What about the Grammys, then?

What about the Grammys, then?


norman lebrecht

November 22, 2019

We’ve been bombarded by PR releases and some readers have asked why we don’t report them.


Because the Grammys themselves have relegated classical music to nonentity, show none of the winners on TV and barely trouble to have the final results reported in media small print.

We’ll let you know the winners when they’re announced, but the shortlists are a waste of your precious attention.



  • mary says:

    Because the classical Grammys don’t matter.

    Non-classical music fans don’t go out to buy a classical CD just because it won a Grammy.

    Classical music fans are too knowledgeable to rely on the Grammys to tell them what to buy.

    Orchestras/opera houses/artists are not ranked by the number of Grammys they win. The Big Five is the Big Five if they never won another Grammy.

    Nobody knows or cares who the voters are, or why their opinion should matter.

    I could go on, all SD allows for unlimited space in comments, so I’d be writing forever…

    • K says:

      I don’t disagree with your assessment, but within the “classical” music industry itself, to have won a Grammy directly or to have performed on a Grammy winning recording, is an enormous resume item. I have colleagues who won Grammys (sp?) ten years ago and it is still at the top of their profiles. Even to be nominated is cause for bragging. I don’t think you are suggesting otherwise and I think your comments about the particulars have merit, but a Grammy win for a classical artist is still a big deal.

      • Kyle says:

        Which reinforces the point that the only people who care about the classical Grammys are the people who win them and, briefly, the people who are nominated.

        No doubt it would be an honor to be nominated, but anyone “hanging their hat” on a Grammy nomination would almost certainly be derided by his/her peers, at least behind their back. That’s the stuff of long-form Bios and CVs.

        Despite my feelings, I do think the classical Grammy situation is unfortunate, because the Grammys have excellent cache among some genres. They just haven’t demonstrated the necessary commitment to classical to be even modestly relevant to the cognoscenti.

        • K says:

          Thanks for your comments. Please allow me to respond.

          “Which reinforces the point that the only people who care about the classical Grammys are the people who win them and, briefly, the people who are nominated.”

          Well, I’m a professional, and have never won one, but it certainly is informative to see who is out there, what new compositions of interest are being played, and get a sense of the general barometer of the state of activity. (I’ve included a link to the 2020 nominees. You’ll have to scroll down to see the classical entries.)


          In addition, I know that conductors like to see this list for pieces that may be of interest to their audiences, and of course, any performers that they would like to collaborate with.

          “No doubt it would be an honor to be nominated, but anyone “hanging their hat” on a Grammy nomination would almost certainly be derided by his/her peers, at least behind their back. That’s the stuff of long-form Bios and CVs.”

          Well, I’ve been a pro for 3+ decades and I’ve never heard anyone deride another musician for a Grammy win or nomination, behind their backs or otherwise. I won’t deny that some feel a professional envy, but to actually articulate it would be to label yourself as small-minded. Of course, someone could counter with, well, why don’t you go and win one yourself? And people routinely put items of much less stature on the CVs.

          “They [the Grammys] just haven’t demonstrated the necessary commitment to classical to be even modestly relevant to the cognoscenti.”

          Well, I know a lot of self-described “cognoscenti.” They are often the least informed, their ideas about music and musicians are cliche ridden, and most can’t play any instrument at any level. I would recommend they look at the list and try to support the music and musicians who are represented. Thanks again for your comments.

          • You are exactly right. In the music industry, Grammys are highly prized enough for quite a number of musicians (yes, even well known ones) to stretch the truth in their bios about their connection to a winning recording. Not everyone who participates in a winning recording gets an award.

          • Kyle says:

            You’ve essentially made three points. I’ll quickly summarize and respond:

            1.) It’s useful to get curated information, and the Grammy’s do provide some.

            True, obviously. I argue that the track record of the Classical Grammys is such that what information that can be gleaned would have to be supported by other sources.

            2.) A Grammy nomination is a big deal.

            Agreed. As I wrote, a nomination is absolutely an honor. However, I maintain that someone who brings up the nomination constantly (i.e. “hangs their hat”) would be annoying, particularly if it is the defining moment of their career. Someone who further excels and also has a nomination is a different matter.

            3.) There are lots of pompous idiots in the world.

            Absolutely. And surely I’ve been among them at times. My comments made no allowances for “self-described” anything.

          • K says:

            My wife calls me a self-described pompous idiot every other day. Not sure what rhetorical devices she is using. Thanks for your comments!

      • Jack says:

        Could be, but I’ve never, ever, bought a recording because it received a Grammy. But it’s true. The orchestra I conducted in the 80s were interested in signing a young Wynton Marsalis for a solo gig. Then came his Grammy. Ditto for a young Yo-Yo Ma.

    • Karl says:

      Smaller orchestras love it when they get a Grammy. I remember how happy they were in Albany when they got one for their recording of John Corigliano’s “Conjurer — Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra”. They are nominated for 2 more this year: Derek Bermel’s “Migration Series” and Michael Torke’s “Sky” Violin Concerto. Give the smaller orchestras some love!

      • drummerman says:

        Actually, the Albany Symphony is not nominated. The categories their recordings are in are for best soloist and best composer.

      • David Rohde says:

        And Tessa Lark’s performance in the Torke violin concerto is fully deserving of the nomination, especially since he clearly wrote it for Tessa and her combination of completely valid classical and bluegrass chops. A lot of people might wind up listening to the work and not even realize or care that it’s “classical music.” And it has to be noted that the idea of a Grammy nomination means more in American popular culture than her Avery Fisher Career Grant and similar accolades and measures of support. If that gets this work and all of the artists involved more acclaim and awareness, so much the better.

        So generally speaking, I’m with “K” above. Of course at this point the Grammys are not going to put the classical award presentations on TV, for the same reason that now only one of the five Kennedy Center honorees each year (on an evening explicitly designed for later television broadcast) come from what is generally recognized as the classical field. To complain otherwise is what I call “yelling at a symptom.” I certainly have seen Grammy awards and/or references to someone being a “Grammy-nominated artist” at the top of classical performers’ bios, and it’s a lot more understandable than the industry “inside baseball” that takes up paragraphs of unreadable text in a lot of these biographical sketches that are supposed to pull in the general public but don’t.

        Naturally I assume that there is some fluff or excess or accidents somewhere in the nominations, but then we need to talk about the pop categories and all the other expanding awards programs throughout the entertainment world as well! I hope this helps.

  • Olassus says:


  • Mock Mahler says:

    The classical Grammys have a track record right up there with the Oscars.

    • Tamino says:

      Not sure. Maybe in the US.
      Film business is US centric.
      Classical music business is not.
      So Grammys are less relevant outside the US.
      Also the Grammys are not respected artistically much. The selection of nominees and winners seems random, US centric, and basically a lottery, not based on actual achievements consistently enough. Some decisions you really wonder…
      But they always make for a nice collection item for the bookshelf.

    • M2N2K says:

      More like “right down there”, though in my opinion “classical”
      Grammys are considerably worse.

  • Doug says:

    I have a photo of an actual Grammy award (you know, the gramophone bronze thing) that was bestowed on a well-known English conductor with whom I worked in the UK for some time. It was located in his second London house and was shocked to see it tucked away in a very inconspicuous spot collecting dust. The point is, even to an egomaniac that lives or dies on public adulation, the Grammy means very little.

  • anon again says:

    God forbid this site should help introduce its readers to new and noteworthy artists. Slipped Disk is better at doing what it usually does: classical world gossip, and obits.

  • Old Man in the Midwest says:

    It’s Vanity UnFair.

    Many deserving CDs are still cut but do not have the PR machine to get onto the ballot.

    So you see the same names time after time. Atlanta Symphony, Chicago Symphony, etc. And the same conductors Dudamel, Robert Shaw (when he was alive) etc.

    And the trophy is a cheap piece of plastic (at least for the Classical artists).

  • Jim says:

    All of these awards are just generated within the industry in order to generate more acclaim and promotion for themselves. It is all just self-generated accolades.

  • The Grammys will remain important to classical artists and indeed, all artists, because it is a tremendous resumé enhancement that resonates deeply since it is awarded by peers active in the industry. I’ve seen hardened professionals cry when their names were announced as winners. It is a truly meaningful acknowledgment to those directly involved in awarding it and those who receive it.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Awards on their own are great to have, even nominations. Trust in people is built over long periods of time, and future performances of music is based almost solely on trust. If a recording is nominated, and if it wins, it can add trust and a dose of validity to the composers and the performers. However, if trust is built over time without awards, that is usually the acid test for anything withstanding the test of time. More often, films and music not winning awards can stand the test of time based on trust and having champions for their existence. Yes, I cannot express the exhilarating feeling it was to see Kenneth Fuchs, composer, and Maestra JoAnn Falletta on the Grammy stage in February accepting the Best Classical Compendium award for Kenneth’s brilliant recording, ‘Spiritualist’ for his piano concerto and works for electric guitar/orchestra, saxophone/orchestra and song cycle for countertenor/orchestra. But, the post-Grammy experience is all about friendships, trust and longevity of these works. In the end, good luck to the nominees and to those not nominated, grow the network and spread your gifts. They are blessings in this challenging world.

    • K says:

      Hi Jeffrey-

      Performed with Maestra Falletta many times and often playing compositions of Fuchs. Your comments are right on!

  • Vaquero357 says:

    ^^^^ What Mary said. If ya win a Grammy, hey use it as a marketing tool, put it in your bio, etc. Does it mean mucy as to the quality of a recording? Not really.

    I remember the lock the Chicago Symphony had on Grammys in the ’80s and ’90s. I suspect most of them were won simply because many of the industry people voting had NO understanding of classical music. “The CSO won last year. They’re from Chicago. Chicago’s a big city. I wanna show I’m not an East/West Coast snob. Yeah, check the box, for CSO this year.” Similar situation to the old saying in the business world: “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.”

    • The quality of the recording is paramount in consideration for the award. The quality of the performance is part of it and the quality of the recording itself is also of primary consideration. It is a recording award and not simply one for performance. That is commonly misunderstood.

      • K says:


        Great point! And the corollary is that a great group, e.g., who does not have the resources to make an outstanding recording, may find themselves left out of the process altogether.

      • Tamino says:

        That is not true. There are plenty of recordings with mediocre recording quality nominated and even winning.
        Grammys are political first of all.

  • Michael Smith says:

    I find the Presto Classical top ten more interesting.

  • drummerman says:

    The Grammys are voted on by card-carrying members of NARAS, so – theoretically, at least – there are classical musicians voting for classical musicians. (I was a member of NARAS for about 20 years but let my membership expire.) Of course, anyone can vote in any category up to a certain limit, if I remember correctly, so maybe some rap stars voted for classical! Wouldn’t that be great.

    • Tamino says:

      Majority of NARAS members are not classical musicians. There are more pop music sound technicians voting than classical musicians, no?

  • fflambeau says:

    A courageous (and correct) stand. Kudos.

    One might add that it’s really an industry/music album event and often bears no relationship to good music. It’s almost all public relations.

  • Plush says:

    Unfortunately, winning a Grammy usually does not allow the awardee to raise their rates and fees. On that basis, one must ask, what good is it? Other classical musicians resent it when a colleague wins a Grammy.

  • Matthew B. Tepper says:

    There was a time when classical musicians were featured on the Grammy Awards telecast. I recall a live feed of the Scherzo from Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto #1 played by Maxim Vengerov with Zdenek Macal conducting the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, in 1996. And as recently as 2001, Marc-André Hamelin performed one of the Chopin-Godowsky Etudes.
    But even that microscopic presence was to dwindle. It came to pass that Yo-Yo Ma was allowed to perform, but only as a sideman for James Taylor. (To be fair, a lot of the blame for that may have been due to Sony “Classical,” which scarcely recorded Ma in actual classical music for years.)
    A few days ago, a Variety article claimed that the “all-time Grammy champ” was Quincy Jones! That only works if you count the total number of NOMINATIONS, where as we all know the total number of WINS was by Sir Georg Solti. I suppose they figured it was better to honor a jazz legend than somebody as unimportant as a classical musician.

  • KouYa says:

    Only new compositions should be noted. not rehashed vivaldi. bach. paganini. etc….