Friday, December 21, 2007


Today is the Winter Solstice and shortest day of the year, so traditionally (well, two years ago) it became the occasion for our very own virtual music awards ceremony.

Welcome once again to the Cyberposhplace! Please help yourself to a glass of Virtualvintagechampers and the delectable canapes made by our very own Virtualcelebritychef. And now let's have a big round of applause for each and every musician who has touched the hearts of his or her audience during the past 12 months....

Thank you! Quiet, please. Now would the following winners please approach the podium where Sir Georg 'Ginger Stripes' Solti will allow you to stroke his fur coat just this once, and will give you a special prize purr.

Icon of the year: Mstislav Rostropovich, who passed away in April. A hero, an inspiration, and a bloody phenomenal cellist. Without him, the music of the past century wouldn't have taken the shape that it did. Adieu, dear maestro.

Pianists of the year: joint mad props to Marc-Andre Hamelin for his simply staggering recording of Alkan, and Piers Lane, who not only plays like the angel of the Antipodes but has also managed to turn the National Gallery's Myra Hess Day into an annual event. Last but by no means least, a special mention for Pascal Devoyon, whose pages I turned during the Messiaen Visions de l'Amen in St Nazaire. That was quite an experience!

Violinists of the year: Tasmin Little, for an unforgettable performance of Bartok's Solo Sonata a couple of months ago, but also for her gameness and good humour in agreeing to go busking for our Indy feature at just a few hours' notice. Watch out for her very exciting new project in January. And Philippe Graffin, as ever, and not only for commissioning stuff like plays and short stories from me: just hear that tone, that bow arm, those slides! Another interesting project is afoot, too, of which much more next year...

Singer of the year: Juan Diego Florez. What a knockout. What a dreamboat. Especially singing high Cs at the distance of 4 metres (or, even better, across the sofa in the ROH press office interview room).

Youthful artist of the year [NB I disqualify teenagers from this; too many artists are pushed too hard for being too young, so instead...]: the accomplished and adorable cellist Natalie Clein, whose new Elgar recording is happily nothing like Jacqueline du Pre's.

Conductor of the year: Vladimir Jurowski. Yes, again - but there can be no other contender, as far as I'm concerned.

Interviewee of the year: Pinchas Zukerman who declared, tapping my right forefinger, "I always say to my students: 'This is your bank account'." Close seconds: Cecilia Bartoli, Natalie Dessay and Sting (watch this space!).

CD of the year: Terezin, recorded by Anne Sofie von Otter with Bengt Forsberg, Daniel Hope and friends. This is one of the most extraordinary discs that's ever come my way, and the most devastating. Ilse Weber, a young nurse, volunteered to go with the sick children of Terezin to death at Auschwitz so that she could take care of them em route; her songs are the heart of this recording. It's said she sang 'Wiegala' with the children in the gas chamber. The CD also features music by Pavel Haas, Hans Krasa and the solo violin sonata by Erwin Schulhoff, plus some amazing, black-humoured cabaret songs.

Lifetime Achievement Award: British violist Rosemary Nalden, for her work in Soweto with Buskaid. Check back here for a reminder of their glorious appearance at the Proms.

Take a bow, everybody...Thank you. Thank you for your moving, uplifting, inspiring, life-enhancing music-making. You're wonderful. We love you.

And now a few personal highlights of 2007:

Proudest moment: Standing on the RFH platform uttering the words "Welcome to the UK premiere of Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane!".

Next-proudest moments: publication of Alicia's Gift; and writing my first play, A Walk Through the End of Time, and seeing it performed in St Nazaire.

Most affecting moment: Attending the world premiere of Nigel Osborne's opera Differences in Demolitions in Mostar, Bosnia.

Most unfortunate moment: there've been a few, but I have managed not to sue anyone.

Biggest sigh of relief: realising that my dubious language skills had only seriously screwed up on one point in my first-ever French interview, with Ouest-France (I got 'journal' et 'magasin' muddled and the result was a lovely romantic article about how I first met Philippe in a violin shop!)

Personality of the year: Joyce Hatto. In one way or another.

Feline of the year: .....[ouch! Solti, get your teeth out of my ankle!].

Man of the year: Erich Wolfgang Korngold. (Sorry, Tom.)