Classical GRAMMY Winners Highlight New Music

  • Joyce DiDonato
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/
  • Judith Sherman
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/
  • Eric Whitacre
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/
  • Robert Aldridge
    Photo: Jeff Kravitz/

I was thrilled to be in attendance at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards this year. Although the live television broadcast is the crowning event of GRAMMY Week, most of the awards are given out during the Pre-Telecast Ceremony that takes place before the live show, including the awards in the Classical Field categories.

It was a big year for American classical music, as well as for living composers, who were reflected on winning recordings in five out of seven classical categories.

Best Opera Recording went to Adams: Doctor Atomic, a Metropolitan Opera performance conducted by Alan Gilbert and featuring baritone Gerald Finley in the title role.

Light & Gold, a disc of music composed and conducted by Eric Whitacre, won Best Choral Performance. Performers included the King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet, and the Eric Whitacre Singers.

Best Small Ensemble Performance went to Mackey: Lonely Motel  Music From Slide, composed by Steven Mackey and performed by vocalist Rinde Eckert and chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird. This was the second nomination for a collaboration between Mackey and Eckert.

Best Classical Instrumental Solo went to percussionist Christopher Lamb for Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra. Giancarlo Guerrero conducted the Nashville Symphony.

Another American opera, Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry, was selected as Best Contemporary Classical Composition. In their acceptance speech, composer Aldridge and librettist Herschel Garfein said it took 17 years to get the opera produced! The recording also won Best Engineered Album, Classical for engineers Byeong-Joon Hwang and John Newton, and mastering engineer Jesse Lewis.

Representing traditional classical repertoire, conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic won Best Orchestral Performance for their digital-only release of Brahms: Symphony No. 4. It's the first GRAMMY win for the popular young conductor.

Best Classical Vocal Solo went to mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato, who dazzled the Pre-Telecast Ceremony audience with her live performance of "Non Più mesta" from the opera "La Cenerentola" by Gioachino Rossini. Her winning recording Diva Divo is a collection of opera arias from both "trouser" roles (where a female singer plays a male character) and "skirt" roles. She was accompanied on the recording by Kazushi Ono conducting the Orchestre de L'Opéra National de Lyon and Choeur de L'Opéra National de Lyon.

Producer Judith Sherman took home the award for Producer Of The Year, Classical for her work on 11 recordings. It was her seventh GRAMMY win and second Producer Of The Year, Classical trophy.

Even as we are living in a challenging time for the arts, classical musicians continue to do heroic work. In less than a year, the 55th GRAMMY Awards nominees will be announced, and I'm looking forward to another fabulous group of recordings in the classical categories!

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