Bamberg Symphony, led by conductor Hrůša, wins prestigious ICMA award

Jakub Hrůša

The Bamberg Symphony, led by Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša, has been awarded the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) prize for best symphonic music for its recording of Symphony No. 4 by Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. This year’s awards list also features performances of music written by some of the greatest Czech composers.

One of the most popular works of Anton Bruckner, the Symphony No. 4 was written in 1874 and revised several times by Bruckner after its initial release. In a new album, the Bamberg Symphony under the leadership of Jakub Hrůša performed all three versions of the symphony, including several alternative fragments. The recording has now received the ICMA award for Symphonic Music.

On its website, the ICMA jury states that the symphony has “never been so lavishly presented on CD”, reserving particular praise for the orchestra’s recording of the original, first version of Bruckner’s symphony, “which has never been heard in a more fresh and colourful, imaginative, and richly blossoming performance than in this one under Jakub Hrůša”.

The album, a four-CD set released by Accentus Music, was recorded during the summer of 2020 and has since also won the German Record Critics’ Award. The conductor himself told the Czech News Agency that it contains both an entertaining and existential dimension. Meanwhile, the fact that it contains all three versions of the original symphony, he said, invites listeners to take part in deciding which one they most prefer.

Photo: Accentus Music

Still just 40 years old, Jakub Hrůša has already become a household name in the world of contemporary classical music. Before taking becoming the principal conductor at Bamberg, he also conducted for the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Danish Orchestra.

Speaking last year, Mr Hrůša said that one of the biggest breakthroughs in his career was being able to study under his compatriot, conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, who was known as one of the most profound proponents of Czech orchestral music.

“He was an inspiring teacher and later friend of mine. I had dreamt of him becoming my teacher for a long time and he was kind enough to accept me as a student after recognising some initial successes of mine. That was another breakthrough, because if I had not met him my life would have been different.”

Asked about his future goals, Mr Hrůša said that his personal relationship with music trumps any accolades.

“On a more subtle, personal level, I would like to understand the music that I am performing more deeply and thus become more inspiring to the people I that am conducting, as well as to the audience. This is much more important to me than concrete pieces of music or places that I want to get to. My motives are deeper than that, more connected with the soul.”

This year’s ICMI awards list also included performances of works created by Czech composers. German pianist and conductor Lars Vogt won the award for his performance of Leoš Janáček’s Piano Sonata 1, while the Baroque Vocal award went to Polish countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński whose recording Anima Aeterna also features performances of the work of Bohemian composer Jan Dismas Zelenka.