The Minnesota Orchestra was named 2021 Orchestra of the Year during the international Gramophone Classical Music Awards earlier today. The awards, which were distributed in a livestreamed ceremony by the U.K.-based classical music magazine Gramophone, are considered among the highest honors in the classical music industry.
The Orchestra of the Year prize is the only one of the Gramophone Awards decided by public vote with voters choosing from a pool of 10 world-renowned orchestras, selected by the magazine’s editors. The votes for the Minnesota Orchestra amounted to nearly a third of the 31,000 total votes cast.
“It means a lot to us that this is an award decided by the public, by people who listen to and love and need classical music in their lives,” said Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä in his acceptance speech from Orchestra Hall. “Through the pandemic we stretched to find new ways to connect with audiences. Sometimes this brought us outside of our comfort zone, but music is such a vital force that it must be part of how we make sense of the world, especially in challenging times. And so over the last year we have reflected the full range of human experience on this stage: grief and anger and joy and laughter and hope.”
Vänskä described the award as “particularly meaningful to me now because this is my final season as music director in Minnesota, after 19 years. We have done many things together that I am proud of. But more than anything, I am proud that this relationship has been a great, great partnership between me and this Orchestra and this community.”
Nominees for the Orchestra of the Year Award are chosen by Gramophone’s editors and reviewers looking at each ensemble’s artistic merit and body of work over the past year. The magazine describes the award as celebrating “collaborative music-making at the highest level.” The 2021 nominees included the Academy of Ancient Music (U.K.), Accademia Bizantina (Italy), Bamberger Symphony (Germany), Berlin Philharmonic (Germany), Cleveland Orchestra (U.S.), Philharmonia Orchestra (U.K.), Montreal Symphony (Canada), Singapore Symphony (Singapore) and the Tonhalle Orchestra (Switzerland). A playlist for each ensemble was also available on Apple Music, which sponsored the Orchestra of the Year Award.
Gramophone Editor-in-Chief James Jolly, who co-hosted the award ceremony from London with pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, said “Despite everything we’ve been through since last year’s Awards, it’s a pleasure and an honour to pay tribute to such amazing musicians. We are genuinely blessed to live in an age of such talent and commitment.”
“This award is an honor and thrill, and we congratulate the other honorees, whom we are proud to be nominated alongside,” said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns. “We are grateful to the Minnesota Orchestra fans at home and around the world who made this possible.”
About Gramophone Awards
The annual Gramophone Classical Music Awards, the world’s most influential classical recorded-music prizes, were launched in 1977 by Gramophone magazine (founded in 1923 by Sir Compton Mackenzie). The Awards celebrated their 40th anniversary in 2017. Available internationally, Gramophone publishes a bespoke edition of the magazine for North America. Gramophone’s full, searchable archive of magazines from 1923 to the latest issue is available digitally for iPad and other tablet devices, smartphone or computer. www.gramophone.co.uk
About Minnesota Orchestra
The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 and led since 2003 by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, ranks among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts and educational programs; and a commitment to intentionally build concert programs to feature more works by composers of color, exploring music both contemporary and historic. The Orchestra presents about 175 programs in a typical season, most at Orchestra Hall, its home in downtown Minneapolis that was built in 1974, renovated in 2014, and is known for its modern design and acoustical brilliance. The 2021-22 season will celebrate Osmo Vänskä’s final year as music director.