MADRID, Spain — Port Angeles Symphony Orchestra guest pianist Josu De Solaun has won the Best Solo Instrumental Recording prize from the International Classical Music Awards, the ICMA jury announced this week.
The awards, considered the classical music Grammys, are judged by 18 of Europe’s foremost music critics.
The ceremonies will take place at the National Music Forum in Wroclaw, Poland, on April 21, with De Solaun playing in the gala concert about a month after his March 25 performance in Port Angeles.
The pianist, who lives in Madrid, is a longtime friend and collaborator of Port Angeles Symphony artistic director and conductor Jonathan Pasternack.
The two met nine years ago when both were new professors at Sam Houston State University in Texas; De Solaun’s first trip to the North Olympic Peninsula came in April 2016 after Pasternack was appointed conductor of the symphony. As a guest artist, De Solaun joined the symphony to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and received a standing ovation — that stayed standing until he sat down again at the piano to play two impassioned encores.
Since then, De Solaun has been asked back three times to perform with Pasternack and the orchestra: in November 2018, February 2020 and March 2023.
The Spaniard has won an armload of international prizes already. Yet the ICMA honor, which is for his 2022 album of Haydn piano sonatas, has special meaning for him. He calls it both “a love letter in sound to the great Haydn,” and a connection to his youth.
De Solaun came to know the music of Austrian composer Franz Joseph Haydn when he was a boy growing up in Valencia. Come 1992, the pianist was 10 years old, giving his first public recital. His main piece was Haydn’s Sonata in D Major, played at the Monastery of Santa María del Puig. That monastery in Valencia was also where his parents were married.
“I thank the jury for awarding me this important prize,” De Solaun said after receiving news of the ICMA win. “It gives me huge encouragement to record and share the music that moves me.”
Pasternack, who has collaborated with De Solaun on several occasions in Europe, is thrilled for his friend. He and De Solaun traveled to the Czech Republic last summer to record the Strauss Burleske together last summer with the Moravian Philharmonic.
That work, along with their album of Franz Liszt concertos recorded in 2021, will both come out later this year.
De Solaun and Pasternack have also performed several times together in Romania.
“I can’t wait for Josu’s return to Port Angeles this March to play the rarely performed Dvorak piano concerto with us,” said Pasternack, adding this concert has been a dream of theirs ever since they first collaborated in Texas eight years ago.
The Port Angeles Symphony is in the midst of its 90th anniversary season, with concerts set for Feb. 18 with guest soloist Charlotte Marckx and De Solaun on March 25.
Then come performances with cellist Julian Schwarz on May 6, and, in the season finale, two Chamber Orchestra concerts with organist Noah Michael Smith and the Port Angeles Symphony Chorus on May 19 and 20.
Information can be found at portangelessymphony.org.
Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.