The 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards Roundup: Classical Field

January 22, 2007 -- 5:25 pm PST

The GRAMMY Awards honor recordings in 108 categories across 31 fields, from rap to classical. To help readers get a better sense of the nominees and the wealth of recordings they’ve created over the past year, has prepared these field Roundups, which give quick details on the nominees in an easy-to-read format.

The nominees for BEST CLASSICAL ALBUM cover an impressively broad range of styles and periods. Venerable conductor Bernard Haitink, who picked up a GRAMMY Award in 2003, is nominated this year for Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1-9, an impressive cycle recorded with one of the world's most celebrated and recognized ensembles, the London Symphony Orchestra. Producer David Starobin assembled a stellar cast to record Lieberson: Rilke Songs, The Six Realms, Horn Concerto, including mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, composer Peter Lieberson's wife, whose untimely death last year shook the entire musical community. Six-time GRAMMY winner Michael Tilson Thomas led his San Francisco Symphony in a dramatic rendition of Mahler: Symphony No. 7, part of a series that netted the conductor two of his previous awards. Tempestuous pianist and three-time GRAMMY winner Martha Argerich was joined by colleagues and protégés in Martha Argerich And Friends: Live From The Lugano Festival 2005, a collection of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff and others. And conductor René Jacobs, who snared his first GRAMMY in 2004, returns with a stylish, compelling performance of Mozart: La Clemenza Di Tito.

Michael Tilson Thomas' disc (Mahler: Symphony No. 7) also earned a nomination in the BEST ORCHESTRAL PERFORMANCE category. Another worthy Mahler performance received a nod: Iván Fischer led his outstanding Budapest Festival Orchestra in that composer's Symphony No. 6 In A Min. British conductor Vernon Handley steered the BBC Philharmonic in sumptuous readings of Tone Poems by the English composer Arnold Bax. The veteran conductor José Serebrier explored the tuneful music of Russian romantic Alexander Glazunov in a recording of his Symphonies 4 & 7, while busy maestro Valery Gergiev focused on a more recent Russian composer in Prokofiev: The Complete Symphonies.

Best Classical Album nominee René Jacobs (Mozart: La Clemenza Di Tito) also earned a nomination in the category of BEST OPERA RECORDING. His competition is evenly divided between two recent operas and two classics of the repertoire. In the former category, conductor Stewart Robertson and the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra captured the spooky feel of Richard Rodney Bennett's Gothic thriller The Mines Of Sulphur, while Robert Spano, a three-time GRAMMY winner, led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in a fiery performance of Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar: Fountain Of Tears. Sir Charles Mackerras, whose previous GRAMMY victory came in this category, led the Royal Opera Chorus and Philharmonia Orchestra in a boisterous performance of Smetana's The Bartered Bride. And Carlo Rizzi completes the category with a lithe, moving rendition of Verdi's La Traviata with a crack cast of young stars.

Nominees in the category of BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE include a fresh version of a timeless masterpiece, surrounded by an impressive slate of contemporary voices. Naturally, the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth wouldn't have been complete without a new recording of his Great Mass In C Minor; conductor Paul McCreesh did the honors with his Gabrieli Consort. Øystein Fevang led the Bærum Vokalensemble & Ensemble 96 in Immortal Nystedt, a collection of diverse works by the modern Norwegian composer Knut Nystedt. Paul Hillier, a specialist in the music of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, offered a breathtaking performance of that composer's otherworldly Da Pacem. Craig Hella Johnson conducted the chorus Conspirare in Requiem, a wide-ranging collection of moving works by Herbert Howells, Eliza Gilkyson, Eric Whitacre and other composers. Stephen Layton and his chorus, Polyphony, also paid attention to Eric Whitacre this year; the result was Cloudburst And Other Choral Works, a surprise best-seller.

Pianists frequently fare well in the category of BEST INSTRUMENTAL SOLOIST(S) PERFORMANCE (WITH ORCHESTRA), and this year was no exception. Brazilian veteran Nelson Freire earned a nod for his heroic performance on Brahms: The Piano Concertos conducted by Riccardo Chailly. John McLaughlin Williams conducted pianist Angelin Chang, who handled the flamboyant solo duties in a recording of French mystic Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony. The compelling young soloist Leif Ove Andsnes won widespread attention with his muscular yet romantic vision of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concertos 1 & 2, which was conducted by Antonio Pappano. But keyboardists didn't sweep the field: Violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved attracted attention with his commanding performance of Hans Werner Henze's demanding Violin Concertos Nos. 1 And 3 conducted by Christopher Lyndon-Gee. And Danish composer Ole Schmidt conducted Schmidt: Concertos, a disc of his own showpieces for flutist Ulla Miilmann as well as French-horn player David M.A.P. Palmquist and tuba player Jens Bjorn Larsen.

The category of BEST INSTRUMENTAL SOLOIST PERFORMANCE (WITHOUT ORCHESTRA) is this year's starriest competition, featuring no fewer than three previous GRAMMY winners: violinist Gidon Kremer, and pianists András Schiff and Maurizio Pollini. The intense Kremer earned a nomination for his outstanding collection of Bach's music, The Sonatas And Partitas For Violin Solo. The poetic Schiff was recognized for Beethoven: The Piano Sonatas, Vol. II, while the philosophical Pollini received a nod for his beautiful take on Chopin's Nocturnes. Completing the category, accomplished lute specialist Paul O'Dette charmed with The Bachelar's Delight, a disc of 16th-century English music by Bacheler, and viola player Roberto Díaz paid homage to one of his inspirations, William Primrose, with a collection of that legendary performer's Viola Transcriptions.

The Best Classical Album nomination for Martha Argerich (Martha Argerich And Friends: Live From The Lugano Festival 2005) reappears among the contenders for BEST CHAMBER MUSIC PERFORMANCE. Seven-time GRAMMY winners the Emerson String Quartet offered works of hushed emotion by Scandinavian composers Grieg, Nielsen and Sibelius on Intimate Voices. The Chicago Chamber Musicians celebrated Mozart’s big year in style with Chamber Works For Winds And Strings By Mozart. The enterprising young pianist Andrew Russo garnered a nomination for Corigliano: Violin Sonata, Etude Fantasy. And the venerated Beaux Arts Trio celebrated the Shostakovich centenary with a disc that included the composer's Piano Trios 1 & 2, Seven Romances On Verses By Alexander Blok.

A diverse group of performing ensembles is vying for this year's award in the BEST SMALL ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE category. The 12 Cellists Of Berliner Philharmoniker served up lively miniatures and evocative meditations on Angel Dances. Harry Christophers led his chorus, the Sixteen, in sacred choral works rooted in Russian Orthodox tradition on Ikon. Early-music specialist Jordi Savall conducted Hespèrion XXI & La Capella Reial De Catalunya in an ambitious literary tribute, Miguel De Cervantes — Don Quijote De La Mancha — Romances Y Músicas. Peter Rutenberg and the Los Angeles Chamber Singers' Cappella presented music by the Mexican Baroque composer Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla on Sun Of Justice. And renowned Russian viola player Yuri Bashmet conducted the Moscow Soloists in intense Chamber Symphonies by Shostakovich, Sviridov and Vainberg.

The late, deeply lamented mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson earned a nomination in the BEST CLASSICAL VOCAL PERFORMANCE category for her performance of husband Peter Lieberson's Rilke Songs (also nominated for Best Classical Album). British tenor Ian Bostridge gave a noble account of his countryman Benjamin Britten's Song Cycles. Bernarda Fink & Marcos Fink explored their Argentine heritage on Canciones Argentinas. On Consider, My Soul, the German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff lavished his dark, dramatic voice upon sacred works by Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn and other composers. And Patrick Mason shone some light upon a little-known American romantic composer on Songs Of Amy Beach.

The vitality and sheer diversity of today's music is demonstrated by five worthy nominees in the category of BEST CLASSICAL CONTEMPORARY COMPOSITION. Rugged modernist Elliott Carter, a GRAMMY winner who is still going strong at 98, earned a nod for his brisk Boston Concerto. Osvaldo Golijov poured tempestuous Latin spirit into Ainadamar: Fountain Of Tears, an opera based on the death of Lorca. Christopher Theofanidis drew upon mystical Persian poetry for The Here And Now, while David Del Tredici turned to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow for Paul Revere's Ride; both pieces turned up on an adventurous disc by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. And Scottish composer James MacMillan put the pipe organ through its paces in his animated A Scotch Bestiary.

The category of BEST CLASSICAL CROSSOVER ALBUM found classical artists delving into Latin rhythms, folk melodies and the silver screen. Rumon Gamba conducted the BBC Philharmonic in The Film Music Of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, featuring works by a European child prodigy who became one of Hollywood's best-loved film composers. Jazzy harpist Deborah Henson-Conant joined forces with David Lockington and the Grand Rapids Symphony in the theatrical Invention & Alchemy. Quartet San Francisco proved that it takes four to tango on Látigo. Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel, a two-time GRAMMY winner, offered heartwarming sacred and spiritual songs on Simple Gifts, and soprano Song Zu Ying raised her voice in selections from Chinese cinema on Song Zu Ying: The Diva Goes To The Movies.