“Minority Genre” of Classical Music Is Very Much Alive at Grammys

Janos Gereben on November 26, 2019
Marina and Victor Ledin at the 2016 Grammy Awards | Credit: Jim Ruymen/UPI

Nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards, just announced, have their usual small share of classical musicians against the flood of pop, rock, and exotica such as Best Regional Roots Music Album. Still there they are 10 classical-music categories, starting with No. 73 (Best Engineered Album, Classical) through No. 82 (Best Contemporary Classical Composition, for symphonic, opera, choral, and chamber music recordings).

Basic Grammy facts need to be repeated: even when it appears as “GRAMMYS,” capital letters notwithstanding, it’s not an acronym, but abbreviated from “Gramophone Award,” now a word meaning “a small statue that is given as an award to someone who works in the business of recording music.” The 62nd Grammy Awards will be announced on Jan. 26, 2020.

Scorekeeping items:

The Naxos of America distribution group — including Naxos, 2L, Avie Records, Azica, Bridge Records, Decca, Delos, Fanfare Cincinnati, Innova, Navona, New Amersterdam Records, Ondine, Opus Arte, Reference Recordings, Signum, and Sono Luminus — has earned 32 nominations.

Winner and still champion, with most Grammy wins

Although he died in 1997, Georg Solti still has the record for the most Grammys, with 31 awards. Runners-up include:

Quincy Jones, 28
Alison Krauss, 27
Pierre Boulez, 26
Vladimir Horowitz, 25
Stevie Wonder, 25
John Williams, 24
Beyoncé, 22

Composer John Williams, with only 24 awards, received his 70th and 71st nominations this year, still one behind Henry Mancini’s 72 nominations (with 20 wins, including Peter Gunn and The Pink Panther before his death in 1994).

John Williams has 71 nominations and 24 awards.

Among nominations for 2020, Marin’s Victor and Marina Ledin — already multiple Grammy nominees over the years — show up in Best Immersive Audio Album; Best Classical Compendium; and Producer of the Year, Classical, where they are nominated for four recordings, The Poetry of Places among them, featuring pianist Nadia Shpachenko.

Vallejo’s H.E.R. (Gabi Wilson) has five nominations.

In the nonclassical world, a local R&B artist received five nominations: Vallejo’s H.E.R. (Gabi Wilson) was named in the Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year categories.

Other top nominations have gone to Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Ariana Grande, and FINNEAS, the first three making their first appearance.

The major opera category (best recording) includes George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love & Violence, from the Royal Opera House;

Berg’s Wozzeck, from Dutch National Opera; Charpentier’s Les Arts Florissants and Les Plaisirs de Versailles, from the Boston Early Music Festival; Tobias Picker’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, from the Boston Modern Orchestra Project; and Wagner’s Lohengrin, from Bayreuth.

Best Orchestral Performance nominees are Gustavo Dudamel/LA Philharmonic: Andrew Norman, Sustain, one of the 50 commissions to celebrate the LA Philharmonic’s centennial; Manfred Honeck/Pittsburgh Symphony: Bruckner Symphony No. 9; Leonard Slatkin/Detroit Symphony: Copland, Billy the Kid; Louis Langrée/Cincinnati Symphony: Gershwin, Varese, Stravinsky, Transatlantic; Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla/City of Birmingham Symphony: Mieczysław Weinberg, Symphonies No. 2 and No. 21.

Unlike last year, when major Grammy winners included both the SF Symphony and SF Opera, they are not among nominees this time.

When the confusing number of categories was significantly pruned a few years ago, classical music lost many:

Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with orchestra)
Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra)
Best Classical Performance, Operatic or Choral
Best Classical Performance — Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with or without orchestra)
Best New Classical Artist
Best Chamber Music Performance
Best Classical Album
Best Classical Crossover Album