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Winners of The Ivors Classical Awards 2023 announced

Eleven composers have been honoured with Ivor Novello Awards at The Ivors Classical Awards, celebrating the best new classical music and sound art.

Pink and blue imagewith the The Ivors Classical Awards, PRS and BBC Radio 3 logos and the text Winners Announced

The Ivors Academy has revealed the 11 composers who have won Ivor Novello Awards at The Ivors Classical Awards, celebrating the best new classical music and sound art. The winners were announced during a ceremony hosted by BBC Radio 3’s Hannah Peel and Tom Service at the British Film Institute in London.

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the ceremony on 18 November in a special edition of the New Music Show and the episode will also be available on BBC Sounds.

The Ivors Classical Awards are supported by PRS for Music and BBC Radio 3 are broadcast partners.

Three composers were presented with special Gift of the Academy awards, including John Rutter who was honoured with a Fellowship of The Ivors Academy – the highest accolade it bestows – which sees him join a prestigious list of 24 Fellows including John Adams, Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, Judith Weir CBE and Sting. Tansy Davies was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Works Collection, acknowledging her exceptional body of work, and Matthew Herbert received an Ivor Novello Award for Innovation presented in association with the Musicians’ Union 

Tom Gray, Chair of The Ivors Academy said, “I would like to congratulate all our winners for their extraordinary accomplishments. Tonight, we celebrated the vibrancy of composing for classical music and sound art in the UK and Ireland. It is so important that we must advocate more determinedly than ever for its future. 2024 marks our 80th anniversary. We formed as the Composers Guild of Great Britain in 1944 with Ralf Vaughan Williams as our first President. And in our anniversary year, we will increase our campaigning and lobbying for the value of new music and the arts, so they are thriving everywhere for everyone.”    

Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO of PRS for Music, said: “Congratulations to all the winners on receiving an Ivor Novello Award, the calibre of your works is nothing short of inspiring brilliance. I am delighted to see that five of the winners have been supported by PRS Foundation throughout their career, including ‘Comme l’espoir/you might all disappear’ composed by Josephine Stephenson which was directly funded by the Open Fund for Music Creators. My congratulations also to John Rutter, Tansy Davies and Matthew Herbert on your special Gift of the Academy awards.”

Sam Jackson, BBC Radio 3 Controller said: “BBC Radio 3 congratulates all the winners of this year’s Ivors Classical Awards. Our annual partnership with The Ivors Academy enables us to share this celebratory event with our diverse audience, and we look forward to showcasing some of the best talent in classical music and sound art on Radio 3’s New Music Show in a few days’ time. The BBC remains the largest commissioner of new music in the country, and these awards are another opportunity for us to demonstrate the importance, relevance and vibrancy of the UK music scene.”

The Ivors Academy promotes anonymous judging, which sees all identifying information removed from any entered materials seen by judges. A jury of 40 composer judges took part this year, nominating between three and five works for each category.

As with previous years, the Awards shine a light on the importance of the commissioning process. The winning works were commissioned by a wide range of organisations, trusts and venues, including IMS Prussia Cove, Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Hallé Concerts SocietyHálle Concerts Society, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Sydney Symphony, Berliner Philharmoniker, Héloïse Werner, PRS Foundation, The Auxiliary and Irish National Opera, amongst others. The Publishing companies of the winning works also received Ivor Novello Award statuettes this year, which saw Faber Music, Valonius Press/Schott Music, G Ricordi/Universal Music Publishing, Boosey & Hawkes and Éditions Alphonse Leduc recognised.

This is the first year that The Ivors Academy has presented The Ivors Classical Awards to celebrate the best new classical music and sound art by British, Irish or UK resident composers. Previously known as The Ivors Composer Awards, they were established in 2003 as the British Composer Awards.



Thomas Adès for Növények

Thomas Adès received his third Ivor Novello Award, and fifth award from The Ivors Academy, for his work Növények. Written for mezzo-soprano and piano sextet, the piece sets seven poems by four great Hungarian poets: Attila József (1905-1937), Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944), Sándor Weöres (1913-1989) and Otto Orbán (1936-2002). 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. Növények is the completed, expanded work, premiered at Wigmore Hall in November 2022.

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”.

Ben Nobuto for Sol

Ben Nobuto was presented with his first Ivor Novello Award for Sol, a piece he wrote for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s Fellowship ensemble. In his composer’s note, Nobuto comments “I started reading about solar deities in different cultures and came across the character of Sol, the sun god in ancient Rome. I like to imagine the eight singers in this piece as a little sun cult, all dancing and singing and worshipping the sun together, enjoying their weird pagan rituals.”

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”.

A commercial recording of the piece is available on NMC Recordings.

Dobrinka Tabakova for Swarm Fanfares

Dobrinka Tabakova’s Swarm Fanfares for youth orchestra picked up the award for Best Community and Participation Composition; this is her first Ivor Novello Award. Commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society, the work was premiered by the Hallé Youth Orchestra at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, conducted by Delyana Lazarova.

Tabakova calls the work “an artistic conversation I wanted to have with the youth orchestra”. The jury felt the piece was “an exciting and dynamic work for young musicians.” and commented that it “showcases sonically inventive techniques and brilliant orchestral writing as well as exceptional aleatoric sequences”.  

Hannah Kendall for shouting forever into the receiver

Hannah Kendall received her first Ivor Novello Award for shouting forever into the receiver, a piece she wrote for 17 musicians following a commission from Donaueschinger Musiktage. The title is taken 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”.  

Brett Dean for Cello Concerto

Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto won the Best Orchestral Composition category. Written for symphony orchestra and solo cello, the piece had its UK premiere at the Royal Festival Hall with a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Edward Gardner, with cellist Alban Gerhardt. This is his 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”.  

Josephine Stephenson for Comme l’espoir/you might all disappear

Another first-time winner is Josephine Stephenson, whose piece Comme l’espoir/you might all disappear for soprano and guitar won the small chamber composition category. The dual language piece reflects Stephenson’s friendship with soprano Héloïse Werner – stemming back to their childhood in Paris before they both moved to the UK – and is inspired by a short French poem by Antoine Thiollier. The programme notes state that “Stephenson uses an Oulipian process to amalgamate the words with similar sounding English words to gradually abstract the meaning behind them; the words seemingly melt into musical sounds”.

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”.

The piece can be heard on Héloïse Werner’s recording Phrases 

Olivia Louvel for LOL

Olivia Louvel was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Best Sound Art for her site-specific piece LOL, which 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”.    

Brian Irvine for Least Like the Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy

Brian Irvine collected an Ivor Novello Award for his work Least Like the Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy. The one-act opera was 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 video is available to watch here.

The jury wrote “Least Like the Other is a highly accomplished, original and contemporary operatic work. Its imaginative orchestration and brilliant vocal writing are always at the service of dramatic narrative. Engaging and vibrant there is also a softness that allows for private reflection – outstanding”.

John Rutter

The prestigious Academy Fellowship was awarded to John Rutter tonight, acknowledging him as one of the most influential choral composers of our time. Rutter’s music is performed by professional and amateur choirs around the world and has been used to commemorate some of the most significant landmark occasions in recent history, including the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Prince William and Catherine’s royal wedding, and the coronation of King Charles III. 

This is Rutter’s second award from The Ivors Academy, following an Award for achievements in Classical Music in 2007. 

Tansy Davies

The Outstanding Works Collection Award, honouring British or Irish composers who have written a consistently exceptional body of classical compositions, was awarded to Tansy Davies, a cross-genre composer whose works embody elements of rock, funk, disco, bebop, alt-pop and modernism.

Named one of the UK’s most influential people by the Evening Standard’s Progress 1000 in 2015, she 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. 

This is Davies’ second award from the Academy, having won a British Composer Award for Stage Works in 2007. 

INNOVATION AWARD in association with the Musicians’ Union
Matthew Herbert

The Innovation Award this year was awarded to British musician, DJ and producer Matthew Herbert, in recognition of his pioneering work in electronic music and his experimental use of unconventional sounds as instrumentation. He is renowned for mining audio from unique sources, including the environment, the human body, and animals (both dead and alive). His most recent album, The Horse, saw him construct instruments out of a full-sized horse skeleton and was met with critical acclaim. Previously, his work has featured in Eurovision, Yves St Laurent fashion shows, and several films. 

This is Herbert’s first Ivor Novello Award. 

More about The Ivors Classical Awards


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