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IU Jacobs School of Music

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IU Jacobs School of Music

Last modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2008

IU Jacobs School of Music captures several Grammy nominations

Feb. 6, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is once again prominent at the Grammy Awards, with three recordings up for a total of five awards at this year's ceremony, taking place Feb. 10.

Legendary conductor and IU faculty member Leonard Slatkin conducts the Nashville Orchestra on Tower: Made in America, nominated for best classical album, best orchestral performance and best classical contemporary composition. Acclaimed soprano and IU Professor Carol Vaness sings the title role in Albéniz: Pepita Jimenez, nominated for best opera recording. Wolodymyr Smishkewych, a graduate student in voice, joins with recent IU alum Andrew Hendricks and former IU faculty member Paul Hillier on Stockhausen: Stimmung, which helped earn producer Robina G. Young a nomination for producer of the year.

Representing a diverse array of styles from contemporary classical to Spanish opera to experimental a cappella, the nominated recordings highlight the wide range of strengths at the celebrated school.

In addition to the selections described in detail below, three other IU alumni were nominated for Grammy Awards: Chris Botti for best pop instrumental album, Michael Brecker (posthumously) for best jazz instrumental solo and best jazz instrumental album, and John Clayton for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist(s).

Leonard Slatkin on Made in America

Already a five-time Grammy winner who has been nominated more than 50 times for his more than 100 recordings, Slatkin leads the Nashville Orchestra in contemporary composer Joan Tower's Made in America. The stirring title track was commissioned by the Ford Made in America project, which supports American orchestras and composers in conjunction with the National Endowment for the Arts. The disc also includes Tower's rhythmic "Tambor" and multi-textured "Concerto for Orchestra."

Leonard Slatkin

Leonard Slatkin

Print-Quality Photo

"Joan has a particularly individual style of writing," Slatkin said. "One could say that there is a great deal of influence from Stravinsky and Bartok, but her music is instantly recognizable as being 'Towering.' In other words, she has her own special voice."

This recording was Slatkin's second with Tower. His relationship with the Nashville Orchestra is also long-standing; he currently serves as its music advisor.

"Joan was present for the recording, and like any fine composer, contributed all of the advice we needed," Slatkin said. "I do not think it matters whether we win or not. The most important aspect of the nomination is to ensure the music's survival over the years through the Naxos catalog. This disc makes a great introduction to Joan's music, and all of us had a great time putting it together."

Slatkin's highly active conducting career includes his positions as music director of the National Symphony and principal guest conductor of both the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has made regular appearances with virtually every major national orchestra, including the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Royal Contertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam and many others.

Slatkin will be conducting the IU Philharmonic Orchestra during a free concert at the IU Auditorium, Sunday, March 23, at 8 p.m. The concert will feature guest pianist and composer Michal Camilo.

Carol Vaness on Pepita Jimenez

In the first-ever complete and accurate recording of Spanish composer Issac Albéniz's Pepita Jimenez, acclaimed soprano Vaness sings the title role opposite her longtime collaborator, legendary tenor Plácido Domingo.

Written in 1896, the opera is based on a classic Spanish novel of the same name by Juan Valera. In the story, Vaness' character, a young Andalusian widow, falls in love with a would-be seminarian (Domingo), and they elope together in the course of just one day.

The opera is sung in English, in accordance with the wishes of the late composer.

"It was absolutely Albéniz's intent to have people really understand his operas," Vaness said. "He wanted them translated into French if they were performed in France, and so on. He wanted the music to be accessible to the audience."

The composer's work has been rescued from near-obscurity by conductor Jose de Eusebio, who organized the recording. He tracked down Vaness, who was singing Tosca in Madrid, and they completed the recording with only two weeks of preparation.

"It was quite an experience," Vaness said. "We were in a theater outside Madrid -- what we would call a community theater, but a community theater in Madrid looks like a full opera house."

With Albéniz's operatic influences ranging from Giacomo Puccini to Gilbert and Sullivan, Vaness said she found a lot to love in the opera's score.

"The music of Albéniz is Wagnerian in scope with these incredible flairs of Spanish influence making for very lush music," she said.

Born in San Diego, Vaness launched her professional singing career at the New York City Opera, where she appeared regularly from 1979 to 1983. Since then, she has sung on the world's biggest stages and at premier music festivals, collaborated with today's foremost conductors in operatic and symphonic repertoires, appeared on numerous television broadcasts throughout North America and Europe, and compiled a distinguished catalog of recordings.

Wolodymyr Smishkewych, Andrew Hendricks and Paul Hillier on Stimmung

This recording of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung, led by Paul Hillier, former director of the IU Early Music Institute and former Choral Department faculty member, showcases the voices of doctoral candidate Wolodymyr Smishkewych and recent IU alum Andrew Hendricks.

Stockhausen, who passed away last year, was a groundbreaking and controversial modern composer who was among the first to experiment with electronic sound. Stimmung is a purely vocal composition featuring six voices, three male and three female. The word "stimmung" means "tuning," and on this recording the voices blend, bend and bounce off each other as they sing, chant, hum and speak through 51 iterations of a meditation in B-flat.

During recording, the singers sat in a circle, with the sound engineer in the same room applying reverberation and adjusting volume as they went along. The recording accurately captures the experience of being within the circle of singers, Smishkewych said.

"The piece had to be recorded in only a few takes -- about three per section, I think, and these weren't actual sections, but rather the places where there were small gaps available to edit," he said. "Otherwise, there was little room for editing, and it was all done simultaneously -- no track mixing or overdubs."

Smishkewych has sung with Hillier since 1999, recording three albums under his direction prior to this latest -- Fragments with Theatre of Voices, Byrd: the Three Masses with Hillier and the Pro Arte Singers, and Taverner: Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas with Hillier directing Ars Nova Copenhagen. A professional performing artist for 12 years, his vocal prowess is matched only by his gift for building and repairing medieval string instruments.

About the IU Jacobs School of Music

As one of the most comprehensive and acclaimed institutions for the study of music, the IU Jacobs School of Music plays a key role in educating performers, scholars, composers, dancers and music educators who influence performance and education around the globe.

The 170 full-time faculty members in residence at the Jacobs School include performers, scholars, composers and teachers of international renown. The more than 1,600 students from all 50 states and 55 countries outside the United States who study at the Jacobs School benefit from the intensity and focus of a conservatory combined with the broad academic offerings of a major university.