By Susan Elliott
October 14, 2015
Musical America has announced its annual awards and they are spot on, with Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin designated Artist of the Year (2016). Also recognized are Tod Machover (Composer of the Year), Jennifer Koh (Instrumentalist of the Year), Mark Padmore (Vocalist of the Year), and Boston Modern Orchestra Project (Ensemble of the Year).
The awardees will be honored in a ceremony at Carnegie Hall on December 8.
Nézet-Séguin is among the world’s busiest maestros, known especially in this country as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra. It’s a partnership that has blossomed and grown since the conductor arrived on the podium permanently, in 2012. Credit their chemistry and his unstoppable dynamism with bringing the Philadelphians back to their glory days. Nézet-Séguin is also the artistic leader of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain and, until 2018, of the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
Tod Machover’s uniqueness derives not only from his compositional abilities, but also from his imagination and inventiveness in the contexts he chooses to apply them. The longtime director of musical research for Pierre Boulez's electronic-music institute IRCAM in Paris, Machover is based at M.I.T. where he oversees Opera of the Future and Hyperinstruments groups. And it’s hardly a coincidence that his Symphony in D, for Detroit, incorporates sounds of the city, including Motown and cars, and invites individuals to upload their own sounds on the DSO Web site.
Jennifer (“Jenny”) Koh, Musical America’s 2016 Instrumentalist of the Year, is another all-time original, a violin virtuoso and Tchaikovsky Competition medalist who, in the last decade alone, has commissioned and/or premiered nearly 40 works; produced and hosted the initial episodes of Off Stage On Record, a web series on life as a concert artist; taken her “Music Messenger” series into thousands of classrooms across the country; and launched two performance/recording series -- Bach & Beyond and Two x Four -- that juxtapose the music of J.S. Bach with 20th and 21st-century works.
To say simply that Vocalist of the Year Mark Padmore “sang” the St. Matthew Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic, in Peter Sellars’s unforgettable staging, would be to miss the point. His performance as the Evangelist at the Park Avenue Armory last year was among the most powerful, moving interpretations ever, an utterly believable personal testament. The British tenor has sung the work in a myriad of contexts some 150 times. His facility in other repertoire, from Schubert to Britten to Mark-Anthony Turnage is equally laudable, again as much for the sound of the instrument as for the humanity behind it.
Founded and still led by Gil Rose, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) is currently in its 20th-anniversary season of performing contemporary work, much of it American. Committed to the cause, flexible in instrumentation, BMOP has to its credit more than 100 premieres, and 50 recordings on its own label of works by the late Gunther Schuller, as well as the complete symphonies of Lukas Foss, and works of Irving Fine. It has received ASCAP’s Award for Adventurous Orchestral Programming no fewer than 11 times.
Musical America traces its history back to 1898, when it was a weekly newspaper. Today, it is both the annual International Directory of the Performing Arts, which bestows the awards as well as continuing to serve as the “bible” of the industry for its comprehensive listings, and the Web site, MusicalAmerica.com. Launched in 1999 as a Web home for the listings, the site is known today as well for its authoritative arts news coverage and job listings, among other features.
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