2021 Grammy Nominees Include SF Symphony, LA Phil

Peter Feher on November 24, 2020
The San Francisco Symphony and the LA Phil both score Grammy nominations | Credit: Brandon Patoc (left) and Sam Comen (right)

Some of the stalwarts of American classical music are in the running for the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards. This year’s nominees, announced today in a streaming event on the Awards’ website, include many of the time-tested names in the genre, from performers to repertoire.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony are nominated for two projects, a cap for the conductor’s 25-year tenure with the orchestra, which concluded in June. For “Best Orchestral Performance,” MTT and the Symphony get a nod for their 2020 release of Copland’s Symphony No. 3, drawn from live performances at Davies Symphony Hall in 2018. And MTT the composer is up in the “Classical Compendium” category for another SFS recording: From the Diary of Anne Frank and Meditations on Rilke, two compositions that somewhat bookend Tilson Thomas’s time with the orchestra.

Cover for Ives: Complete Symphonies

It’s more West Coast ensembles in the “Orchestral Performance” category, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Oregon Symphony also contenders. Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil, last year’s winners, are nominated for Charles Ives — Complete Symphonies, recorded in tandem with the orchestra’s Ives cycle at Walt Disney Concert Hall earlier this year. That album is also up in a production category, “Best Engineered Album, Classical,” and audio engineer Dmitriy Lipay is in the running for “Producer of the Year, Classical” for his work on LA Phil, Seattle Symphony, and Music of Remembrance recordings.

Opera is a similar story this year, with American companies recording work by American composers. The Metropolitan Opera’s three-CD set accompanying its big season-opening production of Porgy and Bess leads the nominees for “Best Opera Recording.” Also on the list: return winner Boston Modern Orchestra Project, for Norman Dello Joio’s The Trial at Rouen, and The Florentine Opera in Wisconsin, for Carlisle Floyd’s Prince of Players. Former SF Opera Music Director Donald Runnicles is nominated too, for a recording of Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg with the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Floyd’s opera Prince of Players — his latest, written at the age of 90 — is one of five works nominated for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition.” Another late-career work — Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 5, in a recording by the Nashville Symphony — is up for the composer’s award. Rounding out the category are Thomas Adès’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua, and Ted Hearne’s Place, which was set to debut at the LA Phil this year.

Danielpour’s Passion is a multiple nominee, for “Best Engineered Album” and “Best Choral Performance” too. The world-premiere recording, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, features the UCLA Chamber Singers, a group of 30 or so undergraduate and graduate students in the college’s school of music, now Grammy nominees.

And from first-time nominees to one of the most nominated ever: composer John Williams gets another nod for his score to the last Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker. It’s no shoo-in, though. Also nominated in the “Best Score Soundtrack” category: Hildur Guðnadóttir for Joker (this year’s Oscar and Golden Globe winner) and Kamasi Washington for Becoming. SFCV readers might already know: Washington played his score for the Michelle Obama documentary recently, in a streaming performance with the LA Phil.

The winners of the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards will be announced on Jan. 31, 2021 on CBS. Find a complete list of nominees in all 83 categories here.