The Boston Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Andris Nelsons, struck Grammy gold on Monday night, when “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow,” their debut recording for the venerable German label Deutsche Grammophon, earned the prize for best orchestral performance. The award is the BSO’s seventh Grammy (eighth including a 1966 win for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players), and Nelsons’s first.
The CD, which features the Soviet-era Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and the Passacaglia from his opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk,” is the first release in a series now projected to comprise all 15 of Shostakovich’s symphonies and more, recorded live by Nelsons and the orchestra. The win was announced during the pre-telecast ceremony in Los Angeles, and Nelsons revealed the recording project’s expanded scope during an interview Monday evening.
“Firstly I’m very proud of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,” a tired but audibly ebullient Nelsons said by telephone from Amsterdam, where he is due to conduct the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6 this week. “All of the wonderful musicians, of course, but also the management team, the board, the supporters, and the audience, all the people who are a part of the Boston Symphony family.” Both the nomination and the award, he said, acknowledge the institution’s teamwork and its passion for music.
As importantly, Nelsons asserted, the award also honors Shostakovich. “In the end, it’s about the composer, about these great symphonies — and of course in this case, the Symphony No. 10 was very personal to Shostakovich,” he said. “I’m thankful to Deutsche Grammophon, our partners — we are going to record the complete Shostakovich symphonies and hopefully some other things as well. They took a partnership with us, and took such a great composer as Shostakovich. Somebody else might have said, ‘You could have taken somebody easier.’”
As originally announced, the project undertaken by Nelsons, the orchestra, and the label featured Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5-10 and a handful of smaller works. The next release, a two-CD set including Shostakovich’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 8, and 9 and incidental music from “Hamlet,” is scheduled to arrive in late April. But now, in addition to a complete cycle of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies, a new recording of the opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” is also under discussion — with official resolve now presumably bolstered by a Grammy win.
“It’s a huge honor,” Nelsons said, “and also, for me, as a conductor who doesn’t play any notes, a great honor and confirmation of how great the musicians of the Boston Symphony are, on the one hand, and on the other, how great and ingenious Shostakovich’s music is, and how necessary it is to hear this music now.
“The world is going a bit crazy,” he added, “and what Shostakovich says through these symphonies is actually very [timely] nowadays. I’m very happy and touched that people feel the necessity to listen to this music, and that this music gives them emotional and intellectual comfort.”
Another name familiar to BSO audiences also entered the winners’ circle on Monday: Seiji Ozawa, the orchestra’s music director from 1973 to 2002 and now its music director laureate, earned the Grammy for best opera recording for a disc of Ravel’s “L’Enfant et Les Sortilèges” and “Shéhérazade.” The recording, which features Ozawa, soprano Isabel Leonard, the Saito Kinen Orchestra, and the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto Chorus and Children’s Chorus, was issued by Decca, a sister label to Deutsche Grammophon under the Universal Classics umbrella.
Ozawa’s most recent appearances with the BSO at Symphony Hall took place in fall 2008. He is scheduled to return to Tanglewood this summer, 10 years since his last appearance at the festival; he led his final concert as BSO music director at Tanglewood in 2002.