And the nominees are…

One of my favorite bloggers, the publicist Amanda Ameer, recently made these comments on her Artsjournal blog Life’s a Pitch:

I have found that the Grammies are a point of reference for the “outside world” about classical artists, that is, a way to let people who haven’t heard of a certain artist know he or she is “that good”. Sometimes, I’ll meet someone and the conversation will go like this: 

What do you do? Classical music PR.

Oh, that’s cool. Name someone you work for. Is it? And…Hilary Hahn?

Mmmm…don’t know her. She’s a violinist. Mmm…. She played for the Pope’s 80th birthday. Weird, OK…. She played on ‘The Village’ soundtrack. I loved ‘Sixth Sense’. She won a Grammy. Oh! Cool, great, yeah.

Amanda continues:

… the Grammies are a cultural touchstone – is this the right use of that phrase? – or, perhaps more accurately, a popular culture mile marker of success. What is that worth, though, monetarily speaking, slash, what does winning a Grammy mean for an artist’s overall profile? 

Both The Kings Singers and Hilary have won Grammies before, so I already get to slap “Grammy Award-winning…” next to their names in their bios and pop-culture-mile-marker-of-success name-drop “Grammy” to folks outside the industry.** BUT – would Grammy wins this year result in, oh, what’s the word – “album sales”? Does a shiny Grammy sticker on an album make the difference (it might), or is there more we can do to channel the win of a mainstream award into recording and concert revenue?

You’ll notice that Amanda used her blog cleverly, not failing to mention that two of her private clients—Hillary Hahn and The King Singers—received nominations. Brava.

It is easy to complain about the relevance of an award that doesn’t have the prestige, in the “classical world,” of the Grawemeyer or Pulitzer; but the GRAMMY® Award, though still largely associated with pop music, is one of the most widely-recognized awards in the U.S. music business (and, I would even say, the world). And if we are attempting to reach new audiences with some of our artists and releases, having that award attached to their names is pretty important. Additionally, the award is a sales driver, which means a great deal to the music business even in bad times.

Naxos and our family of distributed labels saw many of our wonderful artists nominated this year, including the Pacifica Quartet, whose recording of Elliott Carter’s String Quartets Nos. 1 and 5 was nothing short of astonishing. It also was fitting that this nomination came just before Mr. Carter’s 100th birthday this Thursday, December 11. The Quartet was nominated in the category of Best Chamber Music Performance and also will be honored at this year’s Musical America Awards with the 2009 Ensemble of the Year Award. And for everyone who has been asking about Volume 2 of the Carter Quartets, here goes: FEBRUARY 2009. BTW: Legendary producer Judith Sherman also picked up a nomination for Producer of the Year for her work on the Carter String Quartets on Naxos and four additional albums.

John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man received a nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. For this recording, Corigliano, a Pulitzer-, Oscar-, Grammy®-, and Grawemeyer award-winning composer (yes, there are all those award listings and they ALL are important), collaborated with conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic. In addition, the recording’s superb soloist, Israeli soprano Hila Plitmann, received a nomination for Best Classical Vocal Performance. She has made recordings of works by David Del Tredici, including Vintage Alice and some of his songs. For Mr. Tambourine Man, because of the re-orchestration—the work was originally written for Sylvia McNair and scored for voice and piano—the vocal part was reconceived for “amplified soprano.” Plitmann is amazing.

Chorus master Henryk Wojnarowski and conductor Antoni Wit received a Choral Performance nomination for the Naxos recording of Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater with the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. A Best Engineered Album (Classical) nomination went to engineer John Newton for his work on the Naxos recording Respighi: Church Windows, Brazilian Impressions, Rossiniana, featuring conductor JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Our distributed labels also did amazingly well this year.

Artists from British-based label Chandos received five nominations in multiple categories. Spotless Rose: Hymns to the Virgin Mary, featuring the Phoenix Chorale, conductor Charles Bruffy, and produced by Blanton Alspaugh, was nominated for Best Classical Album (Awards to Artists and Producer). Additionally, Mr. Bruffy and the Phoenix Chorale received a nod in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category. Spotless Rose includes choral works by Stephen Paulus, Benjamin Britten, Cecilia McDowall, Herbert Howells, Javier Busto, Healey Willan, and Jean Belmont Ford. On a personal level, I need to add that this recording is a special favorite among many of us at Naxos.

Another Chandos choral recording, Rheinberger: Sacred Choral Works, with conductor Charles Bruffy leading the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Bach Choir, earned nominations for Best Surround Sound Album and Best Choral Performance. Finally, a Best Orchestral Performance nomination went to conductor Rumon Gamba and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra for their Chandos recording D’Indy Orchestral Works, Volume 1.

A EuroArts production earned two nominations in the categories of Best Classical Album (Award to Artists and Producers) and Best Opera Recording (Award to Conductor, Producer, and Principal Soloists) for the DVD recording of Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of The City of Mahagonny. The performance featured conductor James Conlon, soloists Anthony Dean Griffey, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald, and the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and Chorus, produced by Fred Vogler. (This is the first year DVD recordings of operas are eligible for Grammy Awards. Only the audio portion of the DVD is considered in the nominating process.”)

Nominations for Best Opera Recording also went to conductors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs for their CPO recording of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Psyché with the Boston Early Music Festival. Mr. O’Dette and Mr. Stubbs also were nominated last year for their CPO recording of Lully’s Thésée with the same ensemble.

Renowned Italian conductor and Baroque specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini was nominated for his Naïve classique recording of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo.

Finally, violinist Elmar Oliveira earned a nomination for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his Artek recording of Violin Concertos by Ernst Bloch and Benjamin Lees, with John McLaughlin Williams conducting the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine.