The Grammys 2023: Best Classical Instrumental Solo

ARHuelsenbeck
2 min readFeb 4, 2023

Abels: Isolation Variation, performed by Hilary Hahn:

Bach: The Art of Life is a double album by Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov consisting of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of the Fugue and other pieces by Bach and his sons, plus other composers’ works that appear in the Magdalena Bach notebook. It’s a fascinating project. Here is one selection:

Beethoven: Diabelli Variations, performed by Mitsuko Uchida. Here is the theme:

The theme and all 33 variations are also available on YouTube. Listen to at least one or two, because you really can’t judge them based on just the video I’ve posted here.

Time For Three is a string trio made up of violinist Nick Kendall, bassist Ranaan Meyer and violinist Charles Yang. Their album, Letters for the Future, features Jennifer Higdon’s Concerto 4–3 and Kevin Put’s Contact along with the Philadelphia Orchestra (Xian Zhang conducting). Here are some excerpts from Concerto 4–3:

(This has nothing to do with the Grammys, but I first heard of Charles Yang a decade ago, when I saw this video of him playing a duet with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro:)

A Night in Upper Town-The Music of Zoran Krajacic, performed by Mak Grgic:

It’s really hard to choose a favorite for this category. How can you judge between a single song and a double album? The scope of work is so diverse. (Actually, I’m not sure if the award is for one song or for the entire album it’s on; for some of the nominations, one song is all I could find online.) The award is for the performance, not for the composition. And all of the nominated musicians are outstanding.

I eliminated Mak Grgic not because he didn’t play well, but because the piece was less virtuoso level.

Ultimately, I’d like Hillary Hahn to win, and I have to admit it’s a totally subjective choice. Everything I like about her performance can be said about the other three as well. On repeated listenings, I like how she used dynamics to give interest to a piece that could have seemed merely discordant. Her musicianship is impeccable. We don’t get to see her play in the video, but we can hear her movement-it’s there in the expressiveness of the performance.

Now it’s your turn. Who would you give the Grammy to, and why? Share in the comments below.

The Grammy ceremony will air tomorrow, Sunday night, February 5, on CBS. I’m not sure if I will watch some or all of it, but I’ll definitely compare the results to my picks next Tuesday. See you then!

Originally published at http://arhtisticlicense.com on February 4, 2023.

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ARHuelsenbeck

Former elementary general music teacher. Wife, mother of 5, grandma of 3. Blogging about the arts and the creative process at https://ARHtisticLicense.com.