So, the Classic BRIT Awards. An often overlooked ceremony due to the sometimes disheartening lack of concern for classical music nowadays, this event nonetheless features many superb performances and well contested awards. Let’s see what happened this year!
First up: pianist Lang Lang and violinist Nicola Benedetti played a very frenetic version of Sabre Dance with the London Chamber Orchestra (who were conducted excellently by Christopher Warren-Green all night). Seriously, it seemed even more frantic than usual! Lang Lang in particular seemed to be having an absolute blast, and the energy of each and every performer made this a perfect opening number, culminating with an especially cheeky ending.
The orchestra then broke into the Can Can music as Myleene Klass walked out to present, making her blush (and the audience clap out of time…)
This certainly is a classier affair than the ones you’re probably used to, Jonathan Ross! Predictably, Hans Zimmer won Composer Of The Year, but Ross first offered some surprisingly well considered thoughts on the value of film music. Hans’ speech was short and sweet, concluding simply with “I am very happy.”
Actress Cherie Lungi presented Male Artist Of The Year next to Daniel Barenboim, who absolutely deserves it for his excellent work with Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Proms this year, and although he couldn’t be at the ceremony, he sent a delightfully amusing video message.
Gareth Malone’s Voices were up next, offering a magnificently haunting version of ‘So Close’, the theme from Broadchurch, which could probably move you to tears if you well up at that sort of thing. It is always a pleasure to see Gareth master a choir like this, and this arrangement was particularly well crafted, with subtle minor harmonies under a beautiful solo. As this choir’s public debut, it was a huge success. Just don’t look too long at Gareth’s current questionable facial hair.
Actress Jodie Whittaker soon popped up to present Female Artist Of The Year to Nicola Benedetti, who was up against the same two as last year (Joyce DiDonato and Alison Balsom) and managed to beat them off for the second year running, and also gave an interesting speech touching on selling classical music and the wealth of the genre out there.
More Lang Lang! He was the recipient of the International Artist Of The Year Award, as presented by the lovely Samantha Barks. Lang Lang appears to be such an excitable man that it’s impossible not to smile at him, whatever he’s doing.
Joseph Calleja then gave a powerful performance of Caruso, before Jane Asher presented the Breakthrough Artist Award, which was drawn from four nominees instead of three for the first time ever due to the high quality of artists this year. The award was won by saxophonist Amy Dickson.
Yet more Lang Lang! Back for another performance, this time it was a solo in the form of Chopin’s Grand Valse Brilliante Op. 18, No. 1 in E-flat major, and it was a joy to watch and listen to once again.
Next, before the presentation of the Outstanding Contribution To Music Award, a performance tribute to Hans Zimmers’ contribution to film music, incorporating the composer himself. There was a visual montage of clips from the featured films throughout, which added an exciting extra dimension, with films including The Dark Knight Rises, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Sherlock Holmes, The Lion King, Gladiator and Man Of Steel before Hans joined in on the piano for the mesmerising Time from Inception. In case anyone had forgotten, this medley of Zimmer’s most epic and magnificent themes reminded all of his ability to craft a memorable, rhythmic, and all-round effective theme. This was easily a highlight of the night.
Sir Michael Caine then appeared to present Hans with the award, and the rapport between the two was immediately palpable and amusing to watch as Michael insisted that his friend stay seated throughout his speech. Michael also offered some serious words about the film music industry, noting how the art had significantly progressed from the days when it was merely called ‘background music.’
Ludovico Einaudi performed here, but due to the remarkably high standards of performance throughout the event, his wasn’t actually as memorable as you might expect. Jonas Kaufmann then received the Critics’ Award from Vienna, which was well deserved, before Amy Dickson proved why she won her award with a beautiful version of Going Home that used the saxophone’s imploring timbre at its finest.
Classic FM Album Of The Year, as presented by the charming Aled Jones, went to Andre Rieu’s Magic Of The Movies, who quite frankly is my least favourite of the lot, as proved by the clip they played, which was a cheesy cover of My Heart Will Go On. Never mind.
José Carreras paid tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, who had the ‘sun in his voice’ and ‘joy in his life’, and who unfortunately died six years ago before he could collect the Lifetime Achievement Award. He is undoubtedly one of the best artists that the opera world has ever seen, so it was a joy to be reminded of this fact.
The show was closed wondrously with an exclusive collaboration by two brilliant singers, Alfie Boe and Samantha Barks, and the London Community Gospel Choir, singing Glory, Glory Hallelujah and Come What May. What better way to end?