the link of Deutsche Welle for all those interested who could not attend the event in person, in order to be able to follow this extraordinary event for the first time or to deepen their knowledge.