The Boston Globe
David Weininger
Globe Correspondent
December 19, 2008

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.”

By David Weininger, Globe Correspondent