It was initiated in 1870 to commemorate the Centenary of Beethoven’s birth to celebrate the close relationship between the Society and the composer. The medal bears the effigy of Beethoven, and has become one of the most privileged honours in the world of music.
It is presented to the finest musicians of any nationality. Fewer than 100 medals have been presented in the intervening years.
Among the names on the list of honour are Brahms (1877), Fritz Kreisler (1904), Delius and Elgar (1925), Richard Strauss (1936), John Barbirolli (1950), Kathleen Ferrier (1953), Stravinsky (1954), Britten (1964) Horowitz (1974) Lutoslawski (1986) and Bernstein (1987)
Current Gold Medal recipients include: Janet Baker, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Alfred Brendel, Placido Domingo, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, György Kurtág, Thomas Quasthoff, Simon Rattle, András Schiff, John Tomlinson, Mitsuko Uchida and Antonio Pappano.
Where ever possible the medal is presented publicly on the concert platform.