Last night (16 October 2019), the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded Orchestra of the Year at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards after winning the public vote.

A shortlist of ten internationally renowned orchestras competed for the award, which was the only award to be decided by the public via an online poll. The HKPO triumphed, largely due to their ambitious recording of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Chief executive of the HKPO Benedikt Fohr said: ‘We will bring this award back to our people in Hong Kong. They deserve it and they need it, especially in these difficult times.’

The Recording of the Year prize went to French pianist Bertrand Chamayou, for his recording of Saint-Saëns piano concertos on Erato, which also won the Concerto category. It was the first time since 2002 that any work by Saint-Saëns had appeared on a Gramophone Award-wining recording.

Soprano Dame Emma Kirkby was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of her impact on the early music revival across five decades.

Icelandic pianist Vikingur Ólafsson was named Artist of the Year, praised for having the gift of ‘making something familiar feel entirely his own, drawing you into a world where no other interpretation seems possible’ (Gramophone, 2019).

Young Artist of the Year was awarded to 28-year-old singer Jakub Józef Orliński, who switched roles at short notice to play the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo at Glyndebourne while maintaining a side-hustle as a professional model and break-dancer. His debut album ‘Anima Sacra’ on Erato was also shortlisted for this year’s Recital Award.

Guitarist Sean Shibe became the first recipient of the newly-created Concept Album award for his album ‘softLOUD’ on Delphian, which juxtaposes Scottish Dances and music by James Macmillan played on a traditional acoustic instrument, with contemporary works on electric guitar by Julia Wolf, David Lang and Steve Reich. His performance of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint was described by the composer as ‘one of the best recordings ever.’

Label of the Year was awarded to Netherlands-based label Pentatone, represented with a live performance by pianist Denis Kozhukhin, whose album of Grieg and Mendelssohn miniatures was selected last month as Gramophone’s Recording of the Month.

Gramophone awarded a Special Achievement Award to the Birgit Nilsson Foundation for its work in supporting Nilsson’s legacy during the singer’s centenary year, introducing her to a generation who were never able to experience her live with a campaign that included a 31-CD set of live performances, a DVD ‘A League of Her Own’ and a hardback book of photographs.

Live performances from many of the winners took place at the ceremony in Central London, as well as performances from former award winners Arte dei Suonatori, and guest performer Delphine Gakou. The evening closed with a Bach duet from winners Jakub Józef Orliński and Emma Kirkby.

James Jolly, Gramophone’s editor-in-chief, said: ‘What a vintage year it has proved to be! And what a fantastic line-up of artists we’ve welcomed to London for this year’s Awards. The way we listen to music may be changing dramatically, but one thing remains constant – the high-quality of the music-making, the artists’ single-minded commitment to their art and the industry’s flair and imagination in capturing these great musicians and their performance for posterity.’