Monday, February 11

Yes, traditional record companies and the compact disc format are declining in importance every year. And yes, classical music at the Grammy Awards occupies a seat somewhere behind a wide column in a rear balcony. And yes, as with any awards contest, you can argue about the rationality of one choice over another. But be that as it may, there's a new crowd of meritorious classical winners following last night's 50th annual Grammy Awards. Today on Midday Music we celebrate the fresh feathers in their caps. The big Georgia connection is Atlanta-born mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, who sings Hansel in the Grammy-winning, English-language recording of Hansel and Gretel. Here's what we're hearing and, parenthetically, why:

11 AM . . . . .

  • Tchaikovsky: String Quartet No. 1 in D, Op. 11. Ying Quartet. Telarc 80685. (Classical producer of the year: Judith Sherman. She also gets credit for some recordings on Cedille, another midwestern label, including the following one...)
  • Higdon, J.: Zaka. Eighth Blackbird. Cedille 9000 094. (Best chamber music performance: this disc, "Strange Imaginary Creatures.")
  • Dvorak: Violin Concerto: Finale. James Ehnes, BBC Phil, Noseda. Chandos 10309. (Best solo performance with orchestra: James Ehnes, though not for this Dvorak, rather for his Barber, Korngold and Walton with the Vancouver Symphony on the CBC label, pictured above.)

12 N . . . . . .
  • Grechaninov: Passion Week, Op. 58: nos. 1-3. Phoenix Bach Choir, Kansas City Chorale, soloists, Bruffy. Chandos 5044. (Best engineered classical recording, and it is Super Audio as well as super audio.)
  • Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel, Overture. Philharmonia Orch, Mackerras. Chandos 3143. (Best opera recording, starring Georgia-born mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore as Hansel. It's got great, witchy cover art, and it's sung in English.)
  • Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 9 in E major, Op. 14/1. Garrick Ohlsson. Bridge 9207. (Best solo instrumental performance. This is volume 3 of Ohlsson's Beethoven sonata cycle, in progress.)
  • Tower, J.: Made in America. Nashville Sym, Slatkin. Naxos 8.559328. (The big triple winner - best classical contemporary composition, best orchestral recording and best classical album of the year. This 13-minute piece has a cute title, it quotes "America the Beautiful," and it's already been performed in all 50 states. How do you like it?)

1 PM . . . . .
  • Bach: Trio Sonata in C minor from A Musical Offering. Swiss Baroque Soloists, Gabetta. Naxos 8.557755-56. (This Brandenburgs-plus is actually a Grammy also-ran, nominated but not selected, in the category best small ensemble performance. The award went to Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists playing Stravinsky and Prokofiev, pictured above.)
  • Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem): conclusion (nos. 6-7). Berlin Phil, Berlin Radio Chorus, soloists, Rattle. EMI 65393.
  • Bellstedt: Caprice on Dixie. Rachel Barton Pine. Cedille 90000 097. ("American Virtuosa," another creation of producer Judith Sherman.)