The Classical Music Awards 1994: Brilliance and brio acclaimed: Robert Maycock describes the talents that drew the approval of the judges

Orchestra of the Year: New York Philharmonic. Under the direction of Kurt Masur - who chose the job in preference to being President of Germany - it has just celebrated its 150th anniversary.

Notable premieres it has given in its time include Dvorak's New World Symphony. Now its home base is Avery Fisher Hall, and in summer it gives free concerts in city parks.

Chorus of the Year: Arnold Schoenberg Chor. Featured for the awards programme not with its namesake's music but in Haydn's great oratorio The Creation. Its repertoire in fact ranges from opera, and large- scale works such as the Brahms German Requiem (one of last year's notable performances) to intricate unaccompanied music.

Based in Vienna, it was founded in 1972 by Erwin Ortner, who is still the artistic director. Most members are graduates of the Vienna School of Music.

Female Singer of the Year: Cecilia Bartoli. Currently inseparable from the name of Rossini, as anyone will know who has heard her combination of brilliant accuracy and musical feeling in the most spectacularly decorative arias.

Last year she made her mark in Mozart opera too, with Don Giovanni at La Scala, Milan, and Cosi fan tutte in Salzburg. Rossini's Barber of Seville took her to Houston and Zurich. She appeared in London with recitals at the Wigmore Hall and the Royal Festival Hall.

Conductor of the Year: Valery Gergiev. The right musician in the right place at the right time - he has been artistic director and principal conductor of the Kirov Opera, St Petersburg, since 1988, and apart from his musical achievements has conceived and brought off a new dimension of activity for his company.

The Kirov has toured widely in Western Europe and last November went to Japan; it has just set up a joint series with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London which will bring Gergiev and Kirov singers to perform an adventurous repertoire of Russian operas in concert.

Opera Production of the Year: Oedipus Rex at the Saito Kinen Festival. This imaginative staging brought together Asian costumes and stage traditions with the ritual of the Greek theatre and the epic score of Stravinsky.

Jessye Norman sang Jocasta, Philip Langridge Oedipus, and Bryn Terfel Creon. The conductor was Seiji Ozawa, who founded this new summer festival in Matsumoto, beneath the mountains of central Japan.

There are prospects of a transfer to Paris; a full video exists but has not yet been screened in Britain.

Composition of the Year: Symphony No 4 by Witold Lutoslawski. A musical masterpiece, predicted the jury, that will quickly become a genuine classic - in which case it will be following in the footsteps of the same composer's Symphony No 3 and a long series of scintillating scores for orchestra in particular.

It was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, first heard there in February 1993, and had its UK premiere at the Proms in August.

Festival of the Year: Tender is the North. At the end of 1992 four London venues, including the Barbican Centre and the Wigmore Hall, put on a 55- concert exploration of the Nordic countries' music alongside drama, art and film.

It included a range of music familiar (Sibelius) and unknown (quite a lot of Grieg, as well as pieces from the active new-music scene). Leading Scandinavian and Finnish musicians appeared, along with British performers. According to Humphrey Burton, itnarrowly escaped being called 'Some like it cold'.

Television Broadcast of the Year: BBC TV's The Vampyr. This was the one that turned opera into soap, presenting the characters of Heinrich Marschner's 1828 cult work (not much seen in opera houses now) as manipulators and victims of modern high finance.

There was an instalment each night for five days, until the vampire met his grisly end - which managed to be thrilling and hilarious at the same time.

Produced by Janet Street- Porter, directed by Nigel Finch, and sung by Omar Ebrahim, Richard Van Allan and Fiona O'Neill among others.

Instrumentalist of the Year: Yuri Bashmet. Has given the viola, once the neglected voice of the string section, a new dimension of solo expression, following the lead of his great predecessor Lionel Tertis. Like him, Bashmet has seen numerous new works into life, particularly in the later days of the Soviet Union - he has had an especially fruitful creative relationship with the composer Alfred Schnittke.

He is a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where he founded a high-powered touring string ensemble, the Moscow Soloists, in 1992.

Recording of the Year: Symphony No 3 by Henryk Gorecki. What else could it have been? Dawn Upshaw, Paul Daniel and the London Sinfonietta were not the first to record the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, which was composed nearly 20 years ago. But theirs was the one that caught a public mood.

His appearances at public performances now produce amazing scenes of high emotion and standing ovations, more like a rock concert than a classical event. The recording reached No 6 in the pop album charts and continues to sell in huge numbers.

Chamber Group of the Year: Kronos Quartet. Another case of new-music specialists reaching a big new audience. The quartet tours constantly and is equally well known on disc, but the distinctive feature - apart from user-friendly concert styles - is what it plays.

Repertoire runs right through from the 20th-century classics to Glass and Gorecki and brand-new pieces by young composers, and further still, into classic rock arrangments and collaborations with the music of Africa and Asia. Not afraid of improvising, either.

Newcomer of the Year: Sarah Chang. The 13-year-old violin virtuoso, born in Philadelphia to Korean parents, has just graduated to a full-size violin. But the music-making has been in a league of its own for several years, a fusion of technical prowess and musical instinct that has baffled, thrilled and moved fellow string players and audiences alike.

Began playing at four, made her orchestral debut in 1986, now studying at the Juilliard School in New York. Asked for the Awards what she might be doing in a few years' time, said 'I'm aiming to be a violinist.'

Male Singer of the Year: Thomas Hampson. The baritone styles himself simply 'a singer' and uses his warm- toned natural asset to cast a glow on Bach and Mahler, Stephen Foster and Cole Porter. Studied in America, where he made his debut in 1974, although his first appearance at the Royal Opera in London came only last year, in The Barber of Seville.

During 1993 he gave recitals at Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood, and he has enhanced the CD catalogues by recording Ambroise Thomas's 19th-century French opera, Hamlet.

Also awarded, though not presented at the Royal Albert Hall: Early Music Group of the Year. The winner was the Orchestra of the 18th Century.

In association with Kenwood, supported by BBC Music Magazine and the Independent

(Photographs omitted)

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