Classical Highlights In 2010

(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)

We are living in a tremendously exciting time for classical music. The range of what's possible and the creative energy and inventiveness to be found in our field — it's just dazzling. Whatever your tastes and preferences, there's something out there to delight you. Of course, there are challenges. Funding is always a concern, and a difficult economy has made things even harder for many organizations, but I believe these challenges are outnumbered by exciting developments.

Now, I'm only one music nerd, so I can't summarize everything that went on in classical music in 2010, but I'll present a few highlights from my musical journey, along with a few interesting and quirky things that made classical music news.

My year started off with a bang as I made my first trip to the GRAMMYs last January! I met GRAMMY Salute To Classical Music honoree Plácido Domingo and heard Sharon Isbin perform live at the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast, among other exciting things. I can't wait to see who I might run into at the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards next week!

I'm still a relative newcomer to Boston, so I spent 2010 getting to know the local classical scene, which is extensive and thriving. Among the ensembles I've been following are Cantata Singers, who have adopted the approach of focusing primarily on one composer each season. They choose composers whose work merits attention, but aren't commonly in the spotlight. German composer Heinrich Schütz was featured in 2009–2010, and English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams is being featured in the current season.

Another one of my "home teams" is the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. BMOP is a tireless champion of recently composed music, and their in-house label, BMOP/sound, scored three nominations this year via Mackey, Steven: Dreamhouse.

And then, of course, there's the Boston Symphony Orchestra. One of the most enjoyable events of the year was Project Tchaikovsky, a fashion contest in conjunction with the BSO's Tchaikovsky concert series last April that paired music with evening-wear fashion, and gave young fashion design students a chance to shine.

But you don't have to wear an evening gown to hear classical music, as demonstrated by the New York-based Remarkable Theater Brigade's Opera Shorts, which features on evening of 10-minute operas by a variety of composers. They had my favorite promotional graphic of the year, but then I'm easily amused!

On the downside, St. Louis lost its classical music radio station when KFUO was sold last March. (Happily, you can still listen online.) The musicians in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike since last October, locked in a dispute with management over proposed pay cuts and workload increases. I'm particularly saddened by this, as I used to live a few blocks from their home in Detroit, and I enjoyed many wonderful performances there.

As much as I love going to the symphony, I'm also always happy to see classical music come out of the concert hall and into daily life. Backed by funding from the Knight Foundation, a group named Random Acts of Culture has been spreading some classical-themed fun in surprising ways, notably via a hallelujah chorus flash mob that delighted shoppers in a Philadelphia mall last October.

Every so often, classical music is declared dead or dying, but the genre typifies the old Mark Twain quote. Year after year, the classical world keeps on keepin' on, keepin' long-term, loyal audiences, and new fans alike, happy.

Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook


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