Leipzig gives Bach medal to ‘first woman’ (they are not woke)

Leipzig gives Bach medal to ‘first woman’ (they are not woke)


norman lebrecht

November 14, 2019

Richly deserved, but still…

Press statement from the city of Leipzig:

Die Bach-Medaille der Stadt Leipzig geht 2020 erstmals an eine Frau…

In 2020, the City of Leipzig Bach Medal will for the first time be awarded to a woman: the Canadian pianist globally acclaimed for her interpretations of Bach and for her Bach tours, Angela Hewitt. The jury, consisting of the president of the Bach Archive, Prof. Dr. Ton Koopman, and its director, Professor Dr. Peter Wollny, Thomaskantor Prof. Gotthold Schwarz, Gewandhaus kapellmeister Andris Nelsons and the rector of the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy University of Music and Theatre Professor Martin Kürschner, wrote in the award justification:

“…Never since the Canadian Glenn Gould has there been an artist who has placed Bach interpretations on the modern concert piano at the centre of their work as much as Gould’s compatriot, Angela Hewitt. …”

The 2020 Bach Medal will be awarded to Angela Hewitt by the Mayor of the City of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung, in Bachfest 2020 on 20 June during a gala concert in which she will perform the Goldberg Variations. The concert is sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts | Conseil des arts du Canada and the Goverment of Canada.

Past medal holders are:
2003 Gustav Leonhardt †
2004 Helmuth Rilling
2005 Sir John Eliot Gardiner
2006 Ton Koopman
2007 Nikolaus Harnoncourt †
2008 Hermann Max
2009 Frieder Bernius
2010 Philippe Herreweghe
2011 Herbert Blomstedt
2012 Masaaki Suzuki
2013 Peter Schreier
2014 Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
2015 Peter Neumann
2016 Peter Kooij
2017 Reinhold Goebel
2018 Robert Levin
2019 Klaus Mertens


  • This is a richly deserved award. Better late than never say I and I look forward to meeting Angela in Leipzig next June, when London Bach Society will also have a presence.

  • We privatize your value says:

    But to which women would you have given the prize, if you could rewrite history? A genuine question. Wanda Landowska would surely have deserved it. Also, the dedicated singers Agnes Giebel, and Marga Höffgen. Who else?

  • Edgar Self says:

    Another vote for the incomparable Wanda Landowska, who revived interest in Bach and the harpsichord through her unsurpassed recordings, especially of the Italian Concerto and theGoldberg Variations, an taught or inspired generations of Bach players. For another possiblenomination, tatianaNikolayeva.

  • Pallidor says:

    Please note that the prize was installed in 2003 – unfortunately, a little too late for some of the legendary Bach interpreters mentioned below.

    • Fan says:

      Yes, they were a little dead then.

    • We privatize your value says:

      But what *was* their excuse for overlooking Alain, Giebel, and Růžičková?

      • HugoPreuss says:

        Perhaps there were other good candidates? The list of the winners since 2003 can be found above. Whom do you want to eliminate from that list? Who is undeserving of the prize?

        • We privatize your value says:

          I have seen the list above (in case you are worried for my eyesight) and it is tremendous. However, I would argue that Hermann Max, or Frieder Bernius, are not the biggest names in the business, Bach or otherwise, they just so happen to be Germans, and male. Gardiner is an acquired taste, too, in my opinion. But i think they could have given two prizes each year instead of awarding only one person!

          • Saxon Broken says:

            Gardiner may be an acquired taste but he surely is nevertheless one of the most important Bach interpreters in the circuit; even if you don’t like what he does.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Absolutely wonderful!! What an esteemed list of recipients there too.

  • debuschubertussy says:

    Perhaps she might not be the first that comes to mind when thinking of Bach, but for me, (and, I suspect, many young pianists), Martha Argerich’s Bach Partita and English suite recording is one of the very best, and helped me discover a lot about his music.

  • fflambeau says:

    She’s an excellent choice. Terrific player and advocate.

    A question: why has a relatively small (in population) country produced such great Bach specialists? Her and the late Glenn Gould.

  • John Watson says:

    Gould Goldberg 1981 – unsurpassable!