Presented in association with BBC Radio 3

  • Soprano Karita Mattila, conductor Richard Farnes, violinist James Ehnes and pianist Joseph Middleton take home top individual RPS Music Awards
  • Rebecca Saunders wins her third RPS Music Award and becomes the RPS’s most decorated female composer
  • Manchester Camerata, who will open this summer’s Glastonbury Festival, named Ensemble of the year
  • In a good year for music-making in the regions, there are also RPS Music Award wins for Opera North, the UK’s first disabled-led youth orchestra, South-West Open Youth Orchestra and two Scottish festivals - East Neuk Festival and Lammermuir Festival.
  • Viol consort Fretwork, composer Philip Venables, and violinist and author, Edward Dusinberre, also celebrate notable successes
  • Veteran filmmaker Barrie Gavin made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society.
  • Royal Philharmonic Society launches #LiveMusicIs... campaign featuring musicians across the UK

The winners of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, the UK’s most prestigious awards for live classical music, have been announced at a ceremony at The Brewery in the City of London (evening Tuesday 9 May 2017). This year’s awards, presented in association with BBC Radio 3, celebrate the unique experience of live music-making and this year recognise outstanding musical achievement across the UK in 2016, with award winners chosen by independent juries of leading music practitioners from hundreds of nominations nationwide.


It was a good night for conductor Richard Farnes, who scooped the RPS Music Award for Conductor. Opera North’s “magnificent” Ring Cycle, which Farnes conducted, won the RPS Music Award for Opera and Music Theatre. Farnes, who stepped down as Music Director of Opera North in 2016 after a 12 year tenure, was described by the RPS jury as “one of the finest Wagnerian interpreters of our time” and “an inspiring example of tireless and self-effacing musical leadership”.

“Astounding” Finnish soprano Karita Mattila won the RPS Music Award for Singer, for the “nakedly communicative power of her mature vocal and dramatic artistry” in “spellbinding” performances in two Janacek operas: Kostelnicka in Jenufa at the Royal Festival Hall and Emilia Marty in The Makropoulos Case at the BBC Proms 2016.

Canadian violinist James Ehnes won the RPS Music Award for Instrumentalist with the RPS jury citing a “wonderfully productive 40th birthday year” in which “he delivered an extraordinary breadth of communication through his eloquent music-making” as Artist in Residence, in concerts and recitals nationwide and in inspirational visits as part of the In Harmony programme.

A “born collaborator” equally at home in partnership with leading international artists or supporting young performers, pianist (and director of the Leeds Lieder Festival) Joseph Middleton collected the RPS Music Award for Young Artists, for his “dedication to the field of chamber music and song."

The RPS Music Award for Chamber Music and Song was won by viol consort Fretwork for their 30th anniversary year, described by the jury as an ensemble that has “consistently excelled in a specialist repertoire, always with exquisite taste and polish” and has provided a “welcome expansion of the repertoire through commissioning new works.”

The two RPS composition awards both went to works with theatrical roots. Composer Rebecca Saunders won the RPS Music Award for Chamber-Scale Composition (her third RPS Music Award) for Skin, which takes its lead from words by Samuel Beckett: “an exhausting, and at times disturbing ride” written by a composer “at the height of her powers”. Philip Venables won the RPS Music Award for Large-Scale Composition for his “brilliantly written” opera 4.48 Psychosis. Based on the play by Sarah Kane, and staged by the Royal Opera at the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, the opera was described by the jury as “arrestingly relevant, uncomfortable yet gripping.”

Outstanding music-making in the regions scooped several awards: Manchester Camerata won the RPS Music Award for Ensemble for “boldly reinventing itself” over the past few years and “blazing a trail for what a 21st century orchestra can do” which has made it an “indispensible cultural asset.” Manchester Camerata will open the Pyramid stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival with Hacienda Classical.

Two Scottish festivals were also amongst the winners. Lammermuir Festival took home the RPS Music Award for Concert Series and Festivals, for a “wide-ranging programme, inspired by the historic architecture and landscape of its East Lothian location, whether hillfolds or fields, fishing villages or market towns” which features “the very best of Scotland’s artists at the heart of its music-making.” East Neuk Festival, in collaboration with 14-18 NOW, won the RPS Music Award for Audiences and Engagement for Memorial Ground by American composer David Lang, “a piece of special local significance to celebrate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme”. With “meticulous planning,” the piece, performing materials and resources were then made available without charge to choirs around the UK, achieved thirty-seven additional performances in its first year alone.

Other regional winners included: Leeds-based Opera North for the culmination of its “magnificent” Ring Cycle, with performances over five years reaching huge audiences in five cites in England.

The UK’s first disabled-led youth orchestra, Bristol-based South-West Open Youth Orchestra, brought to life by Open Up Music won the RPS Music Award for Learning and Participation. The judges saluted the inclusive nature of the process, which develops bespoke instruments according to the needs of the individual musicians that can be played with any part of the body, and the orchestra’s “practical, inspirational and vital role in bringing together theworlds of disabled and mainstream music-making.”

First violinist of the Takacs Quartet, Edward Dusinberre won the RPS Music Award for Creative Communication for his “honest and lucid” book, Beethoven for a Later Age: The Journey of a String Quartet (Faber). Dusinberre “shares an important but intimate musical experience: that of living for decades with one of the greatest of all artistic achievements, Beethoven's quartets.” The jury remarked: “Few have told so well of the musician’s life, or offered such illuminating insights to players and listeners alike.”

Veteran filmmaker Barrie Gavin, who has made more than 200 films about music and more than 250 live relays of performances, was presented with Honorary Membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

John Gilhooly, Chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, comments: "This year’s RPS Music Award winners take no prisoners, united in their excellence and their commitment to removing barriers to listening or participation in classical music. The awards celebrate live music of extraordinary quality and ambition, taking place across the width and breadth of the country (closer to home than many might think). I’d urge those who have yet to experience its multifarious pleasures to get out there and listen and make music, in the moment, of the moment. Live Music Is... more vibrant than ever."

Alan Davey, Controller of BBC Radio 3, comments: “Live classical music is the lifeblood of what we do at BBC Radio 3, it is part of our vital role to connect audiences with remarkable music and culture. Many congratulations to all the winners here tonight and to the RPS who have helped to contribute to that live classical music scene, a scene that is the envy of the world and is alive and vibrant! I can’t wait to share the highlights from tonight with our millions of listeners who, like concert-going audiences, continue to be thirsty for the enrichment that classical music brings.”


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