Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and the CBSO triumph at Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2020

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica win coveted Recording of the Year for Weinberg symphonies.

Tonight the Gramophone Awards – regarded as the Oscars of classical music - presented international talent with the industry's top recording prizes, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla awarded the much-coveted Recording of the Year. The Award was presented for their debut recording on Deutsche Grammophon of Mieczysław Weinberg’s Symphonies Nos 2 & 21, with Gidon Kremer and Kremerata Baltica. 

The win means that the CBSO are now one of only three orchestras – alongside the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra - to win the Recording of the Year four times throughout the history of the Gramophone Awards. 

Weinberg (1919-96) is a Polish composer, once reportedly described by Shostakovich as ‘the best composer you’ve never heard’, whose music is enjoying something of a renaissance, in large part thanks to this recording, released in Weinberg’s centenary year. In her acceptance speech, Mirga said “Seven years ago I hadn’t heard of the name of Mieczysław Weinberg. During the years since he has become one of the most important composers for me. He is the composer I would like to stay on for the rest of my life. I think that in days of ideological search and loss that we are living through right now, Weinberg stands as a symbol of humanism. His life and work are huge inspirations. Every score I’ve encountered so far is a masterwork.”

The album won Gramophone’s Orchestral Award before being named Recording of the Year, and the orchestra also came in the top three for Gramophone’s Orchestra of the Year Award, the only award decided entirely by public vote.  

The Recording of the Year Award comes to the Orchestra at a very special time, as it celebrates its centenary in 2020. The orchestra’s 100th birthday on Saturday 5 September was marked with a landmark celebration led by former Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, streamed from a warehouse in Longbridge. In less than a month the performance has received over 175,000 views worldwide. 

Stephen Maddock, Chief Executive of the CBSO, says: ‘We’re delighted and honoured to receive this Award, particularly as it comes at such an important time for the orchestra. Whilst many of the CBSO’s centenary plans have had to be changed due to the pandemic, we’re working extremely hard to find new and exciting ways for us to share the joy of music-making with our audiences again, both in the UK and abroad. The CBSO has been at the heart of Birmingham’s cultural life for 100 years and this Award is a fitting tribute to the hard work and passion of the orchestra and our wonderful Music Director Mirga.’  

In this unique year, Gramophone’s ceremony moved online with Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief James Jolly joined by mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey in the stunning setting of Glyndebourne to present a virtual celebration of this year’s recording crème-de-la-crème. The ceremony was watched live by an international audience via Gramophone’s website and social media channels and medici.tv, and is available to view for 90 days via medici.tv.  

James Jolly, Gramophone’s Editor-in-Chief, said: ‘The CBSO’s skill at choosing great chief conductors is legendary, and the magic that happens when Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla stands in front of this superb ensemble has been acknowledged by Gramophone’s Recording of the Year Award. This album of two symphonies by  Mieczysław Weinberg is revelatory - a strong and characterful musical voice given life by a wonderful group of players under an inspired conductor. And congratulations to DG for giving these terrific artists a major international platform.’

Deutsche Grammophon will release Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla as a digital EP on Friday 16 October 2020. The Sinfonia da Requiem – a symphony for large orchestra, whose three movements carry titles from the Latin Requiem Mass – dates from 1940: an expression of the same lifelong pacifism by a 26-year old composer. For Gražinytė-Tyla, part of the fascination of the Sinfonia derives from its “connection to the War Requiem, which in some parts is so obvious. But of course at the same time, it’s quite another story. Britten uses a huge orchestra, and makes some unusual choices – there’s the saxophone, of course, with its lament in the first movement: an indescribable colour. But there’s also the force which explodes from that first cataclysmic beat: two sets of timpani at the same time, plus piano, basses and harp – they’re all there on that D, the tonality Beethoven’s Ninth and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. They’re all somehow in conversation with Britten here.”