Classical Notes

Grammy nods for local favorites

Composer Michael Gandolfi (above in 2005) was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Composer Michael Gandolfi (above in 2005) was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file)
By David Weininger
Globe Correspondent / December 19, 2008
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Though the Grammy Awards have never held quite the same cachet in classical music as they do in pop, they still carry a good deal of weight, especially for listeners seeking to navigate a bewildering array of new compositional voices and a thicket of recordings of standard repertoire. And this year's nominations in classical categories, announced last week, include three with especially strong local connections.

Michael Gandolfi, who chairs the composition department at New England Conservatory, was nominated in the Best Classical Contemporary Composition category for "The Garden of Cosmic Speculation." His hourlong, rhythmically dynamic, and colorfully scored orchestral work was recorded by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Robert Spano (Telarc), and traces its origins to a shorter Gandolfi work that Spano premiered at Tanglewood in 2004.

In an e-mail, the composer said that news of the nomination came while he was traveling to Indiana University to lecture about the piece. He was both surprised and honored, adding that "the company that I share as a nominee underscores that [last] point."

When asked how he thought the Grammys measure up to other classical music awards, Gandolfi replied, "I choose not to compare [them]. Each has its particular audience, and by extension, a unique aesthetic predisposition. Most important, any such citation serves to increase awareness of new classical music. Awards such as the Grammy emphasize that composers of classical music are alive and well, and producing work that is appreciated by those in the general community."

Two recordings from local organizations were also nominated. In the Best Opera Recording category, the Boston Early Music Festival was given a nod for its recording of Jean-Baptiste Lully's "Psych??," BEMF's third such nomination. The recording, on the CPO label, originated from BEMF's elaborate staging of the opera during its 2007 biennial summer festival. In addition to the orchestra, chorus, children's chorus, and a large cast of singers, the production featured Baroque dancers and acrobats as well. The recording was made shortly after the festival performances and is the sole version of "Psych??" currently available.

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project began releasing recordings on its own label, BMOP/sound, earlier this year. One of them, Charles Fussell's "Wilde: Symphony for Baritone and Orchestra," earned a nomination in the Best Vocal Performance category for baritone Sanford Sylvan. The recording was made in September of 2004.

Sylvan sang in the work's premiere in 1990, with the Newton Symphony Orchestra. Reviewing that first performance in the Globe, Richard Dyer wrote that Sylvan's performance was "musically and vocally beautiful; every word was clear; and everything was shaped by a lively dramatic imagination and deep human understanding."

The winners will be announced on Feb. 8.

Camerata Christmas
One of the consistent delights served up by the Boston Camerata has been its series of holiday programs - multifaceted productions that unearth and find common ground in music of a variety of genres, eras, and regions. Three of its Christmas recordings - those centering on America, France, and Spain - have recently been reissued in a budget-priced box set called "A Boston Camerata Christmas."

The early-music group is in the midst of presenting "The Brotherhood of the Star: A Hispanic Christmas," which weaves together holiday music from Spanish-speaking lands from 1300 to 1700. Remaining performances are tonight in Cambridge and tomorrow in Newbury.

Oft to NEC
NEC has appointed Toby Oft, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's new principal trombonist, to its faculty. Oft, who came to Boston from the San Diego Symphony, is in his first year with the BSO, where he replaced the long-serving Ronald Barron. He begins his teaching duties in September of 2009.

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