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.)


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