Tuesday, December 21, 2010


PLEASE DO NOT ADJUST YOUR COMPUTER... It’s the Winter Solstice. It’s the end of 2010. And here at JDCMB, it’s PARTY TIME!

The snowclouds are gathering around the Cyberposhplace. But this being Virtualsville, CyberParkLane is gritted to perfection and we can both enjoy the glittering snow and get from A to B without breaking a leg en route. So no stinting on the glamour, please! I hope you have brought your fake fur and a Trilby. Please step in through the ballroom entrance, leave your snowboots and Yaktrax in the cloackroom and help yourself to some cyberhot-chocolate specially imported from the Café Europejska, Krakow. We’ll be serving borscht, pierogi and poppyseed cake later …

Then please give a special round of applause to our first guests of honour: the first celebrity couple of music, reunited at last in a bicentenary celebration: Robert and Clara Schumann! Clara looks exquisite in pearly silk and Robert is wearing a cravat to match. (We’re hoping Brahms and Joachim may turn up too, but they were last heard of sloping off to hear a Gypsy band in a café, so they may be late.) Happy birthday, Robert, and don’t forget to say hello to... ah, but that’s for later.

First, let’s have a round of applause for 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 Solti, ensconced upon his traditional silken cushion, will allow you to stroke the ginger stripes and will give you your very own prize purr.

Icon of the year:
Henryk Gorecki, who has passed away aged 76. I first heard his Third Symphony - which really has become “iconic” - through my neighbour’s wall in my first flat: unearthly, haunting, keening sounds that got straight under my skin. I had no idea what it was, but it made a nice change from the noises that used to come in from the flat on the other side… Later I heard the symphony properly. Its beauty and purity has been pathetically maligned since its composer’s recent death, with most people saying everything else he wrote was better. Tough: many of us love the thing. A toast, please, ladies and gentleman, in the Café Europejska chocolate (almost local to the composer but not quite...): here’s to great music that is pure of heart and resonates from soul to soul.

Pianist of the year:
a tie-break between Simon Trpceski and Gabriela Montero has proved…oh. They’re still at it, zipping away at their respective pianos. Simon is accelerating through some dazzling Prokofiev; Gabriela is pulling stardust out of thin air, translating it into spur-of-moment marvels. Each has much to say and everything to give. Both have the energy of three normal people rolled into one. And there’s warmth and communication and charisma -- and insights in every bar. Bravi both.

Violinist of the year:
this choice should be more difficult than it is, but in the event it wasn’t. Please welcome Tasmin Little, for her absolutely gorgeous and deeply moving recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Andrew Davis (Chandos). Nice one, Tazza!

Singer of the year 
Grüße dich, liebe Herr Jonas Kaufmann. A warm welcome to the Ginger Stripe Awards. Your performance of Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin at the Wigmore Hall made me tweet in German. You are the real deal, and one in many million. Please take very, very good care of yourself, your larynx, your lungs and your heart and soul. I can’t wait to hear what you sing next.

Youthful artist of the year
Let’s hear it for the superduper Nicola Benedetti. At 23 she is more active, expressive, dynamic and devoted to music for the greater good than many musicians twice her age. She may well be the figurehead that the cause of music education is going to need in the nasty years ahead. And there’s no arguing with playing like that, either.

Conductor of the year:
It is a great pleasure to offer this award to Semyon Bychkov, who is by all accounts playing the socks off Tannhäuser at the Royal Opera House at present. I’ve long admired his warmth, intelligence and verve; he scooped Record of the Year at BBC Music Magazine Awards back in the spring and his performances leave long-lasting furrows in the mind for their intensity, focus and sheer beauty.

Interviewee of the year: Please welcome Vladimir Jurowski, even though he is, I guess, my maestro-in-law. I’ve had the good fortune to catch him for a number of different projects this year and from Goethe’s Faust to Mahler’s Jewish side, from darkest Russia to family matters (since I also interviewed his little brother, Dmitri), few others would have come up with so many consistently interesting, well-informed, enlightening and eminently chew-overable responses.

Creative Musical Experience of the year:
For the second year running, this award goes to pianist Mikhail Rudy, who’s been having some fun with Kandinsky. To unearth Kandinsky’s drawings and instructions for the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, find the perfect team to animate them and then perform the lot with perfect co-ordination takes quite a bit of oomph, and I hope the impressive results will be snapped up by festivals around the world very quickly.

CD of the year:
For me, Mitsuko Uchida’s CD of Schumann’s Davidsbundlertänze really has no peers as a listening experience for 2010. I thought I’d died and gone to piano heaven. With piano as paintbox and a brain resembling a repository of understanding of culture in the best sense, she creates a multilayered performance in myriad shades that also serves as an x-ray, probing deep into the composer’s subtleties, allusions and troubled depths. Robert, please come and say hello to Mitsuko…ahhh. I can’t hear exactly what he’s saying to her, but there’s a big hug, a bow and a kiss of the hand.

Lifetime Achievement Award: My dear Frédéric, I can’t tell you what a delight it is to see you here in person, your dark-gold hair carefully brushed, your dove-grey suit and white kid gloves as fine as they were when you had them tailored in, uh, 1840 or so. And you are no longer coughing. Your native Poland pushed out the boat for your bicentenary so heavily that I’m surprised they haven’t yet sent out any vodka-filled chocolate with your picture on the front, but now that it is all drawing to a close there’s a sense of nostalgia. That was the Chopin Year that was.

Now Liszt Year lies ahead, so light the touchpaper and stand well back…

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

And a few personal highlights:

Proudest moment:
Several of these. Prime among them was turning into a Proms TV commentator for a thrilling if terrifying eight minutes -- another treat of that event was the understanding that all those beautiful people on TV look as good as they do because TV stations employ seriously accomplished make-up artists. Then there was the lovely rain-sluiced trawl around Paris for the Fauré Composer of the Week series courtesy of BBC Radio 3. I was also going to say something about mastering the grand jeté en tournant, but I’ve currently got a suspected stress fracture in my foot.

Weirdest moment:
Stuck at the station in Viareggio, shunting back and forth across the tracks with my suitcase, escorted by a variety of handsome Italians in station uniform, yet missing several trains in the process. I was trying to get from Torre del Lago to Verbier by train in the middle of some exceedingly dramatic storms (the saga is here). The weird thing was that I actually made it. Maybe this wasn’t weird. Maybe it was just…Italy.

Quote of the year
Dame Gwyneth Jones: “NEIN!”

Biggest sigh of relief:
Maybe we should have heeded the notice that said DANGER, MOUNTAIN BIKE TRACK, but back in August I reached the road above Verbier safe and sound in company with Boss and Mrs Boss, only to see a bunch of callow youths on said bikes whooshing at about 200mph down the bumpy mountain path on which we’d just been picking our way forward. Blimey, guv - we were lucky.Very big sigh of relief, and comforting onion soup all round.

Guest stars of the year:
The directors and devoted teachers of Al Kamandjati, Ramallah, and the network of Edward Said National Conservatories of Music that against ferocious odds keep music education alive and free in the Palestinian Territories. Now, they know the true meaning of “music for peace”. Read all about them in my article for Classical Music Magazine, here

Feline of the year:
Simon’s Cat, who has made the big time bigtime and got onto CBBC...owwwch! Solti, kitty, you take yourself too seriously. That’s why we can’t make a cartoon about you. You’re always busy being the maestro (mice-tro?)… Anyway, you’re presenting the prizes, aren’t you? Which means you can’t actually…OK…yes, it’s a deal: you shall have fish when we’re home.

Wonderful Webmaster of the Year:
The award always goes to Horst Kolo, who designs and maintains www.jessicaduchen.co.uk with a patience that few others could muster, now or ever.

Thank you, everyone. Now please relax, keep warm and enjoy the music...