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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.
Andrew Davis, conductor (BBC Philharmonic)[Chandos]
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic) [Deutsche Grammophon]
Nicholas McGegan, conductor (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra) [Philharmonia Baroque Productions]
Marek Janowski, conductor (Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin) [Wergo]
Jirí Belohlávek, conductor (BBC Symphony Orchestra) [Onyx Classics]
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]
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]
Hannu Lintu, conductor; Jaakko Kortekangas, Hannu Niemelä, Johanna Rusanen-Kartano & Mati Turi; Seppo Siirala, producer (Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; Kaivos Chorus) [Ondine]
Antonio Pappano, conductor; Joseph Calleja, Renée Fleming & Thomas Hampson; James Whitbourn, producer (Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Royal Opera Chorus) [Opus Arte]
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]
Stephen Layton, conductor (Choir Of Trinity College Cambridge) [Hyperion Records]
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)]
Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers) [Decca]
Paul Hillier, conductor (Ars Nova Copenhagen) [Dacapo Records]
Gabriela Lena Frank; ALIAS Chamber Ensemble [Naxos]
Richard Savino, conductor; El Mundo [Sono Luminus]
Rinde Eckert & Steven Mackey; Eighth Blackbird [Cedille Records]
Patrick Dupré Quigley, conductor; Seraphic Fire [Seraphic Fire Media]
The Bay Brass [Harmonia Mundi]
Lan Shui, conductor; Michala Petri (Copenhagen Philharmonic) [OUR Recordings]
Yuja Wang (Claudio Abbado; Mahler Chamber Orchestra) [Deutsche Grammaphon]
Leif Ove Andsnes (Antonio Pappano; London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Christopher Lamb (Nashville Symphony)[Naxos]
Ursula Oppens [Cedille Records]
Joyce DiDonato (Kazushi Ono; Orchestre De L'Opéra National De Lyon; Choeur De L'Opéra National De Lyon) [Virgin Classics]
Marianne Beate Kielland (Nils Anders Mortensen) [2L (Lindberg Lyd)]
Natalie Dessay (Emmanuelle Haïm; Le Concert D'Astrée) [Virgin Classics]
Andreas Scholl (Stefano Montanari; Christophe Dumaux; Accademia Bizantina) [Decca]
Ian Bostridge (Bernard Labadie; Mark Bennett, Andrew Clarke, Sophie Daneman, Alberto Grazzi, Jonathan Gunthorpe, Benjamin Hulett & Madeline Shaw; The English Concert) [EMI Classics]
Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein [Naxos]
George Crumb [Bridge Records, Inc.]
Jefferson Friedman [New Amsterdam Records]
Steven Mackey [Cedille Records]
Poul Ruders [Bridge Records, Inc.]
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]
Richard King, engineer (José Serebrier, Alexey Serov, Wen-Sinn Yang, Alexander Romanovsky, Rachel Barton Pine, Marc Chisson & Russian National Orchestra) [Warner Classics]
Tom Lazarus & Bill Maylone, engineers; Joe Lambert, mastering engineer (Rinde Eckert, Steven Mackey & Eighth Blackbird) [Cedille Records]
Arne Akselberg, engineer (Leif Ove Andsnes, Antonio Pappano & London Symphony Orchestra) [EMI Classics]
Torbjörn Samuelsson, engineer (Thord Svedlund & Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra) [Chandos]
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