There's a strong Eastern accent in this category

Times Staff Writer

Grammy nominations for classical music in recent years have seemed almost a random mix of famous performers and cult figures, of mainstream repertory and offbeat, and 2002 is no different. In the best classical album category, for instance, the popular soprano Renee Fleming, singing showy bel canto favorites, will attempt to drown out the quiet, spiritual choral music of Estonian Minimalist Arvo Part.

But Part's "Orient & Occident," also nominated for best classical contemporary composition, is a sign of the strong inroads that contemporary Russian and Eastern European music has made with Grammy voters. Russian composer Sophia Gubaidulina's "Johannes-Passion" has received nominations for best choral recording and classical composition, while her Viola Concerto could pick up an award for violist Yuri Bashmet as best instrumental soloist with orchestra. Also nominated in various categories are works by the sometimes explosive Georgian composer Giya Kancheli and the haunting Russian composer Valentin Silvestrov. Perhaps an Argentine should not count, but Osvaldo Golijov brings a strong Eastern European sensibility to his string quartet "Yiddishbbuk," which received two nominations.

Taking their statuettes to New York this year, the Grammys haven't left the West Coast behind altogether. The Los Angeles Philharmonic's recording of John Adams' "Naive and Sentimental Music," conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, is nominated for best contemporary composition. The San Francisco Symphony's overpowering live performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony is a good bet for becoming the best classical and orchestral album. With the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet's smooth "Latin" and Kronos Quartet's raucous, innovative "Nuevo" up for the crossover award, it sounds like a lively battle of the bands. And Robina G. Young of Los Angeles-based Harmonia Mundi has another producer of the year nomination for another year's worth of classy classics.

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