A vote of Grammy confidence in 'America'

The classical Grammy voters, whoever and however many they may be among the Recording Academy members, have spoken with one voice. Joan Tower's 13-minute exuberant fantasy, "Made in America," an upbeat, patriotic, bountifully orchestrated fantasy on "America the Beautiful," is the big winner.

The piece is part of an all-Tower disc of orchestral works performed by the Nashville Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin on the budget label Naxos. As best classical album it beat out the likes of star singers Renée Fleming and the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (who did, though, receive best vocal soloist award) as well as conductor Riccardo Muti.

Since Tower's piece also won best orchestral performance, Esa-Pekka Salonen's Los Angeles Philharmonic recording of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" was an also-ran.

In addition, "Made in America" took top honors as best contemporary composition, and its producer, Judith Sherman, is classical producer of year.

Grammy trends may best be left to tea leaf readers. But exposure could count for something. Commissioned by a consortium of 65 smaller-budget orchestras, the score by the popular 69-year-old New York-based composer has already been performed in all 50 states since its New York premiere in 2005.

Although he has a way to go to match Georg Solti's record 31 Grammys, Slatkin is also popular with voters.

Three years ago, he was involved with another triple whammy Grammy, when his recording of William Bolcom's "Songs of Innocence and Experience" won for best classical recording, along with best choral disc and best composition. "Made in America" is, moreover, the third Slatkin award for best orchestra recording -- Leonard Slatkin won in 1984, and his father, Felix Slatkin, won it at the first Grammy ceremony 50 years ago.

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