Star pianist Lang Lang was the only musician to take home two ECHO Klassik prizes. The star-studded gala event also honored pianist Menahem Pressler and singer Jonas Kaufmann.
The festive ECHO Klassik gala on Sunday evening (18.10.) served up some fine performances, beginning with Jonas Kaufmann, for whom TV entertainer Gottschalk found words of praise, calling him "the best the world of opera currently has to offer." With his deeply masculine, darkly shaded voice, Kaufmann proved the point in his rendition of an aria from Puccini's "Tosca."
The German vocalist's third or fourth ECHO (by his own admission, he has lost count), was largely a credit to the fact that one of his CDs reached the top of the pop music charts. The jury of the German Phono Academy, which organizes the event, bases its decisions to no small degree on sales success.
Lang Lang live
But Kaufmann's ECHO collection pales in comparison to that of Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who this year accepted his eighth and ninth ECHOs: one as Instrumentalist of the Year in the piano division, the other for his work with the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, which promotes young talent. Handing over the trophy, German television host Johannes B. Kerner declared, "Because of Lang Lang, millions of children in China have taken piano lessons." No longer needing to demonstrate his virtuosity, the megastar served up two delicate piano pieces by Tchaikovsky and Chopin.
But the wildest applause went to Maurice Steger, Instrumentalist of the Year (Flute). Demonstrating why he's called the "Indiana Jones of the flute," Steger played Vivaldi's G Major Concerto per Flautino, his breakneck runs almost too rapid for the ear to grasp. Serbian violinist Nemanja Radulović and Austrian clarinetist Andreas Ottensamer were also audience favorites, tossing the melodic ball back in fourth in a duo rendition of Vittorio Monti's Czardas.
The awards routine
The evening otherwise served up many words of praise, such as "Elina Garanca's voice enchants people all over the world," or "David Garret doesn't highlight tone and technique but places them in the service of musicality." Winning the Bestseller of the Year award, Garret conducted backstage interviews during the event. The German violinist has clearly achieved his goal of drawing young crowds to concert halls. "What would an ECHO Klassik be without David Garret?" asked MC Nina Eichinger, indirectly pointing to the fact that, all attempts to popularize classical music notwithstanding, the same faces tend to show up at ceremonies such as these year after year. Fellow MC Rolando Villazón, himself a multiple ECHO laureate, was recognized in a dual capacity - as singer and as stage director in last year's production of Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amour" in Baden Baden.
The special moment
Among the new faces at the ECHO Klassik gala, Bulgarian soprano Sonya Yoncheva stood out. Effortlessly gliding through an aria with her colorfully timbred voice, the Young Artist of the Year demonstrated a natural talent, showing - as did all of the evening's performances - that classical music need not be dramatic or taxing.
The emotional climax was saved up for the conclusion, when 91-year-old Menahem Pressler, honored for Lifetime Achievement, spoke to the audience in impeccable German and inquired whether he might be permitted to play something at the piano. His rendition of Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp Minor sounded as though it came from a different era yet was fully in the here and now.