A dazzling array of classical music prevailed at the 66th Grammy Awards, reflecting a contemporary field that honors the canon even as it elevates new voices. Among the winners were Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who took Best Orchestral Performance for Thomas Adès: Dante; and Nils Schweckendiek with Uusinta Ensemble and the Helsinki Chamber Choir, who won Best Choral Performance for Saariaho: Reconnaissance.
Best Opera Recording went to Terence Blanchard and The Metropolitan Opera, for Champion. “It takes more than a village in opera,” said conductor and Met Opera music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who accepted the award along with soprano Latonia Moore, “but this goes to Terence Blanchard and all the voices of our time, the great musicians that we keep honoring and now are getting their right place that they deserve to be on our big stages.”
One such voice belongs to soprano Julia Bullock, who won Best Classical Solo Vocal Album for Walking In The Dark, along with conductor Christian Reif and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Some of the other voices reside within Roomful Of Teeth, which took Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance for Rough Magic. Bass Cameron Beauchamp accepted the award with a statement of gratitude: “To be able to go through this world, this very complicated world, exploring humanity through our voices? That’s a gift.”
The award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo went to pianist Yuja Wang, for The American Project, which she recorded with the Louisville Orchestra, led by Teddy Abrams. That album consists of two pieces composed for her — Abrams’ Piano Concerto, which she premiered in Louisville, and You Come Here Often? by Michael Tilson Thomas. In his #NowPlaying review, NPR’s Tom Huizenga called Thomas’ piece “irresistible, opening with a catchy kind of cat-and-mouse motif that builds to a funky, rocking crescendo. From then on, the music alternates between more contemplative passages tinged with jazz and the motorized theme.”
Elaine Martone won Producer of the Year, Classical, for a bouquet of albums including Third Coast Percussion’s Between Breaths, Seth Parker Woods’ Difficult Grace, and the Cleveland Orchestra and Franz Welser-Möst’s Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5. “It’s been a minute since I’ve stood here,” Martone said as she accepted the award. “I’ve done this for 44 years,” she added, before thanking her family and her fellow nominees, including Morten Lindberg and David Frost.
Best Engineered Album, Classical went to Frost and Charlie Post, for Contemporary American Composers, an album by Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. And Best Classical Compendium Album went to Passion For Bach And Coltrane, by Alex Brown, Harlem Quartet, Imani Winds, Edward Perez, Neal Smith and A.B. Spellman. “We’ve been doing this for 27 years,” said Monica Ellis, the bassoonist in Imani Winds, from the podium, “celebrating Black excellence in classical music.”
Imani Winds’ oboist, Toyin Spellman-Diaz, added: “The best thing about the Grammys is that we’re all together, and we have a big list of great Black classical composers and performers we’d love to share with you. Let’s talk, let’s share and let’s grow together!”
Jessie Montgomery extended that idea as she accepted the Best Contemporary Classical Composition award for Montgomery: Rounds. “What an incredible honor, especially after my dear Imani Winds and Harlem Quartet. Congratulations; what an incredible day. What a beautiful community we have, like you said, of support and vision.” Montgomery went on to thank pianist Awadagin Pratt and New Amsterdam Records “for making such a beautiful, beautiful album and allowing this work to come into the world.”