The Gramophone Awards
In late 2018 I was unfortunately too busy at work to get into this, but I hope I can get back on track this year.
Obviously, I’ll only be able to comment on albums that I’ve actually listened to, or ideally reviewed myself. Therefore, some categories will be less represented here.
The Gramophone awards are probably the most relevant and most highly regarded price in the classical music world, so it is always interesting to see what Gramophone comes up with, even if I don’t always agree.
You’ll find the published list of the 2019 nominees here.
You’ve probably noticed that the “concerto” category is among my favorites.
Not suprisingly, I had already reviewed several of the nominees.
Bach – The Violin Concertos – Isabelle Faust
I mean, what can I say, I’ve heard her play these live, I’ve given the album a very clear 5 star review, and anyhow I’m a self-declared Isabelle Faust fanboy. So absolutely, this is fantastic. And unlike the Trifonov below, I believe there is pretty much general consensus among reviewers that this is a great performance.
Rachmaninov – Piano Concertos 2 & 4 – Trifonov – Nézet-Séguin
This one is more tricky. I already predicted in my 5 star review before any of the professional reviews came out that this would be a love it or hate it affair. Turns out both professional reviewers and a lot of people who commented on my blog really don’t agree. So, while I love it, this is one of those albums I strongly suggest you check out before you buy. To me nevertheless is is one of my favorite performances of the work.
Saint-Saëns: Piano concertos 2 & 5 – Chamayou – Krivine
Here’s another album where I agree with Gramophone, the reason why my rating in my review was only four stars is because I didn’t rate Saint-Saëns highly enough from a repertoire perspective. But the playing is fantastic.
So, overall, good alignment between my reviews and Gramophone’s recommendations.
The category contains three other albums that I haven’t yet heard.
Leila Josefowicz playing John Adams violin concerto. I must admit I’m not familiar enough with Adams’ work to allow any proper review. As mentioned several times, I’m typically not very comfortable with 20th century music. But I may give this a try.
Kirill Gerstein playing Busoni’s piano concerto, with Sakari Oramo, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This is an album that I’m really intrigued by as I recently discovered my interest in Busoni, but it isnt’ available for streaming, and I’m really hesitant these days to buy an album blindly.
MIchael Collins playing Crusell’s Clarinet concerto. Who’s Crusell I presume you’re going to ask. I must admit I don’t have the faintest idea. Apparently a Finnish composer. I may give this one a try just out of curiosity.
To wrap up, who do I predict will win this year? My bet is on Isabelle Faust. This is truly a reference version of the Bach concertos, and so it would be really deserved. The only thing that could stop her is that she already won the recording of the year in the 2017 Gramphone awards. Not sure if this may influence the jury. Let’s see in some weeks.
UPDATE Sep 19: I just noticed that in the October issue of Gramophone, only 3 albums remain shortlisted. Specifically the Adams, Busoni, and Saint-Saëns recordings. So Faust is apparently already out. I hope Chamayou wins, he deserves it.
Note you’ll find part II (orchestral) of this mini-series here.