Grammy spreads the love among classical nominees, and sets the stage for a sympathy vote

Analysis

Who can fathom the inscrutable ways of
Grammy when it comes to classical nominations? If there is any pattern
in this bunch of nods, it may be the predominance of American composers
and organizations in some categories.

The orchestral performance
nominations are monopolized by Americans, with Michael Tilson Thomas and
the San Francisco Symphony being the only entry from the West for their
alluring Debussy Super Audio CD. The Osmo Vänskä/Minnesota Orchestra
performance of Mahler Symphony No. 5 is rather dull, though its disc has
been praised for its sonics. Also nominated are Manfred Honeck and the
Pittsburgh Symphony for Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Leonard Slatkin
and the Detroit Symphony for Copland’s Symphony No. 3 and “Three Latin
American Sketches,” and a collection of three concertos for orchestra
commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony led by Louis Langrée.

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Each
of the nominees for contemporary composition — Adam Schoenberg
(“Picture Studies”), Tigran Mansurian (Requiem), Richard Danielpour
(“Songs of Solitude”), Zhou Tian (Concerto for Orchestra) and Jennifer
Higdon (Viola Concerto) — received an additional nomination in another
category for the same recording. Schoenberg and Danielpour picked up
theirs in the category of engineered album, Mansurian for choral
performance, Zhou as part of the Cincinnati’s Symphony’s orchestral
performance nomination, and Higdon in the ever-mysterious classical
compendium category.

Alban Berg figures in the opera sweepstakes
with two nominations: “Lulu” in a fascinating William Kentridge
production at the Metropolitan Opera with Marlis Petersen in the title
role on DVD, and “Wozzeck” in a good concert performance with Roman
Trekel singing the title role and Hans Graf leading the Houston Symphony
on CD. The other nominees are another DVD from the Met, Bizet’s “The
Pearl Fishers”; Rimsky-Korsakov’s “The Golden Cockerel” with Valery
Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra and Chorus on DVD; and Handel’s
“Ottone” with George Petrou leading Il Pomo d’Oro on CD.

The next
two Ojai Music Festival music directors — violinist Patricia
Kopatchinskaja (2018) and singer-conductor Barbara Hannigan (2019) —
received nominations. Kopatchinskaja’s came in the chamber music/small
ensemble performance category for her string orchestra arrangements of
Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” Quartet and other pieces with the
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Hannigan was nominated for classical solo
vocal for “Crazy Girl Crazy” (a title perhaps inspired by Bill Haley’s
rockabilly record “Crazy Man Crazy”), which contains Berio’s Sequenza
III, Berg’s “Lulu” Suite and a suite from, yes, Gershwin’s “Girl Crazy.”

But
in that solo vocal category, Grammy’s proclivity for sympathy will
favor the charismatic Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who died of
brain cancer this month at age 55. He is nominated for his recording of
songs by Georgy Sviridov (“Russia Cast Adrift”) with Constantine
Orbelian and the St. Petersburg State Symphony Orchestra.

Perhaps
the most surprising clutch of nominations went to a CD of two solemn,
sonorous Masses by Marcel Tyberg, a virtually unknown Viennese composer
who died in the Holocaust in 1944 and whose music has been revived only
in the last decade. This release racked up three nominations (choral,
engineered, surround sound) for Sioux Falls’ South Dakota Chorale.

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