Nicholas Daniel has been awarded the Walter Willson Cobbett Medal for services to Chamber Music 2022 by the Musicians’ Company. He received the medal at a ceremony in London on Wednesday 19 April 2023.

‘I was always lucky with my teachers: the great Janet Craxton, who was awarded this wonderful medal in 1975, was one of them; but it’s not an exaggeration to say that Chamber Music, in the course of more than 50 years of me being obsessed with it, has taught me more about music and about myself than anything or anyone. This is because every single person I have been lucky enough to be on stage with, the Haffner and Orsino Wind Ensembles, the Britten Oboe Quartet and Britten Sinfonia, the Carducci and Doric Quartets and California’s Camerata Pacifica, as well as so many great musicians like Peter Cropper, Mahan Esfahani, Imogen Cooper, Joy Farrall, Julius Drake to name only a few, have, in the rehearsal room, shared their hearts and souls, subjugated their egos, finally giving everything of themselves on stage with me, sharing music unstintingly and generously with our audiences. To all of them I can only say thank you. Thank you also to my whole team and all our artists at the Leicester International Music Festival and Lunchtime Series. I’m in my 20th year there, and I am so proud of our work, which is central to my life as a creative. 

I had such hopes that after Covid we would find ourselves travelling to village halls and schools and market squares in my newly-acquired part hybrid large Volvo with space for all the instruments including a cello or a bassoon in the boot, but sadly that hasn’t quite happened. I think it should, in the same way that Britten made opera transportable after the second world war, maybe using virtual spaces as promised many years ago, but unfortunately they proved virtually unaffordable! But music for small forces without conductor has always, and will always, whether we be professional or non-professional, have highly relevant lessons to teach us all. And let’s not forget the composers: new chamber music is so wonderfully exciting. Let’s grow even more opportunities for commissioning new work now so that nobody is excluded.

It would be remiss of me not to comment briefly about the state of our profession right now, because it feels to me to be under attack.

Firstly I will work as hard as I can to support the the English BBC Orchestras and the BBC Singers, and the wider British groups should it become necessary. The suggested cuts and attacks on them are not only wrong but an embarrassing shambles. Next, to the Arts Council: please don’t punish people for being good at what they do. The baffling cuts to opera and to the Britten Sinfonia show a breathtaking lack of understanding about those organisations and their crucial importance.

Also, let’s let every child in this country learn to play an instrument, read music and sing. Worthy though so many of our efforts to rebalance are in terms of class and race and inequality, the top down only approach is nonsensical. I can’t think of a single issue that we endlessly discuss that wouldn’t be healed and improved by this approach.

I’m so happy to be here tonight to celebrate with the Musicians’ Company, and my ever supportive, patient husband Piotr. I am profoundly grateful to the Musicians’ Company for this medal, and stunned by the company I keep in being given it. I am deeply honoured to accept it with the deepest thanks to ALL my chamber music partners past present and future.’

Nicholas Daniel OBE, 19 April 2023