"New classical music is well and alive," Brad Wells, director of the vocal collective Roomful of Teeth, said yesterday as he accepted his Grammy for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.
It was a comment that echoed throughout the classical Grammy awards, handed out at the pre-telecast ceremony Sunday afternoon at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Twenty minutes earlier, Wells' ensemble had performed a section of Partita for 8 Voices by Roomful of Teeth member Caroline Shaw. The composition earned her the Pulitzer Prize for music last year. The award is also a win for the "indie-classical" label New Amsterdam Records, an ambitious enterprise run by a trio of composers.
But the big winner yesterday was Winter Morning Walks, composer and jazz band leader Maria Schneider's sumptuously scored yet intimate song cycle of poems by Ted Kooser sung by soprano Dawn Upshaw with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The album won awards for Best Classical Vocal Solo, Best Contemporary Composition and the award for Best Engineered Album, Classical. The album also includes a second cycle set to poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade.
Accepting her composer's award, Schneider made a point to thank her fans. "This was a tremendously expensive album that was funded entirely by fans who choose to pay for music and support artists," she said, noting that ArtistShare, the label that provided the fan-based financial framework, was her "saving grace in this industry." She also made an impassioned plea against musical piracy on the Internet.
Recent music by Thomas Adès and John Corigliano also won awards. While many awardees were absent from the ceremony, leaving presenters to awkwardly "accept" the awards at the podium, Adès was on hand to receive his Grammy for Best Opera Recording for The Tempest. Looking genuinely surprised, the British composer started his acceptance speech with a single word: "Crikey!" He went on to thank the stagehands at the Met (where his opera was produced last season) and its general manager, Peter Gelb, who "put opera in movie theaters for the first time."
David Alan Miller, the adventurous music director of the Albany Symphony, accepted the award for his ensemble's recording of Corigliano's Conjurer: Concerto for Percussionist and String Orchestra with soloist Evelyn Glennie. Miller thanked his orchestra musicians, saying they "believe that the music of our time belongs at its rightful place at the center of every orchestra's repertoire."
Adam's Lament, a work by contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, earned the award for Best Choral Performance, while the beleaguered Minnesota Orchestra (freshly emerged from a 15-month labor dispute) won the award for Best Orchestral Performance for its recording of the First and Fourth Symphonies by Sibelius with former music director Osmo Vänskä.
Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4
Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)
Adès: The Tempest
Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Luisa Bricetti & Victoria Warivonchick, producers (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Pärt: Adam's Lament
Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis)
Roomful Of Teeth
Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth
Corigliano: Conjurer - Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra
Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)
Track from: Corigliano: Conjurer; Vocalise
Winter Morning Walks
Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik
Christoph Eschenbach, conductor
Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks
Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)
Track from: Winter Morning Walks
• Andres: Home Stretch (Timo Andres, Andrew Cyr & Metropolis Ensemble) • Angel Heart, A Music Storybook (Matt Haimovitz & Uccello) • Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Jonathan Biss) • Ben-Haim: Chamber Works (ARC Ensemble) • Celebrating The American Spirit (Judith Clurman & Essential Voices USA) • Elgar: Enigma Variations; Vaughan Williams: The Wasps; Greensleeves (Michael Stern & Kansas City Symphony) • Guilty Pleasures (Renée Fleming, Sebastian Lang-Lessing & Philharmonia Orchestra) • Verdi: Otello (Riccardo Muti, Aleksandrs Antonenko, Krassimira Stoyanova, Carlo Guelfi, Chicago Symphony Chorus & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) • Winter Morning Walks (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)
Winter Morning Walks
David Frost, Brian Losch & Tim Martyn, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)