(Photo Credit: Decca/Andrew Eccles)
- Posted by Daniel Gilliam on January 29
The 56th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony wrapped up last night, and it was a huge night for new classical music. In the classical category, most went to new groups and new music. Here are the winners:
Best Orchestral Performance -
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)
Label: BIS Records
Best Opera Recording -
Adès: The Tempest
Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Jay David Saks, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Best Choral Performance -
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
Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance -
Roomful Of Teeth
Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth
Label: New Amsterdam Records
Best Classical Instrumental Solo -
Corigliano: Conjurer – Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra
Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)
Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise
Best Classical Vocal Solo -
Winter Morning Walks
Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
Best Classical Compendium -
Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Best Contemporary Classical Composition -
Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks
Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)
Track from: Winter Morning Walks
And, while not an award, a highlight of the evening was pianist Lang Lang playing with the metal band Metallica
- Posted by Daniel Gilliam on January 27
Music lovers in America woke up Monday morning to the news that the great Italian conductor Claudio Abbado had passed during the night. The beloved maestro died in his home in Bologna at the age of eighty. Soon after the news broke, the Berlin Philharmonic, of which he was the principle conductor for thirteen years, posted its own reaction to the news, saying, “We mourn the passing of an extraordinary musician and human being.”
Abbado’s stint with the Berlin Philharmonic began in 1989, when the orchestra chose him to succeed to the podium after Herbert von Karajan. Abbado brought a youthful vigor to the Philharmonic, instituting themed concert cycles and putting a spotlight on contemporary works.
The maestro’s work was by no means limited to Berlin. He also served as musical director for both the Vienna State Opera and La Scala, and here in the States he was a principle guest conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also founded two youth orchestras in Europe, and worked to foster the musical growth and education of young people throughout his career.
Abbado is perhaps best known for his personality and approach to the music. He was meticulous, and he did a great deal of research and score study. He was known for conducting from memory, and he has one of the most expansive discographies of any conductor of classical music. His manner and dedication made him one of the most respected conductors of our time. You can see a bit of one of his rehearsals and hear what some of the orchestra members had to say about him in this video:
Due to illness, Abbado stepped down from his post at the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002, and he was succeeded by Sir Simon Rattle. Though his shoes in Berlin have been filled, the music world will be hard-pressed to find another individual who will work as tirelessly in support of contemporary music and the musical education of young people.
You can see part of a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony led by Abbado here:
(Feature photo courtesy of University Musical Society under Creative Commons-Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
- Posted by Grace Robertson on January 21
Don’t worry, it’s not the beginning of a new series by J.K. Rowling, just the story of a Polish pianist and one of the classical music world’s more peculiar prizes. Created in 1989 in honor of Irving S. Gilmore, The Gilmore Artist Award is given every four years to an outstanding pianist. Here’s the catch: candidates have no idea that they are being considered for the award. Judges surreptitiously attend live performances and listen to releases-they may even speak to the candidate in person. Then, one day, the pianist is informed that he or she has been chosen to receive the award- an amount of $300,000. Some compare The Gilmore to the MacArthur genius grants- I like to think of it more colloquially as the classical music world’s answer to Publisher’s Clearing House.
Rafal Blechacz was announced as the newest recipient of the award earlier this year, and, for many, the announcement will come as no surprise. After all, the twenty-nine-year-old Polish national has numerous awards and prizes on his shelf already. Most notable is his landslide victory in the 2005 Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition. He took home all of the Competition’s special prizes, and the judges were so impressed with his performances that they refrained from awarding 2nd place at all.
Blechacz showcases his affinity for the music of Frederic Chopin, on his new release through Deutsche Grammophon, Chopin: Polonaises.
Here he is playing the Polonaise No. 1 in C sharp Minor:
- Posted by Grace Robertson on January 21
This strange new world of 2014 has already produced several new vocal albums by some of the opera world’s biggest fish. So if you’re still in search of worthy purchases for that cash you got from returning unwanted Christmas presents, here are two options to consider and one to ridicule:
Jonas Kaufmann: The Verdi Album
With the 200th anniversary of Verdi’s birth in 2013, artists and record labels have been producing Verdi compilation albums in copious numbers. Luckily for opera lovers, tenor Jonas Kaufmann jumped right on that Verdi-producing wagon, and has released his stellar Verdi Album. Kaufmann performs perennial favorites like “La donna è mobile” and “Celeste Aida,” as well as tackling some of the more difficult repertoire, including two selections from Otello. Kaufmann’s rich voice and thoughtful delivery make his Verdi Album a must-listen for the anniversary year.
Bryn Terfel: Homeward Bound
The insert for Bryn Terfel’s latest release Homeward Bound depicts the bass-baritone performing such everyday activities as standing stoically on the edges of large rocks as the sun sets behind him and sitting casually in front a large lake with the pristine image of the sky mirrored in its surface. This and other ridiculously cheesy absurdities characterize the release. Supported by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Terfel gives several much-loved American classics, such as “Home on the Range” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In,” the “grand opera treatment,” with some rather unfortunate results. The insert also includes some of the most nauseatingly sweet liner notes I’ve ever read, matched only in sappiness by the arrangements of the songs themselves. You can check it out for yourself in the video here:
Renee Fleming: Guilty Pleasures
I was bit apprehensive when popping Guilty Pleasures, Renee Fleming’s newest vocal release, into the CD player for the first time. To me, the words “guilty pleasure” imply something truly terrible, on the scale of a Taylor Swift cover or Bryn Terfel singing “What a Wonderful World.” Fortunately, Renee Fleming has a completely different understanding of the phrase. Her new album is a collection of arias and art songs accompanied by orchestra, most of which are unlikely to be heard on the opera stage or concert hall. Included are a number of pieces from the underrepresented operatic works of the Czech composers Dvorak and Smetana, as well as the delightfully watery aria from Tchaikovsky’s lost opera Undina. In fact, the only true guilty pleasure of the album is the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé, which Fleming sings with her longtime colleague and friend Susan Graham. If you’d like some insights about the album from Renee Fleming herself, check out this video:
- Posted by Grace Robertson on January 21