America has had its Grammy Awards since 1959, when the first gala ceremony was held and, in 1995, Poland followed this fine example by instituting its own the Fryderyk Awards. Just like in America—where the Recording Academy recognizes the best achievements in the music industry— for the past twenty-six years Poland’s Recording Academy (known as Akademia Fonograficzna) has spotlighted recordings in about twenty categories of popular music and jazz, and ten categories of classical music.
Known initially as the Gramophone Award, the actual American Grammy Award trophy was inspired by the 1930s model of a gramophone with an oversized, trumpet-like speaker. The Polish equivalent is called Fryderyk and bears Fryderyk Chopin’s likeness, in a pose modeled on the Rolls-Royce motorcar “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament.
On 17 March 2021, the Polish Recording Academy announced nominations in its ten categories of classical music. Five albums were nominated for each category. The exceptions included choral music with three nominations and symphonic music, where four nominations were given.
The Polish Recording Academy Board honored two outstanding classical artists with the Lifetime Achievement ‘Golden Fryderyk’ Award. This award was given to Jadwiga Rappé, a vocalist and professor of voice whose career spans decades and includes thousands of concerts in the most prestigious venues all across the world, and to Jan Łukaszewski, an outstanding conductor and artistic director of the Polish Chamber Choir ‘Schola Cantorum Gedaniensis.’
This Year’s Nominees
Four nominations were given to the recordings featuring soprano Joanna Freszel. Two of them are operas by Aleksander Nowak: Ahat-ilī. Siostra bogów [Ahat-ilī. Sister to the Gods] with an extraordinary libretto by Olga Tokarczuk (nomination in the category of Album of the Year—Choral Music), and Drach. Dramma per musica to the libretto by Szczepan Twardoch (nomination in the category of the Outstanding Recording of the Year). Many superb musicians are featured on these two albums, including Ewa Biegas, Łukasz Konieczny, Urszula Krygier, Bartłomiej Misiuda, Jan Jakub Monowid, Sebastian Szumski, and Marcin Świątkiewicz, with the Polish Radio Choir and the AUKSO City of Tychy Chamber Orchestra led by Marek Moś. Both CDs were published by the Polish Music Publishers [PWM] and Anaklasis—find them both on Freszel’s Anaklasis page.
The third nomination for Joanna Freszel is a recording of Andrzej Karałow’s De invitatione mortis (Album of the Year/Oratorio and Opera Music category), published by Chopin University Press (UMFC CD 124–125). Lastly, a CD with Mieczysław Weinberg’s String Quartets Nos. 14 & 15 and Three Palms, a cycle of Weinberg’s songs Freszel recorded with the Silesian String Quartet (Album of the Year/Chamber Music category).
The Best Polish Album Abroad and the Best Recording of Polish Music categories were swept by Agata Zubel for the new recording of her Cleopatra’s Song, issued on the KAIROS label (0015068KAI). Another nomination for the Best Polish Album Abroad went to the Sony Classical CD ‘Desire,’ featuring the world-acclaimed soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. Nominations in the same category also included album of Bach’s Goldberg Variations with Marcin Świątkiewicz on Rubicon Classics, and Wizlav von Ruegen’s Complete Songs in performance by the Ensemble Peregrina and Agnieszka Budzińska-Bennett on the Tacet label.
Two nominations (categories of Album of the Year and The Outstanding Recording of Polish Music) went to a CD produced by Polish Radio with violin and piano sonatas by Grażyna Bacewicz interpreted by Jakub Jakowicz and Bartosz Bednarczyk (PR CD-02-0003-WG). Two other Polish Radio recordings were also nominated for the Album of the Year and Oratorio and Opera categories, including Jerzy Semkow’s recording of Four Symphonies by Johannes Brahms (PR CD-02-0005-WG) and Stanisław Moniuszko’s Sonety Krymskie (PR CD-14-0111-WG).
The vocal ensemble Camerata Silesia received nominations in the Album of the Year/Choral Music (works by Roman Padlewski and Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa , issued on DUX), and Album of the Year/Contemporary Music (for the recording Camerata Silesia Sings Silesian Composers, Vol. 2, published by Friends of Andrzej Krzanowski Society).
The Polish Recording Academy also found the album Michał Zieleński—Offertoria et communiones totius anni as interpreted by the Wrocław Baroque Ensemble led by Andrzej Kosendiak as one of the five best recordings of early music. It was published by the Witold Lutosławski National Forum of Music and CD Accord (ACD272).
Two recordings by the Sinfonia Iuventus with concertos by Krzysztof Penderecki and Roman Palester (conducted by Łukasz Borowicz) were recognized in the Album of the Year/Concerto category. Other nominees in this category include albums recorded by Jakub Drygas, Aleksandra Kubas-Kruk and Jonathan Plowright, the latter for his recording of music by Michał Bergson.
Seven nominations went to Chopin University Press for recordings featuring professors and students of the Chopin Music University in Warsaw. Marcin Łukaszewski’s recording of Stanisław Moniuszko’s Complete Solo Piano Works will compete for the Fryderyk Award in two categories—The Solo Album of the Year and The Best Recording of Polish Music. The Rector of Warsaw’s Chopin Music University—the virtuoso accordionist Klaudiusz Baran—was nominated for his recording of solo accordion works by Ignacy Zalewski.
The complete list of all 2021 Fryderyk Awards nominations can be found at: fryderyki.pl/fryderyk-2021/#res
The Fryderyk Awards Jury composed of over 1500 members, including artists, composers, producers, journalists, and recording industry executives will vote in a secret ballot in the popular, classical, and jazz music branches. Members of the Recording Academy can belong to and vote only in one branch that represents the closest area to their professional expertise.