Memo September 2017


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in September 2017

Music, music, music.

Ranking music

Among the global classical music awards those of the Gramophone magazine enjoy particular esteem. Earlier, curious about the position of performers from east-central Europe, BO found five out of the 159 Gramophone awards between 2000 and 2009. We repeated now the search for the period 2010 and 2017 which showed a leap forward for the region – thirteen out of 151 Gramophone awards, i.e. from 3% to 9%!

The following table contains the 35 items from east-central Europe from 439 prizes from four leading programmes between 2010 and 2017.


Gramophone (151)

Grammy (64)

ICMA (158)

BBC (66)


PL – Chamber (1)

PL – Best choral performance (2)

HU / PL – Contemporary (3)

CZ – Chamber (4)




HU – Solo instrument (5)
PL – Contemporary (6)
HU – Historical recording (7)

CZ – Chamber (8)


EE – Artist of the year (9)
PL – Instrumental (10)
CZ – Chamber (11)


PL – Special achievement (12)
HU – Best collection (13)



CZ – Chamber (14)

EE / LV – Best choral performance (15)

PL – Special achievement (16)
HU / MD – Concerto (17)
PL – Contemporary (18)



HU / MD – Recording of the year (19)
CZ – Orchestral (20)
HU – Chamber (21)

PL – Best classical compendium (22)

PL – Opera (23)

PL – Instrumental(24)


CZ – Special historic award (25)
CZ – Orchestral (26)


PL – Lifetime achievement (27)
BG – Vocal recital (28)
HU – Recording of the year (29)
PL – Contemporary (30)
HU – Historical recording (31)

PL – Recording of the year (32)


ME – Young artist of the year and Specialist classical chart (33)
CZ – Recording of the year (34)





CZ – Orchestral (35)





Comments to the table:

  • Key to the numbers in brackets are at the bottom of this memo.
  • The award winners from east-central Europe show an uneven spread between countries: 14 from Poland, 9-9 from Czechia and Hungary, and 7 from the rest.     
  • Krzysztof Penderecki was involved in six awards, and the Haas Quartet from Prague in four.
  • Russia is a musical super power, with dozens of prizes. They are missing from the table as they are not in BO remit.  
  • We single out three from the hundreds of awards from other regions. First, an emerging orchestra at the edge of Europe, in Ankara, 1600 km from Vienna, one of the musical capitals of the world: Bilkent Symphony Orchestra received Special Achievement Award at ICMA in 2015.
  • Another emerging orchestra at 3200 km from Vienna: an opera performance recorded in Perm was awarded by BBC in 2017.
  • Finally, a fabulous record won an ICMA award in 2015, with sounds of the Balkans.


Ranking more

Is BO obsessed with awards and rankings? In fact, we warn from taking them too seriously. Nevertheless, prizes and rank lists function brilliantly at attracting attention to things that we find important. (The same with statistics.)

The awards in the table are supposed to express quality. Some agencies rank musicians by amounts: how often they perform or have been recorded.

The champion of prizes, Penderecki is missing from the top ten contermporary composers performed in 2016 according to the Bachtrack portal; from east-central Europe Arvo Pärt and György Kurtág stood at No.1 and 4. Indeed, in the catalogue of ArkivMusic Pärt has 302 records against Penderecki’s 182.

There are interesting opera statistics, too. Is Italy saturated the best with opera performances? In fact almost all east-central European nations prove to be more eager opera lovers. Yet no country comes close to the 140 performances per million Austrians. (Although in 2008 this figure was 163.) 

This table is based on the global statistics of Operabase: the first country outside Europe is Australia with 12 performances per million people, five places behind Poland.

Music policy

What does the European Union say to all this? The answer is in the making in the frame of a special programme. The activity has borne the first fruit, aiming to arrive at a European Agenda on Music  

Six remarkable festivals

The 2017 EFFE Awards were handed over in Brussels to a fine selection of festivals.


Two websites

Following the exercise we began in August, BO took a look at two more culture ministries’ sites.



This portal appears to contain the largest amount of gigabytes among the ones we have seen, consisting of texts rather than visual features. Especially remarkable are:

  • Prominence of illustrated news about Lithuanian culture abroad (24 pieces from September);
  • Full details about the staff (93 permanent + 24 contracted), with office door number and salaries (€3,860 for the minister, €1,286 for most desk officers);
  • Dozens of valid strategies, action plans and progress reports: is anyone’s job regulated more than that of the cultural minister of Lithuania?
  • Robust, updated evidence base: national survey about cultural behaviour with recommendations;
  • A page on the 2% income tax exemption after donations to artists of which BO would like to know more.


This website is much more economical than the previous – to put it mildly. Four documents explain a bit about the actual cultural policy. The reader is encouraged to keep updated – mantenha-se atualizado – but the two condolences and a third news piece offer little clue about the agenda, vision or resources of the ministry.

Come together

Registrations are open for the European Culture Forum, to be held in Milan on 7-8 December. To it, the ENCATC Congress has grown to be a challenge, with its ambitions and execution. It has just ended in Brussels, but Beyond the Obvious is still ahead of you.  


Annex: Key to the numbers in brackets in the table

  1. Bacewicz:Complete String Quartets, Silesian Quartet, Chandos 
  2. Penderecki Conducts Penderecki, Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Wojnarowski, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir
  3. Oriental Trumpet Concertos, Penderecki – Say – Khachaturian – Arutiunian, Gábor Boldoczki, Sinfonietta Cracovia, Jurek Dybal
  4. Martinu: Piano Trios Nos 1-3, Bergerettes, Smetana Trio, Supraphon
  5. Schubert: Sonatas, Impromptus & Moments Musicaux, András Schiff, ECM
  6. Penderecki: Clarinet Concerto, Flute Concerto, Concerto grosso for 3 Cellos and Orchestra, Michel Lethiec, Lukasz Dlugosz, Arto Noras, Bartosz Koziak, Rafal Kwiatkowski, The Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra, Dux
  7. Bartók: Concerti, Cantata profana, Divertimento, etc, 1951-1953, Tibor Varga, Andor Foldes, Géza Anda, Louis Kentner, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, RIAS Berlin, Ferenc Fricsay, Audite
  8. Smetana: String Quartets Nos 1 & 2, Pavel Haas Quartet, Supraphon
  9. Paavo Järvi
  10. Bach:English Suites Nos 1, 3 & 5, Piotr Anderszewski, Warner Classics
  11. Schubert: String Quintet, D956. String Quartet No 14, ‘Death and the Maiden’, Pavel Haas Quartet with Danjulo Ishizaka, Supraphon
  12. Panufnik: Symphonic Works, Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Konzerthausorchester Berlin, Lukasz Borowicz, CPO
  13. Mozart: Complete Symphonies, Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Adam Fischer
  14. DvorákString Quartets Op. 106 & 96, Pavel Haas Quartet, Supraphon
  15. Pärt: Adam’s Lament, Tõnu Kaljuste (conductor) with Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis
  16. Ludwig van Beethoven Association, Kraków
  17. Bartók. Eötvös. Ligeti:Violin Concertos, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Péter Eötvös, Naïve
  18. Penderecki: The Complete Symphonies, Polish Sinfonia Iuventus Orchestra, Krzysztof Penderecki, Dux
  19. Bartók. Eötvös. Ligeti:Violin Concertos, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Péter Eötvös, Naïve
  20. Suk: A Summer’s Tale, Op 29. Praga, Op 26, Jiří Bělohlávek conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chandos
  21. Bartók: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 2. Solo Violin Sonata, Barnabás Kelemen / Zoltán Kocsis, Hungaroton
  22. Antoni Wit (conductor), Nagórko & Sasin (producers)
  23. Moniuszko: Verbum nobile, Aleksander Teliga, Aleksandra Buczek, Leszek Skrla, Michal Partyka, Janusz Lewandowski, Chor i Orkiestra Opery na Zamku / Warcislaw Kunc, Dux
  24. Chopin: Piano works, Janina Fialkowska, ATMA Classique
  25. Smetana: Má vlast, Dvorák Slavonic Dances, 1939, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Talich, Supraphon
  26. Dvořák Symphonic Poems, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras, Supraphon
  27. Krzysztof Penderecki
  28. Slavic Opera Arias, Tchaikovsky – Hadjiev – Borodin – Dvorak – Smetana –  Rimski-Korsakov, Krassimira Stoyanova. Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Pavel Baleff, Orfeo
  29. Schumann: Papillons, Klaviersonate, Kinderszenen, Fantasie, Waldszenen, Thema mit Variationen, András Schiff, ECM 
  30. Penderecki: Viola Concerto – Cello Concerto No. 2, Grigory Zhislin, Tatjana Vassiljeva, Warsaw  Philharmonic, Antoni Wit, Naxos
  31. Lucerne Festival 1960,  Schumann: Piano Concerto, Annie Fischer, Philharmonia Orchestra, Carlo Maria Giulini; 1962, Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.2, Leon Fleisher Swiss Festival Orchestra, George Szell, Audite
  32. Schumann: Humoreske, Studies for the pedal piano, Gesänge der Frühe, Piotr Anderszewski, Virgin
  33. Montenegrin guitarist Milo Karadaglić
  34. Smetana:String Quartets No 1, ‘From my life’ & 2, Pavel Haas Quartet, Supraphon
  35. MartinůSymphonies Nos 1-6, Jiři Bĕlohlávek conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra
  36. Incredibly, the 2010 ICMA winners cannot be found anywhere on the Internet – can someone help?