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Classical guitarist Slava Grigoryan has topped the list of nominations for the 2017 ARIA Fine Arts and Artisan Awards, with four albums nominated in three categories, including two albums up for Best Classical Album. Meanwhile, ABC Music’s labels have received 14 nominations across the Classical, Soundtrack, World, Jazz, Comedy and Engineer categories including a five-album clean sweep in the Best Classical Album category.
However, the fact that an album of pop songs by Kate Miller-Heidke recorded live with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra has a nomination for Best Classical Album is likely to raise eyebrows again, following last year's controversy when electronic duo Flight Facilities won Best Classical Album for a concert recorded live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
There was consternation and then protests from members of the classical music industry in 2016 when Flight Facilities won Best Classical Album, causing observers to ask if there was something wrong with the ARIA's eligibilty criteria and voting system, given that Flight Facilities's compositions clearly sat within the electronic music genre. Similar questions are likely to be raised over the Miller-Heidke/SSO album, despite enormous respect for Miller-Heidke as an artist. The album is eligible for nomination due to the cross-over chart eligibility, which is defined as: "pop artists performing with symphony orchestra".
Grigoryan has two nominations this year for Best Classical Album for his chart-topping Bach Cello Suites Volume I and for Songs Without Words. His Bach Cello Suites Volume I – which broke records for its 13 weeks at number one in the ARIA classical chart, and which is still in the top ten after being released in November 2016 – was his first solo album in 15 years and the first solo album on which he plays a baritone guitar. It received a four-and-half star review from Limelight and, in July, won Best Independent Classical Album at the AIR Awards.
Writing for Limelight during the recording of the album, Grigoryan said: “I feel so strongly about this music. When I’m working with students, I’m always telling them it’s important to imagine you wrote this music yourself and be as proud of it as you possibly can. To connect with an audience you have to imagine Bach’s ideas are your ideas. That way it becomes so much more believable… I really hope that in my own small way I will be able to pay tribute to all those other brilliant interpretations of Bach.”
Songs Without Words, meanwhile, was recorded by Grigoryan with his brother Leonard Grigoryan, and features music by Dvorák, Elgar, Falla, Fauré, Ponce, Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. Grigoryan is also nominated for Best World Music Album for Migration, recorded with the Australian String Quartet. Featuring world premiere recordings of music by Ralph Towner, Wolfgang Muthspiel and Iain Grandage, it received a four-and-a-half star review from Limelight. His fourth nomination is for the Ali’s Wedding Original Soundtrack, composed by Nigel Westlake and recorded by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which also features Grigoryan and oud player Joseph Tawadros.
The other nominations for Best Classical Album include Jayson Gillham and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing Medtner's Piano Concert No 1 and Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No 2, conducted by Benjamin Northey, which received a five-star review from Limelight and was Recording of the Month in September, and Unsent Love Letters: Meditations on Erik Satie by Elena Kats-Chernin and Tamara-Anna Cislowska, which was also very positiely reviewed by Limelight.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra received a nomination for Best Original Soundtrack for Mountain, while the late John Clarke was nominated for Best Comedy Album for Clarke’s Classics.
The winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on Tuesday October 10.