the grammy goes to...

Houston Symphony makes history with first-ever Grammy win

Houston Symphony makes history with first-ever Grammy win

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The Houston Symphony won its first Grammy award in its 104-year existence, in Best Opera Recording. Photo by Zach Mahone
Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the orchestra
The Houston Symphony, now under the direction of Andrés Orozco-Estrada, will head out on a 15-day European tour in March. Courtesy photo
Hans Graf, Houston Symphony, conductor
Former Houston Symphony music director Hans Graf produced the Grammy award-winning recording with in-house recording engineer Brady Sayles. Photo by Bruce Bennett
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Houston Symphony Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the orchestra
Hans Graf, Houston Symphony, conductor

The winners of the 2018 Grammy Awards were announced Sunday, January 28, in New York City, and one Houston organization is celebrating a historic local victory.

The Houston Symphony, along with the Chorus of Students and Alumni from Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and the Houston Grand Opera Children’s Chorus, picked up its first-ever golden gramophone — in the Best Opera Recording category for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck.

Former Houston Symphony music director Hans Graf and current in-house recording engineer Brad Sayles — both who produced the 2013 live recording for an early 2017 release — accepted the award in person. It is the first Grammy nomination and win in the symphony’s 104 years of existence.

“We couldn’t be more happy about it,” Vicky Dominguez, chief operating officer for the Houston Symphony, tells CultureMap. “It’s a huge boost. This is going to keep building enthusiasm for future recordings and tours and goes a long way towards us becoming a top-10 orchestra [in the United States].”

Members of the symphony discovered they had won the statuette when Dominguez made a backstage announcement at intermission and interim executive director Amanda Dinitz announced the news to the audience at Jones Hall following the intermission after Sunday’s performance of the Britten Violin Concerto. Many of the players who had performed on the recording are still members of the symphony. Now they can call themselves Grammy-award winning musicians.

“One player said she got emotional when she heard the news at intermission,” Dominguez says. “I hope it’s the beginning of many awards of this caliber for the Houston Symphony. They are playing at such a high level and this is a great recognition for them.”

The Houston Symphony records most performances and archives them for future broadcast on KUHT/Houston Public Media and American Public Media. Graf and Sayles decided the symphony’s rendition of Berg’s piece was so well done, it became a project for them to put it out commercially. They worked from two performances to master the recording and released it on the Naxos label. In addition to the Grammy, the album won the prestigious international ECHO Klassik award last fall, presented in Germany.

The Grammy award couldn’t come at a better time. The symphony will head out on its first major European tour in 20 years in March with eight performances in eight cities over 15 days. It will also release two more albums this year with recordings a major priority for current music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada.

“This is an amazing time to be a part of the Houston Symphony,” says Dominguez. “It’s all coming together. We want the city to feel ownership of their symphony and we want to be great ambassadors for the city.”

Closer to home, the award helps draw in audiences, season ticket holders and donors to the full slate of performances in the months ahead, the next being Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé on February 2, 3, and 4 at Jones Hall.

“Hopefully, word gets out that we won a Grammy and people’s curiosity will be piqued about what we are doing at the Houston Symphony,” says Dominguez. “I think being recognized for an award at this level, it’s a boost for us culturally in Houston.”

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For more information on the Houston Symphony, upcoming performances, and ticket availability, please visit www.houstonsymphony.org.