Grammy Awards

2020 Grammy Awards: 5 Classical Moments We Loved

Pictured: Nicola Benedetti by Simon Fowler.

By Mary Lathem

The 62nd GRAMMY Awards were stacked with dynamic performances and historic wins, including plenty of thrills for fans of classical music. For those who missed the broadcast (or just want to relive the glory), we’ve rounded up some of the classical moments that defined the GRAMMYs this year:


1. Nicola Benedetti’s powerful performance at the GRAMMY Award Premiere Ceremony left the audience in awe.

The Scottish-born violinist’s rendition of “Bye Bye Breakdown” from American jazz composer Wynton Marsalis’ “Fiddle Dance Suite,” evoked thunderous applause from the audience at the GRAMMY Award Premiere Ceremony, where the majority of GRAMMYs are awarded prior to the televised ceremony. She later received the award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo for her recording of Marsalis’ “Violin Concerto and Fiddle Dance Suite.” Benedetti was the first classical solo violinist to perform at the GRAMMY Award Premiere Ceremony in a decade.

Watch Benedetti’s performance here:

VIDEO: Nicola Benedetti performs “Fiddle Dance Suite” at the 2020 Grammy Awards.


2. Lizzo’s opening performance featured an all-female string and horn orchestra (and, of course, her famous flute).

Singer-songwriter and rapper Lizzo kicked off the GRAMMYs broadcast with a medley of her hit songs accompanied by an orchestra of her own vision. An outspoken former “band kid” and classically trained flutist, Lizzo has often commented positively on her own musical education and encouraged others to try playing an instrument.  Lizzo proclaimed “Tonight is for Kobe” as her performance began, paying tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who lost his life in a tragic aviation accident earlier in the day.

The multidimensional artist went on to win three GRAMMY Awards for Best Pop Solo Performance (“Truth Hurts”), Best Urban Contemporary Album (Cuz I Love You), and Best Traditional R&B performance (“Jerome”).

Watch Lizzo’s performance here:

VIDEO: Lizzo performs “Cuz I Love You” & “Truth Hurts” at the 2020 Grammy Awards.


3. John Williams received his 25th Grammy Award, winning the Best Instrumental Composition category for “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite.”

Subtitled “Music inspired by the Disney themed land,” Williams’ winning composition was written for the Disneyland theme park Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where it will greet visitors via overhead speakers for years to come. The suite is Williams’ first work for Star Wars that does not weave in previously written themes (no Imperial March here).

Hear Williams’ “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite”:

VIDEO/AUDIO: John Williams’ “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite”


4. Classical giants Joshua Bell and Lang Lang joined several famous faces in a tribute to producer Ken Ehrlich.

After 40 years leading the show, GRAMMYs executive producer Ken Ehrlich announced that the 2020 ceremony would be his last as he enters retirement. In true GRAMMYs fashion, a colossal, diverse group of talents joined together in a salute to Ehrlich’s contributions, performing “I Sing the Body Electric” from the 1980 movie musical Fame. Along with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Lang Lang, the star-studded ensemble featured singers Camila Cabello, John Legend, Gary Clark Jr., Cyndi Lauper, and Ben Platt; rapper Common, and ballet dancer Misty Copeland among others.

Watch Joshua Bell and Lang Lang’s opening moments with Camila Cabello:


5. Hildur Guðnadóttir won Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for the miniseries Chernobyl, another history-making award for the Icelandic composer.

Guðnadóttir has had quite the awards season already, becoming the first solo woman to receive the Best Original Score award at the Golden Globes for Joker in early January. Her most recent win marks another historical moment: she is now the first solo woman to take home the Best Score Soundrack for Visual Media GRAMMY award as well. To match the industrial grittiness of the destruction onscreen, Guðnadóttir knitted the score for Chernobyl together with sounds recorded in a real power plant in Lithuania.

Watch Guðnadóttir’s explanation of the creative process:

VIDEO: ‘Chernobyl’ composer created entire haunting score from real power plant sounds.

Read the list of nominees and winners in the Classical, Music for Visual Media and Arranging/Composing categories, here.

2020 Grammy Awards: Complete List of Classical Nominees & Winners

Image Credit: Courtesy of the Recording Academy™/Getty Images © 2019

The 62nd Grammy Awards marked a banner year for excellence and innovation in classical music, including numerous history-making wins. For more on the 2020 Grammys, don’t miss our roundup of 5 Classical Moments We Loved.


Best Orchestral Performance

WINNER Norman: Sustain
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9
Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Copland: Billy The Kid; Grohg
Leonard Slatkin, conductor (Detroit Symphony Orchestra)

Louis Langrée, conductor (Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra)

Weinberg: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 21
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor (City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Kremerata Baltica)

Best Opera Recording

WINNER Picker: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Gil Rose, conductor; John Brancy, Andrew Craig Brown, Gabriel Preisser, Krista River & Edwin Vega; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Boston Children’s Chorus)

Benjamin: Lessons In Love & Violence
George Benjamin, conductor; Stéphane Degout, Barbara Hannigan, Peter Hoare & Gyula Orendt; Raphaël Mouterde, James Whitbourn, producers (Orchestra Of The Royal Opera House)

Berg: Wozzeck
Marc Albrecht, conductor; Christopher Maltman & Eva-Maria Westbroek; François Roussillon, producer (Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Chorus Of Dutch National Opera)

Charpentier: Les Arts Florissants; Les Plaisirs De Versailles
Paul O’Dette & Stephen Stubbs, conductors; Jesse Blumberg, Teresa Wakim & Virginia Warnken; Renate Wolter-Seevers, producer (Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble; Boston Early Music Festival Vocal Ensemble)

Best Choral Performance

WINNER Duruflé: Complete Choral Works
Robert Simpson, conductor (Ken Cowan; Houston Chamber Choir)

Boyle: Voyages
Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)

The Hope Of Loving
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Conspirare)

Sander: The Divine Liturgy Of St. John Chrysostom
Peter Jermihov, conductor (Evan Bravos, Vadim Gan, Kevin Keys, Glenn Miller & Daniel Shirley; PaTRAM Institute Singers)

Smith, K.: The Arc In The Sky
Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

WINNER Shaw: Orange
Attacca Quartet

Cerrone: The Pieces That Fall To Earth
Christopher Rountree & Wild Up

Freedom & Faith

Third Coast Percussion

Rachmaninoff – Hermitage Piano Trio
Hermitage Piano Trio

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

WINNER Marsalis: Violin Concerto; Fiddle Dance Suite
Nicola Benedetti; Cristian Măcelaru, conductor (Philadelphia Orchestra)

The Berlin Recital
Yuja Wang

Higdon: Harp Concerto
Yolanda Kondonassis; Ward Stare, conductor (The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra)

The Orchestral Organ
Jan Kraybill

Torke: Sky, Concerto For Violin
Tessa Lark; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

WINNER Songplay
Joyce DiDonato; Chuck Israels, Jimmy Madison, Charlie Porter & Craig Terry, accompanists (Steve Barnett & Lautaro Greco)

The Edge Of Silence – Works For Voice By György Kurtág
Susan Narucki (Donald Berman, Curtis Macomber, Kathryn Schulmeister & Nicholas Tolle)

Philippe Jaroussky & Céline Scheen; Christina Pluhar, conductor; L’Arpeggiata, ensemble (Jesús Rodil & Dingle Yandell)

Schumann: Liederkreis Op. 24, Kerner-Lieder Op. 35
Matthias Goerne; Leif Ove Andsnes, accompanist

A Te, O Cara
Stephen Costello; Constantine Orbelian, conductor (Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra)

Best Classical Compendium

WINNER The Poetry Of Places
Nadia Shpachenko; Marina A. Ledin & Victor Ledin, producers

American Originals 1918
John Morris Russell, conductor; Elaine Martone, producer

Leshnoff: Symphony No. 4 ‘Heichalos’; Guitar Concerto; Starburst
Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

Meltzer: Songs And Structures
Paul Appleby & Natalia Katyukova; Silas Brown & Harold Meltzer, producers

Saariaho: True Fire; Trans; Ciel D’Hiver
Hannu Lintu, conductor; Laura Heikinheimo, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

WINNER Higdon: Harp Concerto
Jennifer Higdon, composer (Yolanda Kondonassis, Ward Stare & The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra)

Bermel: Migration Series For Jazz Ensemble & Orchestra
Derek Bermel, composer (Derek Bermel, Ted Nash, David Alan Miller, Juilliard Jazz Orchestra & Albany Symphony Orchestra)

Marsalis: Violin Concerto In D Major
Wynton Marsalis, composer (Nicola Benedetti, Cristian Măcelaru & Philadelphia Orchestra)

Norman: Sustain
Andrew Norman, composer (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Shaw: Orange
Caroline Shaw, composer (Attacca Quartet)

Wolfe: Fire In My Mouth
Julia Wolfe, composer (Jaap Van Zweden, Francisco J. Núñez, Donald Nally, The Crossing, Young People’s Chorus Of NY City & New York Philharmonic)



Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

WINNER A Star Is Born
(Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper) Paul “DJWS” Blair, Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Nick Monson, Lukas Nelson Mark Nilan Jr. & Benjamin Rice, compilation producers; Julianne Jordan & Julia Michels, music supervisors

The Lion King: The Songs
(Various Artists) Jon Favreau & Hans Zimmer, compilation producers

Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
(Various Artists) Quentin Tarantino, compilation producer; Mary Ramos, music supervisor

(Taron Egerton) Giles Martin, compilation producer

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
(Various Artists) Spring Aspers & Dana Sano, compilation producers; Kier Lehman, music supervisor

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media

WINNER Chernobyl
Hildur Guðnadóttir, composer

Avengers: Endgame
Alan Silvestri, composer

Game Of Thrones: Season 8
Ramin Djawadi, composer

The Lion King
Hans Zimmer, composer

Mary Poppins Returns
Marc Shaiman, composer

Best Song Written For Visual Media

WINNER “I’ll Never Love Again (Film Version)” from A Star is Born
Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Aaron Raitiere, songwriters (Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper)

“The Ballad Of The Lonesome Cowboy” from Toy Story 4
Randy Newman, songwriter (Chris Stapleton)

“Girl In The Movies” from Dumplin’
Dolly Parton & Linda Perry, songwriters (Dolly Parton)

“Spirit” from The Lion King
Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, Timothy McKenzie & Ilya Salmanzadeh, songwriters (Beyoncé)

“Suspirium” from Suspiria
Thom Yorke, songwriter (Thom Yorke)



Best Instrumental Composition

WINNER “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite”
John Williams, composer (John Williams)

“Begin Again”
Fred Hersch, composer (Fred Hersch & The WDR Big Band Conducted By Vince Mendoza)

“Crucible For Crisis”
Brian Lynch, composer (Brian Lynch Big Band)

“Love, A Beautiful Force”
Vince Mendoza, composer (Vince Mendoza, Terell Stafford, Dick Oatts & Temple University Studio Orchestra)

“Walkin’ Funny”
Christian McBride, composer (Christian McBride)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

WINNER “Moon River”
Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier)

“Blue Skies”
Kris Bowers, arranger (Kris Bowers)

“Hedwig’s Theme”
John Williams, arranger (Anne-Sophie Mutter & John Williams)

“La Novena”
Emilio Solla, arranger (Emilio Solla Tango Jazz Orchestra)

“Love, A Beautiful Force”
Vince Mendoza, arranger (Vince Mendoza, Terell Stafford, Dick Oatts & Temple University Studio Orchestra)

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

WINNER “All Night Long”
Jacob Collier, arranger (Jacob Collier Featuring Jules Buckley, Take 6 & Metropole Orkest)

Geoff Keezer, arranger (Sara Gazarek)

“Marry Me A Little”
Cyrille Aimée & Diego Figueiredo, arrangers (Cyrille Aimée)

“Over The Rainbow”
Vince Mendoza, arranger (Trisha Yearwood)

“12 Little Spells (Thoracic Spine)”
Esperanza Spalding, arranger (Esperanza Spalding)

For a complete list of winners and nominees from the awards ceremony, click here.