The Grammy Awards, a big deal in most genres of recorded music, are often perceived to be less prestigious in classical music, probably because the Grammy selection committees are composed of people in the classical recording business rather than the critics and academics who usually decide on classical-music awards.
It also doesn’t help that classical Grammys commonly are treated as step-children, coming in at the bottom of a long list (following the likes of regional roots music, children’s music and comedy on the The New York Times’ list).
There’s a decidedly modern/contemporary tilt to this year’s awards: The oldest compositions performed on any of the winning recordings are the four symphonies of Charles Ives. Six of the winners feature works written in this century.
The classical Grammy winners:
Best Orchestral Performance: Ives: complete symphonies – Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel (Deutsche Grammophon 4839502)
Best Opera Recording: The Gershwins: “Porgy and Bess” – Eric Owens (Porgy), Angel Blue (Bess), Latonia Moore (Serena), Golda Schultz (Clara), Denyce Graves (Maria), Frederick Ballentine (Sportin’ Life), Alfred Walker (Crown), Ryan Speedo Green (Jake), Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus/David Robertson (Metropolitan Opera 1000420118)
Best Choral Performance: Richard Danielpour: “The Passion of Yeshua” – Hila Plitmann, soprano; J’Nai Bridges, mezzo-soprano; Timothy Fallon, tenor; Matthew Worth & Kenneth Overton, baritones; James K. Bass, bass; UCLA Chamber Singers; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus/JoAnn Falletta (Naxos 8.559885-86)
Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: “Contemporary Voices” (Shulamit Ran: Quartet No. 3 [“ Doom, Shards, Memory”]; Jennifer Higdon: “Voices;” Ellen Taaffe Zwilich: Quintet for alto saxophone and string quartet) – Pacifica Quartet; Otis Murphy, alto saxophone (Çedille 90000196)
Best Classical Instrumental Solo: Christopher Theofanidis: Concerto for viola and chamber orchestra – Richard O’Neill, viola; Albany Symphony/David Alan Miller (Albany 1816)
*Best Classical Solo Vocal Album: Ethel Smyth: “The Prison” – Sarah Brailey, soprano; Dashon Burton, bass-baritone; Experiential Chorus & Orchestra/James Blachly (Chandos 5279)
Best Classical Compendium: Michael Tilson Thomas: “From the Diary of Anne Frank” & “Meditations on Rilke” – Isabel Leonard, narrator; Sasha Cooke; mezzo-soprano; Ryan McKinny, bass-baritone; San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas (SFS Media 2193600792)
Best Contemporary Classical Composition: Christopher Rouse: Symphony No. 5 – Nashville Symphony/Giancarlo Guerrero (Naxos 8.559852)
Best Engineered Album: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 13 (“Babi Yar”) – Alexey Tikhomirov, bass; Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Riccardo Muti (David Frost & Charlie Post, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer) (CSO Resound 9011901)
Producer of the Year: David Frost
*Ethel Smyth’s “The Prison” is a vocal symphony that won the Grammy in the Best Classical Vocal Solo Album category. Go figure . . .