Thomas Huizenga
December 2, 2010

Independent labels such as Naxos, Harmonia Mundi and Dorian, have earned more than 20 Grammy nods, edging out major, legacy labels like RCA, EMI and Sony. Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony (on Naxos) is at the top with five nominations.

As far as trends go in this year’s nominations, the rise to prominence of the Naxos label is again in evidence. The once small-scaled label with the chintzy cover art garnered 11 nominations, the most of any label. It should be noted that Naxos also releases more records than anyone else, about 240 titles per year. The Naxos disc of music by Michael Daugherty—including his Superman-themed Metropolis Symphony—with the Nashville Symphony was the top vote-getter with five nominations, including Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance.

Other independent labels also shined. Harmonia Mundi had five nominations, and the Dorian Sono Luminus label, whose parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection just five years ago, earned a surprising six nominations, including a Best Opera nod for its recording of the little-known Marc’ Antonio e Cleopatra by Adolf Hasse. The recent trend of orchestras releasing their own records is also paying off. Albums by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project were nominated.

It says something about the recording industry that three of what used to be considered the “major” labels are barely represented: EMI and RCA (now owned by Sony) were completely shut out. Sony Classical earned a single nomination for soprano Jessye Norman’s excellent crossover album Roots: My Life, My Song.

It seems like a long time since Universal Classics (the Deutsche Grammophon, Philips and Decca labels) overwhelmed the Grammys in nominations and awards. This year the Universal group earned seven nominations, including frontrunner Cecilia Bartoli’s extraordinary album Sacrificium, a compendium of arias written for the infamous castrato singers of the 18th century.