Hello, and happy new year.
I hope this email — snuggled in your inbox between Postmates receipts and Zappos triple points offers — finds you well.
This is an abbreviated mailer, a quick wrap of things left hanging in the last one.
Expect a thicker installment next time out. Sometimes less is more.
Stay blessed, and bring your best in 2020.
Our GRAMMY voting continues. You can click here to get involved.
If you’re thinking, “I don’t know… I only wanna vote for people I’ve heard of.” Well, congratulations! That’s exactly how the GRAMMY committee does it too.
Mainstream categories have been under greater (and deserved) scrutiny in recent years for reasons of inclusivity and representation. There have been corrections — and corrections-to-corrections — so much so that it’s now a wide-open field. This makes predicting winners very difficult.
This trend doesn’t apply to classical music as much, which is useful only in this narrow sense: it helps with odds predictions. Go here and lend some expertise by casting your vote(s).
For those who have voted, here are some early results. I’m only predicting wins in categories where our voting results confer some degree of confidence. You may use this data however (coughcough) you see fit. The GRAMMYs are January 26th.
Best Orchestral Performance
Norman: Sustain. Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic). Wagering confidence level: 71.43%.
Best Opera Recording
Too close to call. (Go vote!)
Best Choral Performance
Smith, K.: The Arc In The Sky. Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing). Wagering confidence level: 66.6%.
Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance
Too close to call.
Best Classical / Instrumental Solo
Too close to call.
Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
Leader: Songplay. Joyce DiDonato; Chuck Israels, Jimmy Madison, Charlie Porter & Craig Terry, accompanists (Steve Barnett & Lautaro Greco). Wagering confidence level: 72.72%.
Best Classical Compendium
Too close to call.
Resist the list
2019 was not the year to obsess over new releases. It’s actually the first year I’ve managed anything resembling a healthy balance of new and old: more repeat listening, more old and obscure things, and (much) more radio (shouts to RBB Kulturradio). It was a charmed twelve months.
In that spirit I’m sharing with you only a few new things I enjoyed in 2019. Click album titles for more info.
Quality classical releases
Kullervo Op. 7, Jean Sibelius, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hannu Lintu. A work unknown to me. This and Sibelius’ Pelléas et Mélisande constituted a whole morning’s program for me this past fall.
Fidicinium Sacro-Profanum, Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Harmonie Universelle, Florian Deuter, Monica Waisman. I thought I misread HIFvB’s birth and death dates the first time I looked him up. His is music immune to the vagaries of time and taste.
Weinberg: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21, Mieczysław Weinberg, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, Gidon Kremer, Kremerata Baltica, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Mieczysław Weinberg’s family was torn apart by war and ethnic killing in his native Poland and neighboring Russia. (I’m reading Bloodlands right now — can’t imagine a better soundtrack than this.) Weinberg was a close associate of Shostakovich’s. His music might not be as well-known as the latter’s, but this disc rectifies this somewhat. Gražinytė-Tyla, the CBSO, and Weinberg aficionado Gidon Kremer worked magic with this one.
Sneaky projects you might’ve missed
Al Otro Lado, Liza Wallace, Lily Press, Simon Linn-Gerstein. Recommended this in the last mailer. Did you listen yet? Support good music.
The Sacrificial Code, Kali Malone. Kali Malone is a Swedish organist who finds a different gear for the pipe organ — in slow, meditative, drawn-out tones that echo across this work. It’s not clear who the audience for this is, which is to say that it’s perfect for CDA readers.
These live up to the hype
Become Desert, John Luther Adams, Seattle Symphony. The logical follow-up to JLA’s smash and CDA favorite Become Ocean.
Concurrence, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daníel Bjarnason, Anna Thorvaldsdóttir, Haukur Tómasson, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Iceland : modern orchestra music :: Atlanta : trap music. I’ve written about my undisguised admiration for Anna Thorvaldsdóttir. Here you get Thorvaldsdóttir’s Metacosmos, plus installments of tingly, dense, well-matched music from three fellow Icelanders.
At the risk of oversharing and bungling this whole premise, here’s some non-classical music that blew me out of my seat
Morbid Stuff by PUP. Hidden History of the Human Race by Blood Incantation. Did I say I wasn’t going to do a big list? Megan Thee Stallion’s Fever. Don’t miss Midnight by Stef Chura. Rema’s self-titled EP goes and goes. I especially recommend Mahur Club by Maral. Cut & Stitch by the Petrol Girls is an AOTY contender. Control Top just batter listeners on Covert Contracts. Ahh damn it I’m still listing. I can’t physically stop myself from making lists. WWCD by Griselda. Jaime by Brittany Howard (“Short and Sweet” slayed me). Okay, done.
Many of the above are affiliate links, i.e. a fraction of the sale benefits probably your second- or third-favorite classical music newsletter. Just deal with it.
Links with extreme clickability
I forgot to link to this when it came out, but this is a really important piece. TLDR: conventional wisdom about being “overweight” is wrong, and carry-over effects from medical assumptions are damaging and sometimes fatal.
You should read “The Art of Dying,” by art critic Peter Schjeldahl. He covers friends and enemies, family, drugs, alcoholism, art and writing. I’ve thought about it a lot.
Super short, right? See ya next time.