55th GRAMMY Awards Honors Cutting-Edge Classical
The results are in! All of the GRAMMY nominees in the Classical Field were superb, but the winners have been chosen. The winning performances tilted heavily toward music of the last 100 years, which is cutting-edge in classical terms. That's good news for living composers and other proponents of modern classical music, which is not a contradiction even though it may seem to be.
The GRAMMY for Best Orchestral Performance went to conductor Michael Tilson Thomas for the San Francisco Symphony's performance of John Adams' "Harmonielehre" and "Short Ride In A Fast Machine," composed in 1985 and 1986, respectively. This is the 11th GRAMMY win for Thomas.
Marking this year's only winning recording of music from before 1900, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Metropolitan Opera Chorus' performance of Richard Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen won the category for Best Opera Recording. This cycle of four operas, composed between 1848 and 1874, has been called classical music's version of The Lord Of The Rings or Star Wars.
Best Choral Performance honors went to conductor Charles Bruffy for Life & Breath — Choral Works By René Clausen, a collection of sacred choral music. In addition to being a prolific composer, Clausen, born in 1953, is conductor of the Concordia Choir of Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. This recording also won Best Engineered Album, Classical and was produced by Producer Of The Year, Classical winner Blanton Alspaugh.
Chamber group Eighth Blackbird won their third GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for Meanwhile, a recording of works composed between 1969 and 2008 by Thomas Adès, Roshanne Etezady, Philip Glass, Stephen Hartke, Philippe Hurel, and Missy Mazzoli. The group, consisting of a flautist, clarinetist, violinist, cellist, percussionist, and pianist, also gave an electrifying performance during the GRAMMY Pre-Telecast Ceremony, showing the audience that classical music can, indeed, rock the house.
I was pleased to see the GRAMMY for Best Classical Instrumental Solo go to violist Kim Kashkashian for Kurtág & Ligeti: Music For Viola. The viola is one of my favorite instruments, and it doesn't get the solo spotlight as often as its string siblings, the violin and cello.
Out of a field of five very deserving female artists, soprano Renée Fleming won Best Classical Vocal Solo for Poèmes, her collection of French songs by Henri Dutilleux, Olivier Messiaen and Maurice Ravel. Dutilleux, who turned 97 in January, wrote his song cycle Le temps l'horloge (Time and the Clock) especially for Fleming.
Best Classical Compendium went to conductor Antoni Wit and producers Aleksandra Nagórko and Andrzej Sasin for Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis, a disc of orchestral works by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki.
Best Contemporary Classical Composition went to American composer Stephen Hartke for Meanwhile — Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays. Hartke drew inspiration for this work from Asian court and theater music, specifically the puppet theater forms of Burma, Japan, Vietnam, and Turkey.
The 55th GRAMMY Awards celebrated the vibrancy of recently composed classical music, which was thrilling to see.