Contemporary composers dominate the classical Grammy awards

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony has flashed past for 2013.

The 8 awards for classical music out of  a total of 81 awards, were handed out before the worldwide telecast. Major classical artistes were honoured amongst the list of nominees and winners – albeit most of them American.

The award for Best Classical Compendium was one of three new awards made this year, and was won by Antoni Wit conducting the Warsaw Philharmonic on a Naxos release Penderecki: Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; Partita; The Awakening Of Jacob; Anaklasis.

Renée Fleming’s Poèmes (Decca) was voted Best Classical Vocal Solo album, from a field of all-female nominees which included Natalie Dessay, Joyce DiDonato, Ute Lemper and Anne Sofie von Otter. It’s the fourth Grammy for Fleming, who made the recording with the Orchestre National de France and Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under conductors Seiji Ozawa and Alan Gilbert. The album contains four French orchestral song cycles – Ravel’s Shéhérazade (1903), Messiaen’s Poèmes pour mi (1936) and two cycles by Henri Dutilleux. Deux Sonnets de Jean Cassou (1954) was written for voice and piano and orchestrated by the composer for this recording; his Le temps l’horloge, was written for Fleming in 2009.

The award for Best Opera Recording went to Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Deutsches Grammophon) performed by the mighty talents of conductors James Levine and Fabio Luisi, bass Hans-Peter König, tenor Jay Hunter Morris, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and soprano Deborah Voigt, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Competition was stiff with Handel’s Agrippina (Rene Jacobs, conductor), Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Vladimir Jurowski conducting) and Vivaldi’s Teuzzone (Jordi Savall, conducting).

Contemporary music swept the awards for Best of Orchestral, Choral, Classical Instrumental Solo and Chamber/Small Ensemble Performances.

Winner in the orchestral category was John Adams Harmonielehre & Short Ride In A Fast Machine (SFS Media) Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony, pitted against – amongst others – Ivan Fischer’s Mahler Symphony No 1 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, and Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances.

It was the music of Minnesota based composer René Clausen (b 1953) that featured on the winning recording in the choral category, entitled Life and breath – Choral Works by René Clausen (Chandos), performed by the Kansas City Chorale and soloists conducted by Charles Bruffy.

Armenian-American violist Kim Kashkashian performing Kurtág and Ligeti: Music for Viola (ECM New Series) trounced a field of soloists led by Andras Schiff  playing JS Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier to take out the award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo.

Works by Glass and Adès feature on Meanwhile (Cedille) the recording by Chicago sextet Eighth Blackbird which topped the votes for Best  Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance. Eighth Blackbird received accolades too for their performance in Meanwhile – Incidental Music To Imaginary Puppet Plays (Cedille) won by composer Stephen Hartke for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

The Grammy is presented annually by The Recording Academy for excellence in the recording arts and sciences. It is regarded as a peer honour, awarded by and to artists and technical professionals for artistic or technical achievement, not sales or chart positions.

Click here to read the full list of classical winners and nominees.



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