The Corner

A Footnote to the Super Bowl

Just before the game, we had an interesting illustration of the difference between the pop-music world and the classical-music world. Renée Fleming, who would sing the national anthem, was introduced as “the Grammy-winning soprano,” or something like that. And on the screen were the words “four-time Grammy winner” (as I recall).

No one in the classical world gives a rat’s behind about the Grammys. (No one who is serious, that is.) The Grammys are a huge deal in the pop world. But I’m not sure there should even be Grammys for classical recordings. The ceremony and its awards are a pop event, a pop phenomenon. The classical awards are kind of like the technical awards at the Oscars — an afterthought, an odd formality. The technical awards are given out the day before the real Oscars, aren’t they?

Renée Fleming is a great and historic singer. To hear her described as a “Grammy-winner” was kind of funny. It’s like describing Joe DiMaggio as a — sorry, can’t come up with the right analogy at the moment. (Good thing I’m not a writer.) No one would say, “Bruno Walter knew his way around a Mahler symphony, but did he win any Grammys?” A Grammy should be no kind of validation, in the classical world. Maybe not in other worlds, either . . .

P.S. Georg Solti said the highest tribute he ever received was when Arturo Toscanini, to whom he was serving as an assistant, uttered one word to him — “Bene.” (Just “good,” essentially.)

Most Popular

Film & TV

Celebrity Activists Do Not Help

Michelle Williams, an actress, has decided to become a spokesman on the issue of pay inequality in her profession, and appears this month on the cover of Vanity Fair with a headline to that effect. This decision follows what she describes as a humiliating episode in which she learned in the pages of USA Today ... Read More

Washington in the Flesh, Almost

Canova's George Washington at the Frick Collection is the zenith of the museum's signature exhibition style. It's small, fewer than 20 objects. It's focused. It examines the creation of Antonio Canova's full-length sculpture of George Washington in Roman costume from 1821. It was Canova's (1757–1822) sole ... Read More