Grammys: Gustavo Dudamel in classical’s West-leaning field
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With the classical Grammy nominations, anything goes. There is more than ever to pick from, with thousands of releases coming from CDs, DVDS or downloads. But there are also fewer categories this year — most notably, the one for best classical recording is gone. For what it’s worth, this year brings a notable Grammy bias on the West Coast, but then this is where a great many of the Recording Academy voters are.
Two of the five recordings nominated Wednesday for best orchestral performance come from California — Gustavo Dudamel’s Los Angeles Philharmonic iTunes download of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony, which ended his “Brahms Unbound” festival last season, and three Haydn Symphonies from Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque. The other three nominees are from overseas and are all of 20th century symphonies (by Martinu, Hans Werner Henze and York Bowen).
The only major New York ensemble to be recognized is the Metropolitan Opera, for its production of John Adams’ “Doctor Atomic,” even though a far finer DVD of the opera from Netherlands Opera was released a couple of years ago. Adams, of course, is the LA Phil’s creative chair and his opera was commissioned by San Francisco Opera.
Steve Mackey’s “Lonely Motel,” which the group eighth blackbird premiered at the Ojai Festival two years ago as “Slide,” received nominations both for ensemble performance and contemporary classical composition. Another nominee for small ensemble performance is Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s ‘Hilos,’ performed by ALIAS, a Nashville-based group. The popular L.A.-based choral composer Eric Whitacre has a nomination for performances of his work with various ensembles on the release “Light & Gold.”
The Grammys always come up with a head-scratcher. This year it’s Seraphic Fire, a sweet-voiced young Miami chorus that produces its own recordings. It has been nominated for a liltingly lightweight performance of Brahms’ “German Requiem” with four-hand piano accompaniment, and also for “A Seraphic Fire Christmas,” a disc of carols. The Grammys ceremony will take place Feb. 12 at Staples Center.
— Mark Swed