Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 12:34 PM
No more Best Classical Album — and other effects of this year's changes to music's most prestigious American prize.
As we wrote back in April, Grammy categories were whittled down substantially for 2012, and with the announcement last night of this year's nominees, we can see the results of those changes. Among the deletions were Best Classical Crossover Album, merged vocal and chamber/small group music categories and – most importantly – the dissolution of the Best Classical Album category.
The drop of 31 categories overall, which was made without a general vote by the academy's 21,000 members — and which prompted a lawsuit filed by four prominent Latin jazz musicians as well as the formation of a watchdog group — has diminished the presence and perceived value of specialty genres like classical music.
When all these categories were dropped, the Recording Academy suggested that if they were indeed really great, worthy albums from genres like classical would somehow find their way to the big-dog mainstream categories like Album of the Year. Gee, who could have predicted that Gustavo Dudamel or John Adams would be edged out in favor of Katy Perry or Bruno Mars?
Here, I should admit some amount of insiderly knowledge of the process. For several years, I was a voting member of the Grammys and also served on one of the small committees that judges one of the few categories not voted on by the general membership. In addition, my husband was involved in the creation of several Grammy-winning recordings and produced several other albums that were nominated for Grammy Awards.
As for this year's actual classical nominations, there were few surprises. Naxos and its huge roster of distributed labels continues to dominate the process; Among the 35 classical-category nominees (excluding Engineering and Producer of the Year, Classical), 19 — more than half — came from Naxos and its distribution roster. (A bit of historical number-crunching: Last year, 24 out of 55 nominated recordings came from the same Naxos well.) And as in recent years, several of the nominated recordings aren't available on CD at all — for example, the Gustavo Dudamel-led Brahms Fourth Symphony, nominated for Best Orchestral Performance, is sold as a digital download only, while three of the five albums in contention for Best Opera Recording are DVDs.
We'd like to know what you think. If it still existed, would Best Classical Album continue to hold meaning for you as a fan? And of all the recordings released this past year, which would you have nominated for Best Classical Album? Let us know in the comments section.
Here are the classical nominees; the Grammy Awards will be announced Feb. 12 in Los Angeles.
Best Orchestral Performance
Bowen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2
Andrew Davis, conductor (BBC Philharmonic)[Chandos]
Brahms: Symphony No. 4
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic) [Deutsche Grammophon]
Haydn: Symphonies 104, 88 & 101
Nicholas McGegan, conductor (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra) [Philharmonia Baroque Productions]
Henze: Symphonies Nos. 3-5
Marek Janowski, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin) [Wergo]
Martinu: The 6 Symphonies
Jirí Belohlávek, conductor (BBC Symphony Orchestra) [Onyx Classics]
Best Opera Recording
Adams: Doctor Atomic
Alan Gilbert, conductor; Meredith Arwady, Sasha Cooke, Richard Paul Fink, Gerald Finley, Thomas Glenn & Eric Owens; Jay David Saks, producer (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus) [Sony Classical]
Britten: Billy Budd
Mark Elder, conductor; John Mark Ainsley, Phillip Ens, Jacques Imbrailo, Darren Jeffery, Iain Paterson & Matthew Rose; James Whitbourn, producer (London Philharmonic Orchestra; Glyndebourne Chorus) [Opus Arte]
Hannu Lintu, conductor; Jaakko Kortekangas, Hannu Niemelä, Johanna Rusanen-Kartano & Mati Turi; Seppo Siirala, producer (Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; Kaivos Chorus) [Ondine]
Verdi: La Traviata
Antonio Pappano, conductor; Joseph Calleja, Renée Fleming & Thomas Hampson; James Whitbourn, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus) [Opus Arte]
Vivaldi: Ercole Sul Termodonte
Fabio Biondi, conductor; Romina Basso, Patrizia Ciofi, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Vivica Genaux, Philippe Jaroussky, Topi Lehtipuu & Rolando Villazón; Daniel Zalay, producer (Europa Galante; Coro Da Camera Santa Cecilia Di Borgo San Lorenzo) [Virgin Classics]
Best Choral Performance
Beyond All Mortal Dreams - American A Cappella
Stephen Layton, conductor (Choir Of Trinity College Cambridge) [Hyperion Records]
Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45
Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; James K. Bass, chorus master (Justin Blackwell, Scott Allen Jarrett, Paul Max Tipton & Teresa Wakim; Professional Choral Institute & Seraphic Fire) [Seraphic Fire Media]
Kjetil Almenning, conductor (Nidaros String Quartet; Ensemble 96) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
Light & Gold
Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers) [Decca]
The Natural World Of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen
Paul Hillier, conductor (Ars Nova Copenhagen) [Dacapo Records]
Best Small Ensemble Performance
Gabriela Lena Frank; ALIAS Chamber Ensemble [Naxos]
The Kingdoms Of Castille
Richard Savino, conductor; El Mundo [Sono Luminus]
Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide
Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird [Cedille Records]
A Seraphic Fire Christmas
Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; Seraphic Fire [Seraphic Fire Media]
Sound The Bells!
The Bay Brass [Harmonia Mundi]
Best Classical Instrumental Solo
Chinese Recorder Concertos - East Meets West
Lan Shui, conductor; Michala Petri (Copenhagen Philharmonic) [OUR Recordings]
Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18; Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini
Yuja Wang (Claudio Abbado; Mahler Chamber Orchestra) [Deutsche Grammaphon]
Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4
Leif Ove Andsnes (Antonio Pappano; London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]
Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony)
Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano
Ursula Oppens [Cedille Records]
Best Classical Vocal Solo
Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L'Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L'Opéra National De Lyon) [Virgin Classics]
Grieg/Thommessen: Veslemøy Synsk
Marianne Beate Kielland (Nils Anders Mortensen) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
Natalie Dessay (Emmanuelle Haïm; Le Concert D'Astrée) [Virgin Classics]
Purcell: O Solitude
Andreas Scholl (Stefano Montanari; Christophe Dumaux; Accademia Bizantina) [Decca]
Three Baroque Tenors
Ian Bostridge (Bernard Labadie; Mark Bennett, Andrew Clarke, Sophie Daneman, Alberto Grazzi, Jonathan Gunthorpe, Benjamin Hulett & Madeline Shaw; The English Concert) [EMI Classics]
Best Contemporary Classical Composition
Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry
Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein [Naxos]
Crumb, George: The Ghosts Of Alhambra
Track from: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 15 [Bridge Records, Inc.]
Friedman, Jefferson: String Quartet No. 3
Track from: Jefferson Friedman: Quartets [New Amsterdam Records]
Mackey, Steven: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide
Steven Mackey [Cedille Records]
Ruders, Poul: Piano Concerto No. 2
Track from: Music Of Poul Ruders, Vol. 6 [Bridge Records, Inc.]
Best Engineered Album, Classical
Aldridge: Elmer Gantry
Byeong-Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) [Naxos]
Glazunov: Complete Concertos
Richard King, engineer (José Serebrier, Alexey Serov, Wen-Sinn Yang, Alexander Romanovsky, Rachel Barton Pine, Marc Chisson & Russian National Orchestra) [Warner Classics]
Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide
Tom Lazarus & Bill Maylone, engineers; Joe Lambert, mastering engineer (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird) [Cedille Records]
Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4
Arne Akselberg, engineer (Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano & London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]
Weinberg: Symphony No. 3 & Suite No. 4 From 'The Golden Key'
Torbjörn Samuelsson, engineer (Thord Svedlund & Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) [Chandos]
Producer Of The Year, Classical
Aldridge: Elmer Gantry (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas (Peter Takács)
Osterfield: Rocky Streams (Paul Osterfield, Todd Waldecker & Various Artists)
Bach: Concertos & Sinfonias For Oboe; Ich Hatte Viel Bekümmernis (Heinz Holliger, Eric Höbarth & Camerata Bern)
Hymns & Prayers (Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica)
Manto & Madrigals (Thomas Zehetmair & Ruth Killius)
Songs Of Ascension (Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Todd Reynolds Quartet, The M6 & Montclair State University Singers)
Tchaikovsky/Kissine: Piano Trios (Gidon Kremer, Giedre Dirvanauskaite & Khatia Buniatishvili)
A Worcester Ladymass (Trio Mediaeval)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass)
Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird)
Prayers & Alleluias (Kenneth Dake)
Sharon Isbin & Friends - Guitar Passions (Sharon Isbin & Various Artists)
Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (Patrick Dupré Quigley, James K. Bass, Seraphic Fire & Professional Choral Institute)
The Vanishing Nordic Chorale (Philip Spray & Musik Ekklesia)
Adams: Son Of Chamber Symphony; String Quartet (John Adams, St. Lawrence String Quartet & International Contemporary Ensemble)
Capricho Latino (Rachel Barton Pine)
85th Birthday Celebration (Claude Frank)
Insects & Paper Airplanes - Chamber Music Of Lawrence Dillon (Daedalus Quartet & Benjamin Hochman)
Midnight Frolic - The Broadway Theater Music Of Louis A. Hirsch (Rick Benjamin & Paragon Ragtime Orchestra)
Notable Women - Trios By Today's Female Composers (Lincoln Trio)
The Soviet Experience, Vol. 1 - String Quartets By Dmitri Shostakovich & His Contemporaries (Pacifica Quartet)
Speak! (Anthony De Mare)
State Of The Art - The American Brass Quintet At 50 (The American Brass Quintet)
Steve Reich: WTC 9/11; Mallet Quartet; Dance Patterns (Kronos Quartet, Steve Reich Musicians & So Percussion)
Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano (Ursula Oppens)
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This article is filed in: Music News
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The Grammy awards are completely irrelevant to classical music. The notion of picking a "Best Album" in an art that has so many completely independent variables, an art that is fundamentally REcreative even when the composer is the performer which is what distinguishes it from, say jazz is wrong on so many levels that even to allow it turns art into business. You might as well pick it on the basis of sales as attempt to find a meaningful consensus of critics and musicians. No "Best Classical Album" can be meaningful only in negative ways.
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