Competitions & Awards

Musical America Announces 2019 Award Winners

October 16, 2018 | By Susan Elliott, Musical America

Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov has been announced as Musical America’s 2019 Artist of the Year. The 27-year-old virtuoso, also a composer, leads an impressive MA “of-the-year” lineup for 2019, which also recognizes Julia Wolfe as Composer of the Year, Carlos Miguel Prieto as Conductor of the Year, Anthony Roth Costanzo as Vocalist of the Year, and the JACK Quartet as Ensemble of the Year.

The awards, which will be presented to the recipients in December at Carnegie Hall, recognize artistic excellence and achievement in the arts. Fittingly, Leonard Bernstein was the first Musical America Musician of the Year, in 1960. A full list of the top awardees since that time can be found at the end of this article.

Each of this year’s artists is profiled in a tribute article in the annual Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts, the 2019 issue of which is also out in December.  

Trifonov, as Stuart Isacoff points out in his tribute, has been on a remarkable roll since winning the Arthur Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky competitions in 2011, while still a 20-year-old student at the Cleveland Institute of Music. His dazzling technique and poetic interpretations are routinely likened to pianistic titans such as Sviatoslav Richter and Martha Argerich. “What he does with his hands is technically incredible,” Argerich herself has said of him. “It’s also his touch—he has tenderness and also the demonic element. I’ve never heard anything like that.” In addition to concertizing with the major international ensembles and in solo recital the world over, he maintains an active recording career and is currently recording Rachmaninoff's piano concertos with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin for DG. He’s also had his own seven-concert Carnegie Hall "Perspectives" series, just last season, to which he brought a wide range of talent and repertoire.

Composer of the Year Julia Wolfe has been an important American composer long before women composers were recognized as they are today. She finally began to receive proper acknowledgement when her hour-long oratorio Anthracite Fields, received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Music and, the following year, she was named a MacArthur Fellow, receiving the highly prestigious $650,000 “genius” grant.

Cofounder of the pioneering new-music consortium Bang on a Can, back in 1987, and now on the faculty of New York University, Wolfe’s current commissions include Fire in My Mouth, which the New York Philharmonic will premiere in January and an as-yet untitled co-commission by Carnegie Hall and the New World Symphony, which the latter will premiere in May under Michael Tilson Thomas. She is also composer-in-residence at the Dallas Symphony. William Robin has penned her tribute article.

Conductor of the Year Carlos Miguel Prieto is considered something of a celebrity is his home country, where he is music director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México and the special-projects group Orquesta Sinfónica de Minería. He is also the artistic leader of the Orchestra of the Americas, an annual international summer ensemble of 20- to 30-year-olds, as well as the Louisiana Philharmonic, with which he has led over 100 world premieres of Mexican and American pieces.

A vibrant stage presence, Vocalist of the Year countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo devours both classic and new repertoire with equal vigor and clarity. “With his restless intelligence, insatiable curiosity, and passion for communicating through art, Costanzo wants to do more than just insert himself into available slots,” writes Heidi Waleson in her tribute. “He sees the problems faced by opera producers, recording companies, and the rest of the classical-music industry, and he wants to help remake the whole picture.”

Of Ensemble of the Year the JACK Quartet, Allan Kozinn writes, “This group’s fresh, energetic, and stylistically omnivorous approach to the contemporary repertoire makes it a worthy heir to the tradition of new-music quartets that goes back to the Composers Quartet in the 1960s and rivals the Kronos and Arditti Quartets of today.” He calls the size and range of JACK’s repertoire “truly astonishing” and, notes that, in addition to a breakneck touring and recording (34 and counting) schedule, its four members—two of them new since 2016—are also teachers, with regular residencies at the University of Iowa, the Boston University Center for New Music, and, through 2019, Duke University.

Tracing its origins to 1898, when it was a weekly newspaper, Musical America has persevered through the ages as a reliable, standard-setting resource for the performing arts. Evolving through various formats, the latest two are the International Directory of the Performing Arts, with some 14,000 listings of arts organizations and artists the world over, and MusicalAmerica.com, the subscription website launched in December 1998 that specializes in news and reviews but also carries many of the same listings as the Directory.

Musicians/Artists of the Year

1960:          Leonard Bernstein   

1961:          Leontyne Price

1962:          Igor Stravinsky

1963:          Erich Leinsdorf

1964:          Benjamin Britten

1965:          Vladimir Horowitz

1966:          Yehudi Menuhin

1967:          Leopold Stokowski  

1968-69:     Birgit Nilsson           

1970:          Beverly Sills

1971:          Michael Tilson Thomas

1972:          Pierre Boulez

1973:          George Balanchine

1974:          Sarah Caldwell

1975:          Eugene Ormandy

1976:          Arthur Rubinstein

1977:          Plácido Domingo

1978:          Alicia de Larrocha

1979:          Rudolf Serkin

1980:          Zubin Mehta

1981:          Itzhak Perlman

1982:          Jessye Norman

1983:          Nathan Milstein

1984:          James Levine

1985:          Philip Glass

1986:          Isaac Stern

1987:          Mstislav Rostropovich

1988:          Sir Georg Solti

1989:          Leonard Bernstein

1990:          Herbert von Karajan

1991:          Gian Carlo Menotti

1992:          Robert Shaw

1993:          Kurt Masur

1994:          Christa Ludwig

1995:          Marilyn Horne

1996:          The Juilliard String Quartet

1997:          James Galway

1998:          Seiji Ozawa

1999:          André Previn

2000:          Carnegie Hall

2001:          Martha Argerich

2002:          Sir Simon Rattle

2003:          Kronos Quartet

2004:          Wynton Marsalis

2005:          Karita Mattila

2006:          Esa-Pekka Salonen

2007:          Bernard Haitink

2008:          Anna Netrebko

2009:          Yo-Yo Ma

2010:          Riccardo Muti

2011:          Anne-Sophie Mutter

2012:          David Finckel and Wu Han

2013:          Gustavo Dudamel

2014:          Audra McDonald

2015:          Peter Sellars

2016:          Yannick Nézet-Séguin

2017:          Yuja Wang

2018:          Andris Nelsons




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