Nominees for the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards were announced in December of 2015, and among those nominated are some outstanding early music and period performance artists. This hour, we’ll hear performances from the Best Opera and Best Classical categories; we’re even tipping our hats to a nominee for Classical Producer of the Year. And we don’t care so much about who wins or loses, because “it’s an honor just to be nominated!”
Let’s start with a peek at one of the contenders for Best Opera Recording in 2015. Martin Pearlman directs Boston Baroque in the opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria by Claudio Monteverdi. In this scene, Ulysses has woken disoriented on a shore in Ithaca.
We’ll hear more from (Ithaca and) this GRAMMY-nominated Boston Baroque recording later in the hour.
BEST CLASSICAL INSTRUMENTAL SOLO & BEST CLASSICAL SOLO VOCAL ALBUM
It’s was quite a year for South African fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout. Aside from an incredibly demanding schedule of concert performances and frequent collaborations with some of the world’s most amazing early music ensembles, Kristian managed to secure two GRAMMY nominations.
First, let’s hear from his seventh volume of Mozart’s keyboard music – a recording nominated in the Best Classical Instrumental Solo category.
Kristian’s on another 2015 GRAMMY-nominated recording—this one with tenor Mark Padmore in the category of Best Classical Solo Vocal Album.
BEST CHORAL PERFORMANCE & BEST PRODUCER, CLASSICAL
Harry Christophers and his choir and period-instrument orchestra, The Sixteen, are nominated for a Best Choral Performance GRAMMY with their CD of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. Let’s hear “Laudate pueri” based on Psalm 112. [Grace Davidson, Charlotte Mobbs, sopranos; tenors Mark Dobell, Simon Berridge, and Jeremy Budd; Ben Davies, Eamonn Dougan, bass]
In addition to the performers, award programs like the GRAMMYS honor those talented folks behind the scenes, like producers and engineers. One such nominee is Dan Merceruio, the producer for Sonus Luminus, a label known for its high fidelity recordings of acoustic performances. (If you remember the early music label Dorian from years ago – it was purchased by Sonus Luminus in 2005.)
Dan is up for Classical Producer of the Year for his work on several recordings including From Whence We Came by the traditional and early music group Ensemble Galilei and What Artemisia Heard by the period instrument ensemble El Mundo, directed by Richard Savino.
Let’s hear two tracks from El Mundo’s recording, the first piece by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger and the second by Luigi Rossi. [Jennifer Ellis Kampani & Céline Ricci, sopranos; Richard Savino & Adam Cockerham, theorbo; Paul Psarras & John Schneiderman, baroque guitar; Cheryl Ann Fulton, baroque harp]
BEST OPERA RECORDING
The category of Best Opera Recording includes two early music contenders. First up is a performance of Monteverdi’s opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria by Boston Baroque, directed by Martin Pearlman.
In this scene, after ten long years, Penelope’s still awaiting Ulysses’ return and continues to resist her three diligent suitors. Let’s hear as they attempt to cheer her with song and dance. Jennifer Rivera is Penelope and Jonas Budris, Owen McIntosh, and Ulysses Thomas as her admirers.
Monteverdi’s operatic telling of Homer’s Odyssey is joined by another mythological story in the running for Best Opera Recording in 2015. The Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Agostino Steffani’s Niobe, Regina Di Tebe.
Let’s hear music from Act III as the gods enact their revenge on the narcissistic Niobe—killing her children, (which prompts her husband, in grief, to commit suicide), and then turning her to stone. The Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra performs under the directions of Stephen Stubbs and Paul O’Dette with Amanda Forsythe as Niobe and Philippe Jaroussky as Amphion.
BEST CLASSICAL COMPENDIUM
Our featured recording is a 2015 GRAMMY nominee for Best Classical Compendium. Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort & Players perform Handel’s pastoral ode L’Allegro, Il Penseroso Ed Il Moderato along with three of Handel’s concertos.
Coming up, a fugue from one of those concertos, but first, music from Handel’s pastoral ode. We’ll hear from both L’Allegro, the joyful man, and Il Penseroso, the contemplative one. The Gabrieli Consort & Players performs with soprano is Gillian Webster, along with treble Laurence Kilsby. Paul McCreesh directed.
Break and theme music
:30, What Artemisia Heard, El Mundo/ Richard Savino, Sono Luminus 2014, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Tr. 6 Canzona (excerpt of 2:41)
:60, What Artemisia Heard, El Mundo/ Richard Savino, Sono Luminus 2014, Andrea Falconieri, Tr. 18 Folia echa para mi Señora Doña Tarolilla di Carallenos (excerpt of 4:38)
:30, What Artemisia Heard, El Mundo/ Richard Savino, Sono Luminus 2014, Nicholas Lanier, Tr. 20 Symphonia in G (excerpt of 1:31)
Theme: Danse Royale, Ensemble Alcatraz, Elektra Nonesuch 79240-2 1992 B000005J0B, T.12: La Prime Estampie Royal
The writer for this edition of Harmonia is LuAnn Johnson.
Learn more about recent early music CDs on the Harmonia Early Music Podcast. You can subscribe on iTunes or at harmonia early music dot org.