Folks who follow the vagaries of the music business already know that the 52nd annual Grammy Awards ceremony occurred last night in Los Angeles. But, as has been the case for several years now, many of the awards deemed of “niche” interest were not part of the nationally televised broadcast. So while Taylor Swift has been all over the news today for winning the highly coveted Album of the Year award, attention should also be paid to the fact that Jennifer Higdon’s Percussion Concerto has received the 2010 Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, a prestigious accolade that has been previously awarded to Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Elliott Carter, John Adams, John Corigliano, and Joan Tower, among others. The award is given annually for a contemporary composition that has been released on a commercial recording over the past year. This year marks the first time the award was given to a work that was not recorded by an established record company, but rather released by the forces that performed it—in this case, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, here conducted by Marin Alsop.
In addition, Arts Nova Copenhagen and Theatre of Voices won Best Small Ensemble Performance for their performance of David Lang’s Pulitzer-winning piece The Little Match Girl Passion, while Best Surround Sound Album went to Transmigration, featuring the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by Robert Spano in performances of works by Higdon, Samuel Barber, John Corigliano, and John Adams, all of whom have now won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. In fact, Adams, who has won that award several times, also won that award for a previous recording of On the Transmigration of Souls.
Joe Zawinul and the Zawinul Syndicate won Best Contemporary Jazz album for 75, while Kurt Elling took home the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album for Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman. Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard meanwhile provided the Best Improvised Jazz Solo of the year with his effort in “Dancin’ 4 Chicken.” Chick Corea and John McLaughlin were given the award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for Five Piece Band—Live, while Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album went to Book One, recorded by the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. Best Latin Jazz Album went to Juntos Para Siempre by Bebo and Chucho Valdés.
Other winners include Michael Giacchino in Best Instrumental Composition for “Married Life,” a selection from his also Grammy-winning score to the Pixar film, Up, and the cast album for the 2009 Broadway revival of West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim has received the 2010 award for Best Musical Show Album, beating out cast albums for revivals of Hair and Ain’t Misbehavin’ as well as the new musical Shrek by Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire, and the stage adaptation of the film 9 to 5 featuring songs by Dolly Parton.
(—FJO with additional reporting by TH)