Welcome To The Classical Grammy Cutbacks : Deceptive Cadence No more Best Classical Album — and other effects of this year's changes to music's most prestigious American prize.
NPR logo Welcome To The Classical Grammy Cutbacks

Welcome To The Classical Grammy Cutbacks

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra won "Best Classical Album" last year, a category that has now been eliminated from the Grammy Awards. Todd Rosenberg/CSO hide caption

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Todd Rosenberg/CSO

Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra won "Best Classical Album" last year, a category that has now been eliminated from the Grammy Awards.

Todd Rosenberg/CSO

As we wrote back in April, Grammy categories were whittled down substantially for 2012, and with the announcement last night of this year's nominees, we can see the results of those changes. Among the deletions were Best Classical Crossover Album, merged vocal and chamber/small group music categories and – most importantly – the dissolution of the Best Classical Album category.

The drop of 31 categories overall, which was made without a general vote by the academy's 21,000 members — and which prompted a lawsuit filed by four prominent Latin jazz musicians as well as the formation of a watchdog group — has diminished the presence and perceived value of specialty genres like classical music.

When all these categories were dropped, the Recording Academy suggested that if they were indeed really great, worthy albums from genres like classical would somehow find their way to the big-dog mainstream categories like Album of the Year. Gee, who could have predicted that Gustavo Dudamel or John Adams would be edged out in favor of Katy Perry or Bruno Mars?

Here, I should admit some amount of insiderly knowledge of the process. For several years, I was a voting member of the Grammys and also served on one of the small committees that judges one of the few categories not voted on by the general membership. In addition, my husband was involved in the creation of several Grammy-winning recordings and produced several other albums that were nominated for Grammy Awards.

As for this year's actual classical nominations, there were few surprises. Naxos and its huge roster of distributed labels continues to dominate the process; Among the 35 classical-category nominees (excluding Engineering and Producer of the Year, Classical), 19 — more than half — came from Naxos and its distribution roster. (A bit of historical number-crunching: Last year, 24 out of 55 nominated recordings came from the same Naxos well.) And as in recent years, several of the nominated recordings aren't available on CD at all — for example, the Gustavo Dudamel-led Brahms Fourth Symphony, nominated for Best Orchestral Performance, is sold as a digital download only, while three of the five albums in contention for Best Opera Recording are DVDs.

We'd like to know what you think. If it still existed, would Best Classical Album continue to hold meaning for you as a fan? And of all the recordings released this past year, which would you have nominated for Best Classical Album? Let us know in the comments section.

Here are the classical nominees; the Grammy Awards will be announced Feb. 12 in Los Angeles.

Best Orchestral Performance

Bowen: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

Andrew Davis, conductor (BBC Philharmonic)[Chandos]

Brahms: Symphony No. 4

Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic) [Deutsche Grammophon]

Haydn: Symphonies 104, 88 & 101

Nicholas McGegan, conductor (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra) [Philharmonia Baroque Productions]

Henze: Symphonies Nos. 3-5

Marek Janowski, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin) [Wergo]

Martinu: The 6 Symphonies

Jirí Belohlávek, conductor (BBC Symphony Orchestra) [Onyx Classics]

Best Opera Recording

Adams: Doctor Atomic

Alan Gilbert, conductor; Meredith Arwady, Sasha Cooke, Richard Paul Fink, Gerald Finley, Thomas Glenn & Eric Owens; Jay David Saks, producer (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; Metropolitan Opera Chorus) [Sony Classical]

Britten: Billy Budd

Mark Elder, conductor; John Mark Ainsley, Phillip Ens, Jacques Imbrailo, Darren Jeffery, Iain Paterson & Matthew Rose; James Whitbourn, producer (London Philharmonic Orchestra; Glyndebourne Chorus) [Opus Arte]

Rautavaara: Kaivos

Hannu Lintu, conductor; Jaakko Kortekangas, Hannu Niemelä, Johanna Rusanen-Kartano & Mati Turi; Seppo Siirala, producer (Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; Kaivos Chorus) [Ondine]

Verdi: La Traviata

Antonio Pappano, conductor; Joseph Calleja, Renée Fleming & Thomas Hampson; James Whitbourn, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus) [Opus Arte]

Vivaldi: Ercole Sul Termodonte

Fabio Biondi, conductor; Romina Basso, Patrizia Ciofi, Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, Vivica Genaux, Philippe Jaroussky, Topi Lehtipuu & Rolando Villazón; Daniel Zalay, producer (Europa Galante; Coro Da Camera Santa Cecilia Di Borgo San Lorenzo) [Virgin Classics]

Best Choral Performance

Beyond All Mortal Dreams - American A Cappella

Stephen Layton, conductor (Choir Of Trinity College Cambridge) [Hyperion Records]

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; James K. Bass, chorus master (Justin Blackwell, Scott Allen Jarrett, Paul Max Tipton & Teresa Wakim; Professional Choral Institute & Seraphic Fire) [Seraphic Fire Media]


Kjetil Almenning, conductor (Nidaros String Quartet; Ensemble 96) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]

Light & Gold

Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers) [Decca]

The Natural World Of Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen

Paul Hillier, conductor (Ars Nova Copenhagen) [Dacapo Records]

Best Small Ensemble Performance

Frank: Hilos

Gabriela Lena Frank; ALIAS Chamber Ensemble [Naxos]

The Kingdoms Of Castille

Richard Savino, conductor; El Mundo [Sono Luminus]

Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird [Cedille Records]

A Seraphic Fire Christmas

Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; Seraphic Fire [Seraphic Fire Media]

Sound The Bells!

The Bay Brass [Harmonia Mundi]

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Chinese Recorder Concertos - East Meets West

Lan Shui, conductor; Michala Petri (Copenhagen Philharmonic) [OUR Recordings]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 In C Minor, Op. 18; Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini

Yuja Wang (Claudio Abbado; Mahler Chamber Orchestra) [Deutsche Grammaphon]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Leif Ove Andsnes (Antonio Pappano; London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]

Schwantner: Concerto For Percussion & Orchestra

Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony)[Naxos]

Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano

Ursula Oppens [Cedille Records]

Best Classical Vocal Solo

Diva Divo

Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L'Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L'Opéra National De Lyon) [Virgin Classics]

Grieg/Thommessen: Veslemøy Synsk

Marianne Beate Kielland (Nils Anders Mortensen) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]

Handel: Cleopatra

Natalie Dessay (Emmanuelle Haïm; Le Concert D'Astrée) [Virgin Classics]

Purcell: O Solitude

Andreas Scholl (Stefano Montanari; Christophe Dumaux; Accademia Bizantina) [Decca]

Three Baroque Tenors

Ian Bostridge (Bernard Labadie; Mark Bennett, Andrew Clarke, Sophie Daneman, Alberto Grazzi, Jonathan Gunthorpe, Benjamin Hulett & Madeline Shaw; The English Concert) [EMI Classics]

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Aldridge, Robert: Elmer Gantry

Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein [Naxos]

Crumb, George: The Ghosts Of Alhambra

George Crumb [Bridge Records, Inc.]

Friedman, Jefferson: String Quartet No. 3

Jefferson Friedman [New Amsterdam Records]

Mackey, Steven: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Steven Mackey [Cedille Records]

Ruders, Poul: Piano Concerto No. 2

Poul Ruders [Bridge Records, Inc.]

Best Engineered Album, Classical

Aldridge: Elmer Gantry

Byeong-Joon Hwang & John Newton, engineers; Jesse Lewis, mastering engineer (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) [Naxos]

Glazunov: Complete Concertos

Richard King, engineer (José Serebrier, Alexey Serov, Wen-Sinn Yang, Alexander Romanovsky, Rachel Barton Pine, Marc Chisson & Russian National Orchestra) [Warner Classics]

Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide

Tom Lazarus & Bill Maylone, engineers; Joe Lambert, mastering engineer (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird) [Cedille Records]

Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Arne Akselberg, engineer (Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano & London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]

Weinberg: Symphony No. 3 & Suite No. 4 From 'The Golden Key'

Torbjörn Samuelsson, engineer (Thord Svedlund & Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) [Chandos]

Producer Of The Year, Classical

Blanton Alspaugh

  • Aldridge: Elmer Gantry (William Boggs, Keith Phares, Patricia Risley, Vale Rideout, Frank Kelley, Heather Buck, Florentine Opera Chorus & Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)
  • Beethoven: Complete Piano Sonatas (Peter Takács)
  • Osterfield: Rocky Streams (Paul Osterfield, Todd Waldecker & Various Artists)

Manfred Eicher

  • Bach: Concertos & Sinfonias For Oboe; Ich Hatte Viel Bekümmernis (Heinz Holliger, Eric Höbarth & Camerata Bern)
  • Hymns & Prayers (Gidon Kremer & Kremerata Baltica)
  • Manto & Madrigals (Thomas Zehetmair & Ruth Killius)
  • Songs Of Ascension (Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble, Todd Reynolds Quartet, The M6 & Montclair State University Singers)
  • Tchaikovsky/Kissine: Piano Trios (Gidon Kremer, Giedre Dirvanauskaite & Khatia Buniatishvili)
  • A Worcester Ladymass (Trio Mediaeval)

David Frost

  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Live (Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass)
  • Mackey: Lonely Motel - Music From Slide (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird)
  • Prayers & Alleluias (Kenneth Dake)
  • Sharon Isbin & Friends - Guitar Passions (Sharon Isbin & Various Artists)

Peter Rutenberg

  • Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 (Patrick Dupré Quigley, James K. Bass, Seraphic Fire & Professional Choral Institute)
  • The Vanishing Nordic Chorale (Philip Spray & Musik Ekklesia)

Judith Sherman

  • Adams: Son Of Chamber Symphony; String Quartet (John Adams, St. Lawrence String Quartet & International Contemporary Ensemble)
  • Capricho Latino (Rachel Barton Pine)
  • 85th Birthday Celebration (Claude Frank)
  • Insects & Paper Airplanes - Chamber Music Of Lawrence Dillon (Daedalus Quartet & Benjamin Hochman)
  • Midnight Frolic - The Broadway Theater Music Of Louis A. Hirsch (Rick Benjamin & Paragon Ragtime Orchestra)
  • Notable Women - Trios By Today's Female Composers (Lincoln Trio)
  • The Soviet Experience, Vol. 1 - String Quartets By Dmitri Shostakovich & His Contemporaries (Pacifica Quartet)
  • Speak! (Anthony De Mare)
  • State Of The Art - The American Brass Quintet At 50 (The American Brass Quintet)
  • Steve Reich: WTC 9/11; Mallet Quartet; Dance Patterns (Kronos Quartet, Steve Reich Musicians & So Percussion)
  • Winging It - Piano Music Of John Corigliano (Ursula Oppens)