The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Here are the complete classical music Grammy nominations and winners, including producer Judith Sherman who is recording the four world premiere centennial commissions by the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet.

February 18, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Well, you won’t find a lot to linger over in this year’s classical music Grammys. After all, the “Academy,” as they call the Industry’s Enforcer, chopped the categories from 109 to 78 for the 54th annual competition. (Classical Music wasn’t the only category to lose a lot; so did quite a few ethnic music categories including Latin Jazz and Hawaiian Music.)

So the really big names in classical music are missing in this year’s bunch of classical Grammys – no Beethoven or Bach, no Mahler or Mozart, although superstar maestro Gustavo Dudamel (below) did win one with an outstanding performance of the Brahms Fourth Symphony in digital download-only release.

NOTE: Today’s “LA Live in HD” broadcast at 4 p.m. at the Eastgate and Point cinemas features Dudamel conducting a performance from Caracas, Venezuela of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand.”)

But you will find more contemporary composers than in past years. In fact, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the Florentine Opera Chorus took home two Grammys for their live performance of Robert Aldridge’s opera “Elmer Gantry,” based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis.

Nor will you find a lot of big name prestige labels, which have been largely replaced by smaller labels with more niche-like focuses.

But you will nonetheless find some great performances and some great music, including arias sung by the great American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

You will also find something of great local interest: Record producer Judith Sherman received her third Grammy, the second in a row and the third of seven nominations. And if you look at her long and impressive list of releases, she certainly seems worthy of winning.

Sherman’s Grammy is good news for Madison and for the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte String Quartet, which performs a FREE concert at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 24, in the Wisconsin Union Theater.  That’s because the Pro Arte has hired Sherman (below, in Mills Hall setting up microphones with the Pro Arte Quartet and pianist Brian Hsu  for the December sessions to record composer Paul Schoenfield‘s Three Rhapsodies for String Quartet) to produce the 2-CD set of the world premiere commissions by Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield, William Bolcom and John Harbison that the Pro Arte is performing during its centennial season.

That could mean that Sherman (seen below backstage at Mills Hall  closely following and taking notes on the Schoenfield score during  mike checks), who is a freelance producer working for Albany Records, might well end up next year appealing to the Grammy trends toward rewarding smaller labels and new music. And that, in turn, means that the Pro Arte Quartet’s 2-CD set might get nominated for a Grammy. Now, that would be grand and well deserved for the grueling 11 – and 12-hour recording sessions that she and the musicians turned in here over two days.

By the way, the program for the FREE March 24 concert by the Pro Arte Quartet (below, in a photo by Rick Langer) at the Wisconsin Union Theater, by the way, include the world premiere of William Bolcom’s Piano Quintet No. 2 with UW pianist Christopher Taylor; Anton Webern’s “Langsamer Satz”; Darius Milhaud’s String Quartet No. 7, which was written for and premiered by the Pro Arte (below, today) in 1925.

Also on the program is Mozart’s great and sublimely beautiful String Quintet in G minor (at bottom), K. 516, with guest violist Samuel Rhodes (below, in a photo by Peter Shaarf) of the Juilliard String Quartet.

You would pay a lot of money to hear those same performers in that same program in, say, New York City’s Carnegie Hall. But here in Madison it is FREE and easy to get to. So plan to attend that concert and take along family and friends. And spread the word.

For more information visit

Anyway, here is the classical music list for the 54th annual Grammys:

Want to see who the accomplished and worthwhile “losers” were? Here is a link to all the nominees:

And here is a link to the blog post I did around the holidays with all the nominees and the music they performed (plus all the recordings the Producer nominees, including Sherman, worked on):

Here are links to some other analyses and documentaries:

mozart string quintet g minor

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