Among the departures, the saddest news was that illness had finally forced Klaus Tennstedt to retire from conduct-ing, ending the career of a great, old-school musician who lived every note of his performances and turned standard-repertory concerts into unforgettable occasions. Arrivals included Maxim Vengerov, the disarmingly young violinist who confirmed his promise as a supreme stylist, radiant with confidence and virtuosity. There was another sort of arrival in Richard Goode, the American pianist who has been around for years but only recently became a first-rank Beethoven interpreter. Among composers the rising British star is Thomas Ades, not long down from Cambridge and already loaded with commissions, following his orchestral fantasy-piece Living Toys.
The most impressive new score overall to premiere in Britain was Peter Maxwell Davies's 5th Symphony at the Proms. And concert highlights included Wolfgang Holzmair with Imogen Cooper in Schubert's Schwanengesang at the Cheltenham Festival. But the year's absolute best was the Kirov Opera's visit to the Barbican for Rimsky-Korsakov's Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh; and the Kirov's music director Valery Gergiev is my Musician of the Year.
What Gergiev has done for his company, in the face of almost unimaginable problems in St Petersburg, is heroic. To have held it together on the strength of its past would have been enough; but he has forged a future, based on its old glories as a great ensemble company but with a new, incisive vigour and young stars like Galina Gorchakova who have the world very clearly at their feet. Gergiev himself has emerged as one of the most dynamic and commanding young conductors on the circuit. When he appears with a beleaguered orchestra like the RPO you hear its spirits lift. And there's no more effective ambassador for Russian music: he specialises in composers that we think we know but don't, like Rimsky. If Gergiev's relationship with the RPO continues (asI'm sure it will) and the Kirov visits go on (as I hope they will) he may yet persuade British audiences that Rimsky's stature extends beyond soundtracks for Torvill and Dean.
Previous winners: 1991 Roger Norrington; 1992 Michael Tilson Thomas; 1993 SirPeter Maxwell Davies.Reuse content