For the first time, we asked our readers to vote for their favourite artists. Combined with our critics’ votes, this is who you chose.
AUSTRALIAN ARTIST OF THE YEAR
“What an abundant, somewhat frenetic, and learning-filled year 2015 has been. Artistically I’ve been more open about who I am, who my voice is, and what drives me. I’ve more artistic and personal clarity, and I’m more grateful than ever for this journey.”
– Greta Bradman
This has been a watershed year for Adelaide soprano Greta Bradman.
It started when she was signed to Decca, the label which brought us such legends as Pavarotti, Tebaldi, Bartoli and Fleming. It was also helped by Richard Bonynge, who not only conducted the English Chamber Orchestra on her Decca debut album My Hero but who also gave some advice on bel canto material.
Bradman first came to Bonynge’s attention when she was studying in Cardiff and he asked her to sing in his production of Handel’s Rodelinda. Recognising in her some of the bel canto qualities from the golden era, of which his life partner Joan Sutherland was such an exemplar, Bonynge suggested she should include some French opera on the disc. Hence both Il est doux, il est bon from Massenet’s Hérodiade and Je dis que rien ne m’epouvante from Carmen add richness to the collection.
Bradman said that she wanted My Hero to be a tribute to her two grandfathers – cricketing great Sir Donald Bradman and Horace Young, a keen amateur singer. From their record collections she chose a mixture of light opera – the album’s title comes from Oscar Straus’s The Chocolate Soldier – and show tunes, including the unlikely addition of Edelweiss to the track list. The album went straight to the top of the classical music charts and received rave reviews around the world, including from Limelight Magazine who awarded it four stars.
That golden, almost old-fashioned quality to her voice and delivery which so captivated Bonynge is what makes Bradman stand out from her contemporaries. The richness, security and power across all of the registers is apparent throughout the collection. Her beauty of line is stunning on Bellini’s show-stopping Casta Diva and her seemingly effortless fluidity and control of pianissimo high notes are a feature of her two Verdi contributions, alongside a dazzling account of Rossini’s warhorse Una voce poco fa.
So what of the future? Recently Zubin Mehta invited her to tour and perform with the Australian World Orchestra in India. “Bradman’s beefy middle extends downwards to a rich lower register and up to a ringing top,” wrote Clive Paget reviewing her triumphant Delhi concert for Limelight. Having conquered the world stage we’d certainly like to see more of her back home, especially in some Verdi or Mozart productions. Either way, it’s clear we have been blessed with a second Bradman hero. Steve Moffat
SIR SIMON RATTLE
INTERNATIONAL ARTIST OF THE YEAR
“2015 has been quite a year, even if 60 as an age still feels like pure science fiction… it was a highlight to work with the AWO, one of the world’s truly great orchestras, and a new relationship I treasure deeply. And to show my family the glories of Australia was just the icing on the cake!”
– Sir Simon Rattle
Making such a powerful impression on Australian musicians and audiences when he conducted the Australian World Orchestra in Sydney and Melbourne earlier this year probably contributed to Sir Simon Rattle’s being voted International Artist of the Year. Indeed, Rattle’s Bruckner Eight with the AWO earned a five-star review from Limelight’s Clive Paget, eliciting phrases like “a sublime rendition of the infinite in sound”, “pure musical Viagra” and “one of the finest Bruckner symphony performances I can recall” from this notoriously hard-to-please critic.
But 2015 has been a pretty big year in other ways for the lad from Liverpool whose nearly two decades at the helm of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra made his and the orchestra’s names bywords for electrifying music-making and who, from 2002, became chief conductor of one of the world’s greatest orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic.
Firstly, Rattle, who is married to Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, turned 60 in January. To celebrate, the following month he brought the Berliners to the Barbican and Royal Festival Hall for a series of five widely acclaimed concerts. The repertoire included Mahler – for which he and the orchestra have an enviable reputation – and a complete Sibelius symphony cycle.
The rest of the year saw equally lauded concerts take place throughout Europe and the UK, not just with the Berlin Philharmonic but also with the Vienna Philharmonic at the BBC Proms in September and with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich. Rattle’s and the latter’s concert performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold yielded up a recording which in the words of one critic reveal Simon Rattle “as the great Wagnerian we always suspected he could be.”
Then there was the announcement, in March, that Rattle would take up the position of music director of the orchestra he first conducted as a 22 year-old, the London Symphony Orchestra, in 2017 (he and the Berlin Philharmonic part company in 2018). Whether or not the sweetener of a possible new concert hall for the LSO’s residence becomes a reality remains to be seen.
Rattle’s combination of steely precision and wild abandon has resulted in major contributions to the core repertoire catalogue, with recordings of the works of Mahler, Debussy, Richard Strauss and Beethoven placed right up there with the best of the best. But throughout much of his roughly 40-year career, Rattle has been equally committed to historically informed performance – witness his long and continuing relationship with period instrument band the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – and to new music – witness his long and continuing relationship with such contemporary composers as Thomas Adès.
“Everybody changes,” he once told me over a beer at a barbie in Perth on the eve of the Berlin Philharmonic’s first-ever Australian tour in 2010. “There’s no point in a symphony orchestra being just curators. We keep on experimenting; we keep trying new things, playing new music and even old music in a new way.” Long may you continue to do so, Sir Simon. Will Yeoman