In terms of international prestige, it's hard to think of bigger prizes in the classical community than those given annually by the British classical music magazine Gramophone (where I served as the North America editor for several years). Sure, the Grammys have more general name recognition, but these Eurocentric awards, completely dedicated to classical music, offer far more depth and breadth than their nearest American counterparts, both in terms of artists and repertoire.
As in previous years, the 2012 awards recipients offered a concentrated selection of artists that is, even though there are so many subgenre awards given, some of the same names tend to pop up over and over again. The Belgian vocal ensemble Vox Luminis, directed by Lionel Meunier, won both Baroque Vocal and Recording of the Year, Gramophone's "best of the best" category. But even elsewhere, some of the same names keep reappearing, like rising 20-year-old British pianist Benjamin Grosvenor the Young Artist of the Year who also took home the Instrumental award for his album of Chopin, Liszt and Ravel. Meanwhile, conductor Claudio Abbado was cited no less than four times: thrice for current projects (in the Concerto, DVD Performance and Opera categories), but also for the Lifetime Achievement Award, which, despite the hoary frost of its name, tends to go to artists who are very much still performing at the top of their game.
This year, American or even American-based artists were almost entirely absent from the honors, with the exception of Murray Perahia, who won the Piano Award, and Music Makes A City, a documentary about the Louisville Orchestra, which turned Kentucky into an incubator for new music. Among our own Deceptive Cadence records of the year for 2011 was the winner of the winner of the Gramophone Orchestral Award, a set of the complete Bohuslav Martinu symphonies featuring the BBC Symphony and conductor Ji Blohlvek. Also on our list was the magazine's Artist of the Year for 2012, Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, who has become a great favorite here at NPR, and with whom we recorded an intimate concert at the New York club (Le) Poisson Rouge last year:
The Gramophone awards themselves also got a slight tweak this year. Gone are both the "Specialist Classical Chart Award" won last year by guitarist Milos Karadaglic and previously by "waltz king" violinist Andre Rieu and the "Music in the Community" prize, which put a well-earned spotlight on local ensembles that use music in the cause of social activism.
Here's the complete list of 2012 winners: