David Alan Miller always enjoys his visits back home to Southern California, but this time the trip was really special.
Miller, conductor and music director of the Albany Symphony Orchestra, was in Los Angeles Sunday night to accept a Grammy Award for the ASO’s rendition of John Corigliano’s “Conjurer” in the category of Best Classical Instrumental Solo.
“This is something we here at ASO really can take ownership of,” said Miller on Monday afternoon from his parents’ home in the San Fernando Valley. “It’s a collaboration with the composer and the soloist, but we conceived it, we really pushed for the disc, we raised money for it. We made it happen and we all just feel wonderful about it.”
The song was part of ASO’s 2011-2012 season and was recorded with percussion soloist Dame Evelyn Glennie on March 13, 2011, at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. It was released last fall on the NAXOS label.
“The disc was entirely made up of the music of John Corigliano, and performed entirely by the Albany Symphony Orchestra with Evelyn Glennie,” said Miller. “We have a very strong view about recording, and we only record pieces essentially that aren’t otherwise available. Most famous pieces have been recorded hundreds of times, but we always felt that our recording should be limited to works principally by living composers that aren’t usually produced commercially. It’s a service to the composer, and without groups like us how would people ever hear this wonderful music.”
Corigliano is one of the most celebrated contemporary composers working today, and his music has been performed by the most prominent orchestras, soloists and chamber musicians in the world. He won an Oscar in 1999 for Best Music Score for “The Red Violin,” and in 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for “Symphony No. 2.” Sunday night’s Grammy was his second, having already claimed the 2009 award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition for Bob Dylan’s “Tambourine Man.”
Glennie, a virtuoso percussionist from Scotland, will return to the Capital Region to perform with the ASO later this season.
“She’s arguably the world’s most celebrated percussionist, and we’re thrilled that she’s going to be back with us in May,” Miller said of Glennie. “She is amazing.”
Glennie earned a Grammy in 1989 for Best Chamber Music, and also was named the 2006 Sabian Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
Miller had conducted the ASO Saturday night at the David Griggs-Janower Memorial Concert at the Cathedral of All Saints in Albany and had immediately left for Newark where he got on a 7 a.m. flight to the West Coast.
The nomination, the first for ASO, was announced on Dec. 10.
“It was a fantastic experience, and it’s even more fantastic when you win,” said Miller, who has been ASO’s conductor since 1992. “But it’s also great to be there, and it’s thrilling to see how vibrant and vital the American music industry is. Despite all the negative stuff you hear and all the challenges facing musicians, it’s great to see these people doing very important and very powerful work. It changes your perspective on things, and makes you feel like you’re a part of this one large and artistic family.”
Along with his pride in the ASO, Miller praised Capital Region audiences.
“We were competing against the New York Philharmonic and other groups of that size and scope,” he said. “That makes me very proud of our musicians and also our audience. More than in any other part of the country, I think people from the Capital Region really understand and appreciate the value and importance of performing this kind of music. Otherwise, you’re not going to hear it. We have a very small budget, but we are unique. I am working with brilliant musicians.”
Miller also remembered to shower praise on the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.
“It’s one of the legendary recording venues in the world,” he said. “I can remember when we did the recording, I was thinking, ‘This is really special.’ I was thinking, ‘We might have a chance at a Grammy,’ but then I tried not to worry about it.”