The winners of the 2023 Ivors Classical Awards have been announced in London. Australia’s Brett Dean was one of 11 composers honoured.

Dean collected an Ivors statuette for Best Orchestral Composition for his Cello Concerto.

Written for symphony orchestra and solo cello, Dean’s work had its world premiere with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2018 with cellist Alban Gerhardt. This is Dean’s second Ivor Novello Award, having won one last year for his chamber ensemble piece Madame ma bonne sœur.

The jury commented that “it demonstrates an incredibly focused and precise use of instrumental timbre […] it boasts a broad range of expressions, from rhythmically driven sections to delicate, refined soundscapes”.

Brett Dean

Brett Dean, winner of Best Orchestral Composition at the 2023 Ivors Classical Awards

Thomas Adès was awarded his third Ivor Novello Award, and fifth award from The Ivors Academy, this time for Best Chamber Music Composition for Növények.

Written for mezzo-soprano and piano sextet, the piece sets seven poems by four major Hungarian poets. One of the songs, Gyökér, won an Ivor Novello Award in 2021 when it was released as part of Oliver Zeffman’s Eight Songs from Isolation.

The jury called the work “intricately written”, noting that it delivered “real emotional and dramatic impact”. They also commented that “it leads you on a journey that is constantly surprising, drawing you into self-contained and evocative worlds”.

The award for Best Small Chamber Composition went to first-time winner Josephine Stephenson for Comme l’espoir/you might all disappear, a piece for soprano and guitar reflecting the composer’s friendship with soprano Héloïse Werner and is inspired by a short French poem by Antoine Thiollier.

The jury called the work “magical”, commenting that “the combination of languages is handled beautifully and its eloquent development from the irresistible opening to evaporating end is nothing short of genius”.

Composer Hannah Kendall. Photo © Emily Denny

Best Large Ensemble Composition Ivor was awarded to Hannah Kendall for shouting forever into the receiver.

Written for 17 musicians following a commission from Donaueschinger Musiktage, shouting forever into the receiver takes its title from a line in Ocean Vuong’s novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. In her programme note, Kendall wrote: “When I first read this phrase, it reminded me of the shouts and cries, not only of the Plantations, but those of the Plantation Machine, its ongoing feedback loop system, despite the passing of time”.

The jury called the work “an outstanding piece of original writing” which “is a visceral and arresting composition of great depth, that resonates both in message and instrumentation”.

Best Choral Composition was awarded to Ben Nobuto for Sol, a piece he wrote for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s Fellowship ensemble and inspired by solar deities in different cultures. The jury referred to the piece as “luminous and inventive” and felt that “the text is cleverly fragmented and stretched making use of the sonority of each individual voice and breath”.

Best Community and Participation Composition was awarded to Dobrinka Tabakova for Swarm Fanfares, a work commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society.

The Best Sound Art award was presented to Olivia Louvel for LOL, a site-specific work that used the public address system of Middlesbrough’s CCTV surveillance network. Produced with Sound Art Brighton, the piece aimed to reflect the current state of political affairs in Britain.

The jury remarked: “LOL is a provocative, disruptive and impactful work, deftly constructed with humour”.

Stephanie Dufresne, Naomi Louisa O’Connell and Ronan Leahy in Least Like The Other. Photograph © Pat Redmond

Best Stage Work was awarded to Brian Irvine for Least Like the Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy, a one-act opera commissioned by Irish National Opera and premiered at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre. The piece focuses on the lobotomy of JFK’s sister Rosemary Kennedy and uses verbatim materials collected from archives, historical accounts, personal letters and diary entries. A rehearsal trailer is available to watch here.

John Rutter was awarded an Academy Fellowship, acknowledging him as one of the most influential choral composers of our time. Tansy Davies was awarded an Ivor for Outstanding Works Collection. Named one of the UK’s most influential people by the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 in 2015, Davies has worked with renowned performers and concert houses all over the world, including the BBC Proms, the Royal Opera House, and King’s College Cambridge’s famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast to millions of viewers each year.

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