It's kind of how we'd imagine classical music industry's big league awards stepping up to the underdog ICMAs, like Kanye West's Taylor Swift outburst at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Luckily, the 2013 ICMA Awards went off without a Kanye-mic-hijacking hitch earlier this week at Milan's Auditorium, home to Orchestra laVerdi, who netted a Special Achievement Award and ended the post-award ceremony gala with a technicolor La Forza under John Axelrod's baton.
In an age where one can shamelessly beef up their brand for the price of a Starbucks latte, the ICMA's aim is to recognize artists who fall outside of mainstream/commercial success, like countertenor Valer Barna-Sabadus who won Young Artist (vocal) and sang an animated Haendel Cara Sposa under laVerdi Barocca's Ruben Jais.
Highlights included winner Riccardo Chailly's English-language speech; Artist of the Year Carolin Widmann's clean, clarion Korngold violin concerto in D Major; Octogenarian pianist Aldo Ciccolini, deeply moved during his acceptance speech for a Lifetime Achievement award, who finished Wagner-Liszt Isolde Liebestod to a standing ovation; and immensely-ballsy finger/tongue work by clarinetist Laura Ruiz Ferreres on Copland's Clarinet Concerto.
Awards are tricky. It's a binary business -- snubs & lauds, juries and jealousy -- but the gratitude shown by the humbled artists at this year's ICMA was endearing. Business for pleasure. Bleasure.