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Thoughts about the 2014 GRAMMY nominees

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Nominations for the 56th annual GRAMMY awards were announced this morning. Last year I used this event as an occasion for reviewing which categories included recordings that were subjects of articles I had written on this site. It turned out that I had a stake in several of the classical categories and in one jazz category. This year none of the jazz recordings I covered showed up among the nominees. This is probably because most of my writing about jazz tended to focus on reissues of “vintage” material, from which readers can drawn any conclusions they like about my tastes in jazz. On the other hand there was a stronger alignment with the Classical Producer of the Year category. Thus, in offering up my highly personalized stock-taking of the nominees, I shall begin with production and then move on to performance.

As I did last year, I shall only discuss those categories covered by my past articles. I shall include hyperlinks to those articles. In addition I shall provide the GRAMMY index numbers for the benefit of those wishing to peruse the list on the GRAMMY Web page. Thus, the first entry is in the production division:

72. Producer of the Year, Classical

Manfred Eicher Beethoven: Diabelli-Variationen (András Schiff) • Canto Oscuro (Anna Gourari) • Pärt: Adam's Lament (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis, Sinfonietta Riga, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra)Tabakova: String Paths (Maxim Rysanov)

David Frost • Andres: Home Stretch (Timo Andres, Andrew Cyr & Metropolis Ensemble) • Angel Heart, A Music Storybook (Matt Haimovitz & Uccello) • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Jonathan Biss) • Ben-Haim: Chamber Works (ARC Ensemble) • Celebrating The American Spirit (Judith Clurman & Essential Voices USA) • Elgar: Enigma Variations; Vaughan Williams: The Wasps; Greensleeves (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony) • Guilty Pleasures (Renée Fleming, Sebastian Lang-Lessing & Philharmonia Orchestra) • Verdi: Otello (Riccardo Muti, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Krassimira Stoyanova, Carlo Guelfi, Chicago Symphony Chorus & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) • Winter Morning Walks (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin • Bizet: Symphony In C; Jeux D'Enfants; Variations Chromatiques (Martin West & San Francisco Ballet Orchestra) • Traveling Sonata - European Music For Flute & Guitar (Viviana Guzmán & Jérémy Jouve) • Voyages (Conrad Tao)Zia (Del Sol String Quartet)

James Mallinson • Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts (Colin Davis, London Symphony Chorus, London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Orchestra) • Bloch: Symphony In C-Sharp Minor & Poems Of The Sea (Dalia Atlas & London Symphony Orchestra) • Fauré: Requiem; Bach: Partita, Chorales & Ciaccona (Nigel Short, Tenebrae & London Symphony Orchestra Chamber Ensemble) • Nielsen: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3 (Colin Davis & London Symphony Orchestra) • Wagner: Das Rheingold (Valery Gergiev, René Pape, Stephan Rügamer, Nikolai Putilin & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Wagner: Die Walküre (Valery Gergiev, Anja Kampe, Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Nina Stemme & Mariinsky Orchestra) • Weber: Der Freischütz (Colin Davis, Christine Brewer, Sally Matthews, Simon O'Neill, London Symphony Chorus & London Symphony Orchestra)

Jay David Saks • Adams: Nixon In China (John Adams, Russell Braun, Ginger Costa-Jackson, James Maddalena, Janis Kelly, Richard Paul Fink, Robert Brubaker, Kathleen Kim, The Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • Adès: The Tempest (Thomas Adès, Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Alan Oke, Simon Keenlyside, Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) • The Enchanted Island (William Christie, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle De Niese, Luca Pisaroni, Lisette Oropesa, Plácido Domingo, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus) • Handel: Rodelinda (Harry Bicket, Renée Fleming, Andreas Scholl, Joseph Kaiser, Stephanie Blythe, Iestyn Davies, Shenyang & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Live At Carnegie Hall (James Levine, Evgeny Kissin & The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra) • Verdi: Rigoletto (Michele Mariotti, Željko Lučić, Diana Damrau, Piotr Beczala, Oksana Volkova, Štefan Kocán, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus)

This is a case in which the number of hyperlinks is a clear indicator of my preference. I have always been impressed with Eicher, not only due to his keen ear as a producer but also because of the impressive array of talent he has recruited for his ECM label. In 2011 I even went so far as to write about Sounds and Silence – Travels with Manfred Eicher, the video release of a documentary that admirably captured both of these sides of the man’s talent. However, readers may also recall that I much preferred the second volume of Biss’ Beethoven project to the first; so I was glad to see Frost get a nod for that effort.

75. Best Choral Performance

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts
Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus)
Label: LSO Live

Palestrina: Volume 3
Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen)
Label: Coro

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra
Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales)
Label: Chandos

Pärt: Adam's Lament
Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis)
Label: ECM New Series

Whitbourn: Annelies
James Jordan, conductor (Ariana Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices)
Label: Naxos

I have little to say about my preference here, other than the fact that my general interest in Eicher’s work came about as a result of my corresponding interest in the music of Arvo Pärt.

76. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas
Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace
Label: Decca

Cage: The 10,000 Things
Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters
Label: MicroFest Records

Duo
Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Roomful Of Teeth
Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth
Label: New Amsterdam Records

Times Go By Turns
New York Polyphony
Label: BIS Records

This was a case of some very heavy personal biases. On the positive side those who read both this national site and my San Francisco site know that my work leads me to quite a few encounters with Ludwig van Beethoven’s sonatas for violin and piano. In spite of all of that exposure, I was impressed with how well Kavakos and Pace worked as a team to come up with readings of all ten of the sonatas that made me sit up and take notice. On the other hand I had tended to shy away from Grimaud after having been highly disappointed by her approach to Robert Schumann’s Opus 54 piano concerto in A minor in a concert performance. However, my cautious feelings toward Grimaud are dwarfed by an explicitly negative attitude towards New Amsterdam, having written at moderate length about the conjecture that their production values do not seem to care very much about those of us on the listening side of things.

77. Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti
Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Label: Naïve

Corigliano: Conjurer - Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra
Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)
Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise
Label: Naxos

The Edge Of Light
Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet)
Label: harmonia mundi

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2
Yefim Bronfman; Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)
Track from: Magnus Lindberg
Label: Dacapo Records

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx
Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960
Maria João Pires
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

This is my “embarrassment of riches” category. I have three dogs in this particular hunt, and I love them all dearly. Nevertheless, I have no trouble singling out a preference. I was fortunate enough to hear Lindberg’s concerto played by the same performers on this recording when they visited Davies Symphony Hall on tour. I was so overwhelmed by that concerto that I did not know where to begin when I had to write about it. Fortunately, I was able to use my headline to cite its “mind-shattering beauty.” This was one of those cases in which I was overjoyed to have this recording come my way.

78. Best Classical Vocal Solo

Drama Queens
Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco)
Label: Virgin Classics

Mission
Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti)
Label: Decca

Schubert: Winterreise
Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees)
Label: Challenge

Wagner
Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin)
Label: Decca

Winter Morning Walks
Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
Label: ArtistShare

In this case my personal preference goes with Kaufmann. This is not just because this is one of those occasions when I am willing to go with the crowd that declares him to be the world’s leading Wagner tenor. I also think very highly of Runnicles as a Wagner conductor, having had the good fortune to experience two different productions of the Ring cycle, which he conducted for the San Francisco Opera. Besides, this was the year of Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday!

79. Best Classical Compendium

Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Label: Ondine

Holmboe: Concertos
Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer
Label: Dacapo Records

Tabakova: String Paths
Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer
Label: ECM New Series

Here, again, my preference for ECM prevails.

80. Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2
Magnus Lindberg, composer (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic)
Track from: Magnus Lindberg
Label: Dacapo Records

Pärt, Arvo: Adam's Lament
Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga)
Track from: Arvo Pärt: Adam's Lament
Label: ECM New Series

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto
Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)
Track from: Out Of Nowhere
Label: Deutsche Grammophon

Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks
Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)
Track from: Winter Morning Walks

Again, this is a tough decision; but I would have to say that I am likely to return to the Lindberg concerto for repeat listening experiences.

The only concluding remark I can make is that, as was the case last year, these are all statements of personal preferences, meaning that every other listener is entitled to disagree with me over any (or all) of them!

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