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THE 40TH ANNUAL GRAMMY NOMINATIONS | CLASSICAL

Names Seem Very Familiar

January 07, 1998|MARK SWED

To what proportion the classical Grammy nominations mirror popular taste, the concerns of collectors or the interests of the music business is hard to figure out. For instance, the three conductors who have loomed largest in Grammy lore--Georg Solti, Pierre Boulez and Robert Shaw--have practically nothing in common. But all are again prominent nominees this year. Solti, who died last summer shortly before his 80th birthday, is an obvious sentimental favorite: His second recording of Wagner's opera "Die Meistersinger" is jointly nominated for best opera recording and best classical album.

The Grammy nominators seem equally enthusiastic about standard repertory and neglected works. The Emerson Quartet's Beethoven string quartets and Charles Mackerras' Brahms symphonies both get double nominations. But the obscure Igor Markevitch, who was well-known as a conductor but forgotten as a composer, turns up as well in the category of best orchestral performance.

Other than two recordings from Solti (the "Die Meistersinger" and Mozart's "Don Giovanni"), the opera category offers seldom-encountered works--Rameau's "Hippolyte et Aricie" and Glinka's "Ruslan und Lyudmila." There is also a real rarity, Walter Braunfels' "Die Vogel" (The Birds), which was labeled degenerate by the Nazis.

Most of the performers are familiar: Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, the Kronos Quartet, Valery Gergiev, Martha Argerich among them. But newcomers also made the cut, most notably the flashy Russian pianist Arcadi Volodos.

This year, for contemporary composition, Americans who write in an accessible style abound: John Adams, Richard Danielpour, Joseph Schwantner, Aaron Kernis and Lowell Liebermann.

Meanwhile, Esa-Pekka Salonen gets in through the back door. His recording of Bernard Hermann film scores is nominated for its engineering, and he is the accompanist on a disc of works by Gyorgy Ligeti nominated for best classical vocal performance.

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