ALBANY — The Recording Academy announced nominations for the 63rd Grammy Awards on Nov. 24, netting Albany Symphony its fifth nomination in seven years.
The orchestra was nominated for its recording of Christopher Theofanidis’ “Concerto for Viola and Chamber Orchestra.” Viola player Richard O’Neill was nominated for the concerto’s solo. The category Albany Symphony is vying for is “Best Classical Instrumental Solo,” the same category that netted Miller and the group its 2013 win.
David Alan Miller, Albany Symphony’s conductor, said the feat is unusual because violas are in the middle of the string section; if you look at previous nominations and even the ones from this year, many boast a piano or violin solo.
“To have a concerto that features a viola solo nominated is absolutely amazing,” Miller said. “We are honored to be nominated and we are so incredibly proud of Richard for his incredible work.”
Since the orchestra’s first win, Miller said the recognition has been steady. He credits this to the group’s approach to music; it tries to record either contemporary music or music that hasn’t been recorded before.”
“Most orchestras record music that has been recorded tons of times and was written by old, dead, white men,” Miller explained. “Nobody wants to hear a Tchaikovsky piece recorded for the 20th time. We want to contribute to the industry in a different way. Chris [Theofanidis] is a composer we’ve worked with annually for about 10 years and he has a way of making this group ‘sing’ in a way that’s so unique to him.”
Theofanidis, 52, is a graduate of Yale, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Houston. His work has been commissioned by some of the biggest forces in classical music, including the London Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and others across the country. He served as the Pittsburgh Symphony’s Composer of the Year from 2006 to 2007; during that time, he wrote a concerto for esteemed violinist Sarah Chang. Theofanidis is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship to France, six ASCAP Gould Prizes and a 2007 Grammy nomination for best composition of “The Here and Now,” amongst other awards.
Miller added there were about 200 submissions for the category. While he expects the Grammys to be at least partially virtual due to the ongoing pandemic, he said the honor of being nominated never gets old.
“To be recognized in the same category as greats like The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra is such an honor,” he concluded. “We always say that even if we didn’t bring the statue home, that fact that we were nominated means we won. Despite the difference in our budget and those of orchestras like our fellow nominees, we’re happy we’ve been continually recognized for the work we are putting out there.”
The Grammy Awards will air on Jan. 31, on CBS.