For immediate release
May 17, 1999

NPR Names Winners of Fourth Annual Performance Today Awards
Classical Music Honors Awarded May 17th at Lincoln Center

WASHINGTON, DC - Michael Tilson Thomas, Gidon Kremer, and Anne-Sophie Mutter are among the winners of NPR's fourth annual Performance Today Awards for significant contributions to classical music, announced May 17th at Lincoln Center in New York.

The 1999 Performance Today Award Winners are:

Heritage Award: William Kapell Edition, RCA Red Seal

Debut Artist of the Year: Judith Ingolfsson, violin

Critic's Choice Awards (3 awards):

  • Beethoven, Violin Sonatas (Mutter, Orkis) Deutsche Grammophon
  • Elgar and Anthony Payne: Symphony No. 3 (Davis, BBC Symphony)
  • Reynaldo Hahn: La Belle Epoque (Graham, Vignoles) Sony Classical

Player of the Year: Michael Tilson Thomas

New Horizon Award: Astor Piazzolla, "Maria de Buenos Aires," (Gidon Kremer and cast) Teldec

WNYC Metropolis Music Award: Bang On A Can

See details on awards and winners below.

The awards are sponsored by NPR's Performance Today®, in partnership with NPR member station WNYC Radio, New York. Judges for the fourth annual awards are: David Patrick Stearns, USA Today music and theater critic; Katrine Ames, music editor, House & Garden; and Dr. Raymond Jones, vice president and radio station manager of WHRO in Norfolk, VA. (Note: WNYC Metropolis Award judges are listed below).

NPR's Performance Today established the awards in 1996 to create a distinctively American forum for recognizing outstanding classical music achievements and recordings. Previous Performance Today Award winners include Barbara Hendricks, Paul McCartney, Leontyne Price, the Eroica Trio, Quartetto Gelato, and the Kronos Quartet.

Details on Awards and Winners

THE HERITAGE AWARD recognizes a recording or series of recordings released in 1998 that fosters understanding, appreciation, preservation, and celebration of classical music and its artists.

Heritage Award Winner: William Kapell Edition RCA Victor 68442

"The recordings of William Kapell, who died tragically young, reintroduce him to those who were lucky enough to have heard him more than 40 years ago. For a much broader audience, this comprehensive, well-documented set is a welcome, often surprising portrait of a brilliant and idiosyncratic pianist."

THE DEBUT ARTIST OF THE YEAR AWARD recognizes a performer or ensemble for an outstanding radio debut on NPR's Performance Today in 1998.

The Debut Artist of the Year Award Winner: Judith Ingolfsson, violin.

"Ms. Ingolfsson's personality and temperament are reminiscent of a pre-WWII violinist. She plays with a remarkable intelligence, musicality, and sense of insight."

THE CRITIC'S CHOICE AWARDS honor three commercially released CD's that our three judges considered to be the most significant and artistically meritorious recordings of 1998.

Critic's Choice Award Winners:

1. Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas (Mutter /Orkis) Deutsche Grammophon 457 619

"In this extraordinary recording, Anne-Sophie Mutter takes us on a thrilling voyage to the composer's soul. Exploring every corner with the questioning and compassion of a truly great artist, she opens both Beethoven's heart and her own."

2. Elgar and Anthony Payne: Symphony No. 3 (Davis / BBC Symphony) NMC D053

"A remarkable reconstruction on the order of Deryck Cooke and the Mahler 10th."

3. Reynaldo Hahn: "La Belle Epoque" (Susan Graham /Roger Vignoles); Sony Classical SK 60168

"Ms. Graham seems like yet another pretty and intelligent voice, but here I felt there was a level of total identification with the material. And from a sensual standpoint, it's just beautiful music."

THE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD recognizes a performer, teacher, conductor, or other figure active in the field of classical music who has both contributed to and advocated for the art form.

Player of the Year Award Winner: Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra

"Michael Tilson Thomas communicates, with intensity and humor, clarity and joy, the power of all music. He takes particular care in engaging audiences that might otherwise ignore so-called classical music, and makes specially clear ¾ not just during the Gershwin centennial ¾ the glory and the diversity of American music."

THE NEW HORIZON AWARD recognizes an artist, ensemble, or composer whose recordings demonstrate significant potential to reach a newer, younger, or broader audience without compromising artistic quality.

New Horizon Award Winner: Astor Piazzolla: "Maria De Buenos Aires" (Ferrer /Kremerata Musica/Kremer) Teldec 3984-20632

"What can you say about an opera whose title character is said to have been born on the day God was drunk? It's hardly a conventional narrative opera, but the music is so compelling that you just don't care."

THE WNYC METROPOLIS MUSIC AWARD honors a person, ensemble, or institution that made a substantial contribution to the cultural life of New York in 1998.

WNYC Metropolis Music Award Judges:

  • Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and winner of the first Metropolis Award for her work with Carnegie Hall's "Making Music" series
  • Patrick J. Smith, editor of Opera News
  • George Steel, NPR Commentator, conductor of Vox Vocal Ensemble, and director of Columbia University's Miller Theater
  • Gregory Sandow, author and music critic with The Wall Street Journal
  • Fred Child, Director of Cultural Programming at WNYC Radio.

WNYC Metropolis Music Award Winner: Bang On A Can, New York's premier downtown music festival.

"The panel of judges chose Bang On A Can because of their active, enthusiastic, and effective championing of contemporary music in New York and around the world. One of the ways the group celebrated its 10th anniversary last year was the inauguration of the People's Commissioning project, allowing ‘regular folks' to help commission new works."

In addition to the winners recognized on May 17th, Performance Today and the National Association of Record Merchandisers (NARM) announced a new award to be chosen by the listening public throughout the remainder of 1999: Breakthrough Recording Artist of the Year. This award recognizes emerging talent in the classical recording industry. The public is invited to visit NARM's Web site and vote for their favorite performance, based on a sampler CD, "The Best of '99: Classical Greatness in the Making." The CD is on sale for a nominal price at record stores all over the country. Nominees for Breakthrough Recording Artist of the Year will be featured on NPR's Performance Today over the coming months.