Grammys: Classical front-runners, snubs and surprises — plus a complete list of nominees


Despite the push toward streaming services and the race to the bottom of the sales charts for CDs and DVDs, there is still an awful lot of classical product being released on shiny discs. So much so that it’s really impossible for Grammy committees to fairly judge all that’s out there. But select they do anyway.

American orchestras monopolized the best orchestral performance category in nominations announced Friday. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, who won two Grammys last year, are back with Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony (also nominated for best engineering). Perennial contenders Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony scored with their smoothly played set of all four Schumann symphonies, and David Alan Miller’s enterprising survey of American composers Carl Ruggles, Steven Stucky and John Harbison deserves attention.

The Seattle Symphony leads all orchestras with three nominations — two for its present music director, Ludovic Morlot, in Aaron Jay Kernis’ traditionally shaped Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes (in the classical instrumental solo and contemporary composition categories), and one for its future music director, Thomas Dausgaard, in Nielsen’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 (orchestral performance), a strong opening entry for a complete Nielsen cycle. There were no nominations for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has recorded little lately.


But the favorite for orchestral performance is probably Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony’s electric, powerful recordings of Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 4 and 11. Their Symphony No. 10 took the prize in 2016, and Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 and 9 won in 2017.

In the best opera category, it’s apples-versus-oranges time again as videos compete against CDs. The two outstanding CDs are operas about real-life contemporary personalities: Mason Bates’ often dazzling “The (R)evolution Of Steve Jobs,” straight from the Santa Fe Opera stage; and John Adams leading a musically revelatory performance of his epic on the making of the nuclear bomb, “Doctor Atomic.”

They will compete with two sentimental favorites: Renée Fleming’s final performance as the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” from the Metropolitan Opera on DVD, and one of the late Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s last opera recordings on CD, Verdi’s “Rigoletto.”

I’d go for the Jobs opera, which also got a nomination in the engineering category.

For best classical contemporary composition, the Jobs opera turns up again as a favorite, its flashiest rival being Jake Heggie’s often-satirical opera about opera and football, “Great Scott.” Du Yun’s “Air Glow,” Missy Mazzoli’s “Vespers for Violin” and the Kernis piece also are on the list.

One of the most impressive packages of the year, the Berlin Philharmonic’s lavishly packaged John Adams Edition, turns up in that ever-enigmatic category of best classical compendium. Yet for once they’ve selected a real compendium: an anthology of Adams’ music under five conductors.

Mildly surprising omissions: Nothing from the massive outpouring of Leonard Bernstein centennial recordings (unless you count Bobby Sanabria’s “West Side Story Reimagined” for best Latin jazz album). John Mauceri’s pioneering recording of Marc Blitzstein’s opera “The Cradle Will Rock” with the original orchestral scoring didn’t score anything either.


Best orchestral performance

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1. Manfred Honeck, conductor. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 & Symphony No. 4. Thomas Dausgaard, conductor. Seattle Symphony

Ruggles, Stucky & Harbison: Orchestral Works. David Alan Miller, conductor. National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic

Schumann: Symphonies Nos. 1-4. Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor. San Francisco Symphony

Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 4 & 11. Andris Nelsons, conductor. Boston Symphony Orchestra

Best opera recording

Adams: “Doctor Atomic.” John Adams, conductor. Aubrey Allicock, Julia Bullock, Gerald Finley and Brindley Sherratt. Friedemann Engelbrecht, producer. BBC Symphony Orchestra; BBC Singers

Bates: “The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs.” Michael Christie, conductor. Sasha Cooke, Jessica E. Jones, Edwards Parks, Garrett Sorenson and Wei Wu. Elizabeth Ostrow, producer. Santa Fe Opera Orchestra

Lully: “Alceste.” Christophe Rousset, conductor. Edwin Crossley-Mercer, Emiliano Gonzalez Toro and Judith Van Wanroij. Maximilien Ciup, producer. Les Talens Lyriques; Choeur De Chambre De Namur

Strauss, R.: “Der Rosenkavalier.” Sebastian Weigle, conductor. Renée Fleming, Elina Garanca, Gunther Groissbock and Erin Morley. David Frost, producer. Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus


Verdi: “Rigoletto.” Constantine Orbelian, conductor; Francesco Demuro,Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Nadine Sierra; Vilius Keras and Aleksandra Keriene, producers (Kaunas CitySymphony Orchestra; Men Of The Kaunas State Choir)

Producer of the year, classical

Blanton Alspaugh

David Frost

Elizabeth Ostrow

Judith Sherman

Dirk Sobotka

Best choral performance

Chesnokov: “Teach Me Thy Statutes.” Vladimir Gorbik, conductor. Mikhail Davydov and Vladimir Krasov; PaTRAM Institute Male Choir

Kastalsky: “Memory Eternal.” Steven Fox, conductor. Clarion Choir)

McCloskey: “Zealot Canticles.” Donald Nally, conductor (Doris Hall-Gulati, Rebecca Harris, Arlen Hlusko, Lorenzo Raval and Mandy Wolman; The Crossing

Rachmaninov: “The Bells.” Mariss Jansons, conductor; Peter Dijkstra, chorus master. Oleg Dolgov, Alexey Markov and Tatiana Pavlovskaya; Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Chor Des Bayerischen Rundfunks

“Seven Words From the Cross.” Matthew Guard, conductor. Skylark

Best chamber music/small ensemble performance

Anderson, Laurie: “Landfall.” Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet

Beethoven, Shostakovich, Bach. Danish String Quartet

“Blueprinting.” Aizuri Quartet

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring Concerto for Two Pianos. Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin

“Visions and Variations.” A Far Cry

Best classical instrumental solo

Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 2. Yuja Wang. Simon Rattle, conductor. Berliner Philharmoniker

Biber: “The Mystery Sonatas.” Christina Day Martinson. Martin Pearlman, conductor. Boston Baroque


Bruch: Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46; Violin Concerto No. 1 In G Minor, Op. 26. Joshua Bell. Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Glass: “Three Pieces in the Shape of a Square.” Craig Morris

Kernis: Violin Concerto. James Ehnes. Ludovic Morlot, conductor. Seattle Symphony

Best classical solo vocal album

“Arc.” Anthony Roth Costanzo. Jonathan Cohen, conductor. Les Violons Du Roy

“The Handel Album.” Philippe Jaroussky. Artaserse, ensemble

“Mirages.” Sabine Devieilhe. François-Xavier Roth, conductor. Alexandre Tharaud; Marianne Crebassa and Jodie Devos; Les Siècles

Schubert: “Winterreiser.” Randall Scarlata. Gilbert Kalish, accompanist

“Songs of Orpheus — Monteverdi, Caccini, D’india and Landi.” Karim Sulayman. Jeannette Sorrell, conductor. Apollo’s Fire, ensembles

Best classical compendium

Fuchs: Piano Concerto “Spiritualist”; Poems of Life; Glacier; Rush. JoAnn Falletta, conductor. Tim Handley, producer

“Gold.” The King’s Singers. Nigel Short, producer

“The John Adams Edition.” Simon Rattle, conductor. Christoph Franke, producer

“John Williams at the Movies.” Jerry Junkin, conductor. Donald J. McKinney, producer

Vaughan Williams: Piano Concerto; Oboe Concerto; Serenade to Music; Floscampi. Peter Oundjian, conductor. Blanton Alspaugh, producer

Best contemporary classical composition

Bates: “The (R)Evolution Of Steve Jobs.” Mason Bates, composer. Mark Campbell, librettist. Michael Christie, Garrett Sorenson, Wei Wu, Sasha Cooke, Edwards Parks, Jessica E. Jones and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra


Du Yun: “Air Glow.” Du Yun, composer. International Contemporary Ensemble

Heggie: “Great Scott.” Jake Heggie, composer. Terrence McNally, librettist. Patrick Summers, Manuel Palazzo, Mark Hancock, Michael Mayes, Rodell Rosel, Kevin Burdette, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nathan Gunn, Frederica von Stade, Ailyn Pérez, Joyce DiDonato, Dallas Opera Chorus and Orchestra

Kernis: Violin Concerto. Aaron Jay Kernis, composer. James Ehnes, Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony

Mazzoli: Vespers for Violin. Missy Mazzoli, composer. Olivia De Prato

Best engineered album

Bates: “The (R)Evolution Of Steve Jobs.” Mark Donahue and Dirk Sobotka, engineers. Mark Donahue, mastering engineer. Michael Christie, Garrett Sorenson, Wei Wu, Sasha Cooke, Edwards Parks, Jessica E. Jones and the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3; Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1. Mark Donahue, engineer. Mark Donahue, mastering engineer. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

“John Williams at the Movies.” Keith O. Johnson and Sean Royce Martin, engineers. Keith O. Johnson, mastering engineer. Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Winds

“Liquid Melancholy — Clarinet Music of James M. Stephenson.” Bill Maylone and Mary Mazurek, engineers. Bill Maylone, mastering engineer. John Bruce Yeh


Shostakovich: Symphonies No. 4 & 11. Shawn Murphy & Nick Squire, engineers. Tim Martyn, mastering engineer. Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra

“Visions and Variations,” Tom Caulfield, engineer. Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer. A Far Cry


2019 Grammy Nominations: Full coverage

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