The Minnesota Orchestra was honored as the 2021 Orchestra of the Year during the international Gramophone Classical Music Awards on October 5. 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 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. “I would like to say this award is 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).
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.”
Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have enjoyed a long and fruitful recording relationship with BIS Records, recording and releasing complete collections of the symphonies of Beethoven, Sibelius and, currently underway, Mahler on the label. One album in their Sibelius cycle—featuring Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4—won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.