Mahler triumphs at the Grammys

Michael Tilson Thomas's recording of ‘Symphony of a Thousand’ walks away with three awards

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It wasn’t just Beyoncé and Taylor Swift that swept the Grammy Awards on Sunday evening; Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 picked up no less than three of the coveted record industry statuettes.

The recording, which also features the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 and was BBC Music Magazine's Disc of the Month in December 2009, scooped Best Choral Performance, Best Engineered Classical Album and the highest honour of them all, Best Classical Album.

Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is most famous for its epic scale, and was originally dubbed 'Symphony of a Thousand’ (much to the composer’s annoyance) due to its use of enormous orchestral forces, including three choruses, eight soloists, and a massive orchestra, bringing the total number of performers to around 1,000.

‘I see an incredible amount of fun here’ Michael Tilson Thomas told BBC Music Magazine about the Eighth in December 2009. On the trials of bringing such an ambitious project into fruition, the 66-year-old conductor commented that ‘there are witty, parodistic, provocative and childlike impulses in this symphony, not to mention flirtatious and whimsical ones, but it’s for such massive forces. It’s hard to get 500 people to be witty, charming, acerbic all at the same instant.’

Other notable winners of the 52nd Grammy Awards included James Levine conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Ravel (Best Orchestral Performance), Evgeny Kissin for his recording of Prokofiev’s Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 3 (Best Instrumental Soloist Performance) and the Emerson String Quartet for their Janácek album Intimate Letters (Best Chamber Music Performance).