The Jury of the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) today announced the Awards for 2021. German soprano Edita Gruberova is honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado is Artist of the Year, Turkish pianist Can Cakmur is Young Artist of the Year. The Discovery Award is awarded to 14-year-old German violinist Maya Wichert.

Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings is the Label of the Year. A Special Award is conferred to Drazen Domjanic, General Manager of the Sinfonieorchester Liechtenstein as well as founder and Manager of the International Music Academy in Liechtenstein and to violinist Ingolf Turban.

The Sinfonieorchester Liechtenstein is honouring violinist Marc Bouchkov and cellist Kian Soltani with the Orchestra Award. In the Audio and Video categories, 18 productions are awarded a prize.

Among the artists performing on the winning audio and video releases are
– instrumentalists Kristian Bezuidenhout, Lucas Debargue, Alban Gerhardt, Kirill Gerstein, Franziska Pietsch, Beatrice Rana, Svjatoslav Richter,  Chouchane Siranossian, Josu de Solaun
– singers Stéphane Degout, Jodie Devos, Sabine Devieilhe, Sophie Junker, Emonela Jaho, Edgaras Montvidas
– conductors Thomas Adès, Riccardo Chailly, Pablo Heras-Casado, Dmitry Kitajenko, Louis Langrée, Andrea Marcon, Kirill Petrenko, Ivan Repusic, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, François-Xavier Roth
– ensembles Ensemble Diderot, Huelgas Ensemble, Venice Baroque Orchestra
– Berliner Philharmoniker, Freiburger Barockorchester, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Les Siècles, WDR Sinfonieorchester

ICMA President Remy Franck and Secretary General Nicola Cattò say: « The pandemic might only come into effect for recording companies during the next years. In 2020 the ICMA jury – 20 media from 16 countries – was able to choose nominations among a huge number of releases. As a result, ICMA is again able to present an outstanding international list of winners, with productions from 17 labels and 8 different countries. This proves again that the ICMA Jury has a global overview of the market and grants its annual awards to labels and musicians around the world who have proven outstanding performances in their specific field. We have often been told that ICMA Awards are very important and valuable for the industry as well as for the performers. We are happy that we may help to make outstanding recordings popular, especially in these difficult times where the musical life suffered so much. »

Here is the list with the ICMA winners of the year 2021, as established by the Jury comprising the jury members from the following media:
ANDANTE (Turkey) – CRESCENDO (Belgium) – DAS ORCHESTER (Germany) – DEUTSCHE WELLE (Germany) – GRAMOFON (Hungary) – IMZ (Austria) – MUSICAL LIFE (Russia) – MDR KLASSIK (Germany) – MUSICA (Italy) – MUSIK & THEATER (Switzerland) – OPERA (UK) – ORPHEUS RADIO (Russia) – PIZZICATO (Luxembourg) – POLISH RADIO CHOPIN (Poland ) – RADIO 100,7 (Luxembourg) – RADIO ROMANIA MUZICAL (Romania) – RESMUSICA (France) – RONDO CLASSIC (Finland) – SCHERZO (Spain) – UNISON (Croatia)


One of the last true great opera divas, Edita Gruberova has triumphed on stages all over the world for over fifty years, showing the absolute perfection of her singing, the purity of her pitch and total adherence to the dramatic reasons of the characters in the Italian bel canto repertoire, in which she is undisputed queen — but we shouldn’t forget the wit and the irony she has always displayed in German and Viennese operetta. A model of long-lasting career and dedication, Edita Gruberova is a model for any young singer wishing to follow her example.

ARTIST OF THE YEARPablo Heras-Casado, conductor
In an already dazzling career, the Granada-born conductor Pablo Heras-Casado has shown great versatility in an unusually broad repertoire ranging from Renaissance music to contemporary creations. His collaborations with the world’s most important orchestras and ensembles, as well as his numerous recordings, place the young Spanish maestro among the most solid values on the international scene.

After studies at Schola Cantorum in Paris and at the Liszt Academy of Weimar, as well as with Diane Andersen in Belgium, the young Turkish pianist Can Cakmur has just embarked into a promising worldwide career. Benefitting from a superb technique he is a sensitive and rhetoric musician. After having received an ICMA Award in the Solo Instrument category last year, he is getting ICMA’s Young Artist of the Year Award this year, which is also unique in our awards’ history.

DISCOVERY AWARDMaya Wichert, violin
The young German violinist Maya Wichert has already won many coveted prizes. A successful soloist at her young age, she also loves to play chamber music. She convinced the ICMA Jury with her fine technique and a much nuanced, deeply musical playing.

LABEL OF THE YEARBerliner Philharmoniker Recordings
Focussing on large cycles, Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings are distinguished by their sophisticated presentation in luxurious boxes with audio recordings in high-resolution quality and, often, also video recordings. They come with exhaustive documentation about the recordings, the performers and the music, making each release a desirable collector’s item.

ORCHESTRA AWARDMarc Bouchkov, violin
The Franco-Belgian violinist Marc Bouchkov is a complete musician, equally at ease in recitals and chamber music as he is as a soloist with symphony orchestras. His flexibility in different styles makes him one of the most eminent soloists of our time.

Kian Soltani, cello
Kian Soltani has established himself as one of the most eagerly awaited young cellists of our time. Winner of the most prestigious competitions dedicated to his instrument, he already performs with the world’s leading orchestras and he recorded already with great musicians such as Daniel Barenboim and Renaud Capuçon.

As a cultural manager and founder of the International Music Academy in Liechtenstein, the chamber orchestra Esperanza and several international music festivals, Drazen Domjanic proved a tireless and highly successful promoter of young talents. Under his utterly dynamic and inspired guidance, the Music Academy in Liechtenstein has developed into a breeding ground for internationally successful young musicians who constantly enrich the international musical life.

Ingolf Turban is one of the most recorded violinists of our time. In a very broad and often rarely played repertoire his interpretations are lauded for their technical accomplishment and highly communicative quality. A virtuoso performer, he is also a renowned teacher, eager to share his skills with the younger generation, notably at the International Music Academy in Liechtenstein.


Bonefont – Bruck – Gombert – Kerle – Lassus
Huelgas Ensemble, Paul van Nevel
A living legend of early music, Paul Van Nevel together with his Huelgas Ensemble help us rediscover the scores of Simone de Bonefont, a major release published by the Belgian label Cyprès.

Giuseppe Tartini: Violin Concertos
Chouchane Siranossian
Venice Baroque Orchestra, Andrea Marcon
Being a versatile musician, Chouchane Siranossian has achieved considerable success both in the standard classical repertoire and baroque music. This Tartini CD is a wonderful proof of both Siranossian’s distinguished artistry and Tartini’s great but still underrated music for violin and orchestra. With her trademark virtuosity, Siranossian excels in the outer movements of all the concertos on the recording and equally fills the inner movements with immense lyricism. Chouchane Siranossian’s playing is characterized by great naturalness – a quality that has become very rare among modern baroque violinists – without ever degenerating into casualness. Andrea Marcon and the Venice Baroque Orchestra are very inspired partners for the soloist, providing a supple and expressive accompaniment.


The Berlin Album
Benda – Graun – Janitsch – Kirnberger – von Preußen – Schulz
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
With The Berlin Album, the violinist Johannes Prahmsohler and his high-profile Ensemble Diderot continue their metropolis series. After focussing on composers from Dresden, Paris and London, they take a look here at Trio Sonatas by such masters as Graun, Kirnberger, Benda or Schulz. Their interpretations harmoniously combine poetry, reflection and virtuosity, and captivate with their wide palette of colours and shades. These intimate performances emphasise the music’s melodic beauty.

La Francesina, Handel’s Nightingale
Sophie Junker
Le Concert de l’Hostel Dieu, Franck-Emmanuel Comte
Élisabeth Du Parc was a French singer who became a sort of muse to Handel during his last years in London: on this Aparté CD, the Belgian soprano Sophie Junker astounds with the skill with which she delivers a very virtuosic vocal writing, thanks to total mastery of languages – Italian and English – and the ability to make every technical device an expressive factor. All in all, one of the finest examples of baroque singing in recent years.

Anima Rara
Catalani – Giordano – Leoncavallo – Mascagni – Massenet – Puccini
Ermonela Jaho
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Andrea Battistoni
Opera Rara
The superb Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho shows great dramatic artistry. Her charisma and ability to trigger goosebumps and emotional sympathy in the listener distinguishes her outstanding singing, which benefits from a very characteristic and recognisable timbre. Her consistently warm and powerful voice is projected evenly over the whole range of the soprano registers and is capable of all the necessary dynamic and colourful nuances required.

Igor Kuljeric: Glagolitic Requiem
Jakov Gotovac: Himna Slobodi
Kristina Kolar, Eric Laporte, Annika Schlicht, Ljubomir Puskaric, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Ivan Repusic
BR Klassik
The Glagolitic Requiem by the Croatian composer and conductor Igor Kuljeric
marries Glagolitic melismas with the architecture and form of the Latin Requiem. The recording allows us not only to discover a truly outstanding work but also to hear this music in a sensitive, gripping interpretation. The conductor Ivan Repusic is well supported by good soloists, the excellent choir of the Bavarian Radio and the very committed Munich Radio Orchestra.

Camille Saint-Saëns: Le Timbre d’Argent
Hélène Guilmette, Jodie Devos, Edgaras Montvidas, Yu Shao, Tassis Christoyannis
Jean-Yves Ravoux, Matthieu Chapuis
Accentus, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth
Bru Zane
The Bru Zane label offers us a formidable rediscovery, Le Timbre d’Argent by Camille Saint-Saëns. The opera begins with a 12-minute long, dramatic and musically very attractive overture and contains wonderful arias, scenes and choruses, which are shown to their best advantage in the gripping, lively interpretation by Xavier-François Roth at the helm of his own deeply committed orchestra Les Siècles. The cast is exceptional and among the singers is Jodie Devos, Young Artist 2015 of the International Classical Music Awards.

Maurice Ravel: La Valse, Miroirs – Igor Stravinsky: The Firebird, Petrushka
Beatrice Rana
Warner Classics
After winning the prestigious Montréal Piano Competition at only 18 years of age, the pianist Beatrice Rana made her way into the inner circle of the great international names of the instrument. Probably the finest Italian piano talent since Maurizio Pollini, in this recording dedicated to Ravel and Stravinsky she impresses not only with her dazzling virtuosity but also with her maturity in a repertoire that is so well known and yet so difficult to deliver convincingly.

Fauré: Violin Sonata No. 1 – Debussy: Violin Sonata – Ravel: Violin Sonata No. 2 – Poulenc: Violin Sonata
Franziska Pietsch, Josu de Solaun
From La Belle Époque to the years of World War II, the violin sonatas on this CD reflect the moods and whims of fast-changing times. Franziska Pietsch and Josu de Solaun explore the undercurrents of Fauré’s bitter-sweet romanticism, let Ravel’s colours sparkle, and enjoy their ride through Poulenc’s frenzy. They bring a fresh sense of boldness and eloquence to well-known pieces.

Dmitri Shostakovich: Cello Concertos Nos. 1 & 2
Alban Gerhardt, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Shostakovich’s existentially drawn concertos rank among the great challenges even for veteran cellists. Gerhardt’s expressive readings combine masterful playing with tone that ranges from the feverish to the roughened, the slim and sometimes sharp-edged. Without eccentric gestures, his fluent, colourful playing bring rarely heard intensity to the composer’s dark-shaded soundworld.

Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 9 – Tchaikovsky: Symphonies Nos. 5 & 6 – Franz Schmidt: Symphony No. 4 – Stephan: Music for Orchestra
Marlis Petersen, Elisabeth Kulman, Benjamin Bruns, Kwangchul Youn, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko
Berliner Philharmoniker Recordings
In a phenomenal performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Kirill Petrenko fights, so to speak, for every note, for every phrase, illuminating the work completely. The Ninth pulsates with incredibly sonorous rhetoric, the apotheosis being a twenty-one and a half minute long state of happiness and joy.
Petrenko’s account of Franz Schmidt’s Fourth is very emotional and gripping, and that of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth is dramatic and expressive. Rudi Stephan’s grandiose Music for Orchestra is intense, spirited and colourful, yet equally imbued with refined transparency.

Thomas Adès: Powder Her Face, Berceuse, Mazurkas, In Seven Days
Kirill Gerstein, Tanglewood Music Centre Orchestra, Thomas Adès
It has long been known: in these difficult times for the art of composition, Thomas Adès has found his own, eclectic language, creating music that is both attractive in sound and full of meaning. This programme combines the different aspects of his creative nature, evoking Schubert and tango, the salon elegance of mazurkas (though translated into a contemporary language), and the flickering of stars. This unusual set, enriched by the brilliant pianist Kirill Gerstein and musicians of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, is a most glamorous showcase for the work of this English composer and of contemporary music in general.

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4, Coriolan Overture,
The Creatures of Prometheus Overture
Kristian Bezuidenhout, Freiburger Barockorchester, Pablo Heras-Casado
Harmonia Mundi
HMM 902413
Kristian Bezuidenhout brings joy, finesse and lyricism to this often-recorded piece of Beethoven, and his interpretation is so fresh and sounds so authentic that one can’t help feeling that the listener is being beamed up to the Vienna of Beethoven’s era. The sound of the fortepiano is so sweet, and the brilliant recording of both the piano and orchestra do justice to the beauty of the pieces. The orchestra under the baton of Pablo Heras-Casado is very receptive, energetic and dynamic, and proves itself to be a first-rate authentic ensemble.

Dmitrij Kitajenko Collection
Bernstein – Butsko – Flyarkovsky – Gabeli – Kabalevsky – Khachaturian – Rachmaninov – Rimsky-Korsakov – R. Strauss – Theodorakis – Yanchenko
Various soloists, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre Orchestra, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra
Dmitrij Kitajenko
Dmitri Kitajenko has shown himself to be a conductor of incredible charisma from the very beginning of his career, able to put any work under an intense spotlight and to spur any orchestra on to heights of achievement. Moreover, this box is a veritable treasure trove of wonderful music that reflects the vastness of Kitajenko’s repertoire and also his determination to bring Western contemporary music to the former Soviet Union.

Live in Moscow 1951-1963
Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues op. 87
Svjatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Dmitri Shostakovich
PH 20054
Nobody plays Shostakovich like Shostakovich – obviously. But then, there’s Emil Gilels and his unique view on Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues, as well as Tatiana Nikolayeva, who performed their premiere. And, of course, Svjatoslav Richter with his much-loved interpretations. This CD box brings them all together and reminds the Shostakovich-loving audience that there’s nothing like authenticity.

Rachmaninov: Piano concerto No. 3 + Etude-Tableau + Vocalise + Symphony No. 3
Denis Matsuev, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly
Accentus Music
In this live recording of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, Denis Matsuev’s playing is both soulful and brilliant. Riccardo Chailly’s reading is detailed and extremely colourful. Rachmaninov’s Third Symphony, though composed on Lake Lucerne, is deeply Russian, and Chailly expresses this well. He does not seek the spectacular or the racy elegance in Rachmaninov’s music, but rather a emphasises sonority, orchestral colour and transparency, so that the individual movements of the symphony present themselves like a lush bouquet. But what ultimately really distinguishes this performance is the magnificent, phenomenal playing of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.


Thomas: Hamlet
Stéphane Degout, Sabine Devieilhe, Laurent Alvaro, Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo, Nicolas Legoux, Julien Behr, Jérôme Varnier, Yoann Dubruque, Kevin Amiel
Chœur Les Eléments, Orchestre des Champs-Elysées,
Louis Langrée, conductor
Cyril Teste, stage director
2.11064 & NBD0103V
Unjustly labelled by Debussy’s famous joke (« I know three kinds of music: the good, the bad and Thomas’s »), the French composer’s music returns to the stage with a production of his masterpiece, Hamlet, which fascinated the audience thanks to Louis Langrée’s sensitive conducting, Cyril Teste’s intelligently modern direction and, above all, the magnificent singing and theatrical intensity of Stéphane Degout and Sabine Devieilhe: a real redemption for poor Ambroise Thomas!

Lucas Debargue – To Music
A film by Martin Mirabel
2.110639 & NBD0101V
In this documentary category about Lucas Debargue, shot and directed by the pianist’s contemporary Martin Mirabel, the camera follows the young musician during concerts, recordings and even walks, capturing his original and paradoxical judgments about art, revealing his complete immersion in what makes up the meaning of his life. The jury appreciates both the stylishly-made visual component of the film and the special way of filming, which combines a news-reel manner with great focus on the details. It reveals the creative personality of an artist who may become one of the greatest musicians of the 21st century.

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