Winners announced at the 2019 RPS Awards

28 Nov 2019

The RPS has this evening – Thursday 28 November – revealed the winners of the 2019 Royal Philharmonic Society Awards at Battersea Arts Centre, London.

On the 30th anniversary of the RPS Awards, the winners present a promising picture of inclusivity in classical music.

  • Chineke! – Britain’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic orchestra – wins the first-ever Gamechanger Award
  • Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Change Makers and Resound wins the Impact Award for its transformative approach to inclusion and its work with professional disabled musicians
  • Female musicians are celebrated across every individual artist category
  • Sofia Gubaidulina receives classical music’s highest honour, the coveted RPS Gold Medal

The RPS Awards are presented in association with BBC Radio 3, who will broadcast highlights from the event on Sunday 1 December at 8:45pm. You can then listen to it for 30 days afterwards online here. You can also browse the Awards souvenir brochure online here.

Chineke! – Britain’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic orchestra – becomes the first-ever recipient of the new Gamechanger Award presented for inspirational and transformative work breaking new ground in classical music. Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, Founder and Artistic & Executive Director of Chineke! says ‘It is a great honour for Chineke! to receive the first RPS Gamechanger Award. For Chineke!'s work across the UK to have been recognised is a huge accolade and we will be proud champions of everything that the RPS stands for as we continue with our mission of championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music’.

Another big winner is BSO Change Makers and Resound which receives the Impact Award for an outstanding initiative or organisation that has a lasting positive impact for people who may not otherwise experience classical music. In the last year, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has adapted much of its practice to be more inclusive for disabled musicians, and established the first professional disabled-led ensemble. Dougie Scarfe, BSO Chief Executive says ‘Music by its nature is inclusive. We hope that this win ignites similar conversations, ensuring more people can access concert platforms and build careers as performers. We’re thrilled that the BSO has been recognised with one of the highest accolades in classical music; this is an important moment in building a more inclusive profession.’

As debate ensues about gender equality, every award presented to an individual artist this year goes to a female musician: Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla wins the Conductor Award; soprano Nina Stemme wins the Singer Award for her iconic performance as Brünnhilde in The Royal Opera’s Ring Cycle; violinist Alina Ibragimova wins the Instrumentalist Award; and for the first time in the Awards’ 30-year history, both of its honours for new music go to women: Tansy Davies wins the Chamber-Scale Composition Award for her work Cave and Rebecca Saunders wins the Large-Scale Composition Award for her work Yes.

Classical music’s highest honour, the coveted RPS Gold Medal, is also presented to composer Sofia Gubaidulina, who travelled to London specially to accept her award. Born in 1931, Gubaidulina is renowned as one of the great composers of the last century. She says ‘This award is especially precious because it comes as we are preparing to celebrate the 250th birthday of Beethoven. To that great composer belongs the merit of affirming in his work the love of harmony – which is the true meaning of the word ‘Philharmonic’. Let us hope that this may be a unique moment in the history of music - when growth for all mankind can really be achieved through works of art. I am infinitely grateful to the Royal Philharmonic Society for the honour that I have been shown.’

The RPS Gold Medal has been awarded to outstanding musicians since 1870 - previous recipients include the late Jessye Norman, Dame Mitsuko Uchida, Dame Janet Baker, Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Kathleen Ferrier, Edward Elgar and Johannes Brahms – and this marks the very first time it has been received by a female composer.

Outstanding initiatives nationally were also honoured, including Birmingham Opera Company’s epic staging of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk which won the Opera & Music Theatre Award for uniting countless members of the community to perform alongside the finest professional musicians, and composer Sir James MacMillan’s Ayrshire festival The Cumnock Tryst which won the Concert Series and Events Award for likewise shining a light on local musicians as equals to its international visiting artists.

RPS Chairman John Gilhooly OBE, says ‘All too easily, opinion formers and policy makers can overlook music’s unique strengths, compromising its place in the news, on the national curriculum, and among funding priorities. The winners of this year’s RPS Awards make a blazing case for classical music empowering people in unique and exciting ways across the UK. Collectively the winners and nominees represent an exhilarating picture of a nation alive with music, and we’re proud – with BBC Radio 3 – to celebrate them.’

We’ll be sharing images and footage from the Awards online soon.

The 2019 RPS Award-winners in full are:

RPS Gold Medal – Sofia Gubaidulina

Gamechanger – Chineke!

Chamber-Scale Composition – Tansy Davies Cave
Sponsored by Boosey & Hawkes in memory of Tony Fell

Concert Series & Events – The Cumnock Tryst
Sponsored by PRS for Music

Conductor – Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla
Supported by BBC Music Magazine

Ensemble – Aurora Orchestra
Sponsored by Schott Music

Impact – BSO Change Makers and Resound
Supported by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music

Instrumentalist – Alina Ibragimova

Large-Scale Composition – Rebecca Saunders Yes
Supported by The Boltini Trust

Opera & Music Theatre – Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk - Birmingham Opera Company
Supported by Sir Simon and Victoria, Lady Robey OBE

Singer – Nina Stemme

Storytelling – Michael Tippett The Biography – Oliver Soden
Presented in memory of Arthur Searle

Young Artists – Castalian String Quartet