Grammy City -- Three Nominations Put Seattle Symphony And Schwarz In The Big Time

A record day, you might say, for Seattle artists who captured nine nominations yesterday in the annual Grammy awards competition. Who are these people, and what does the honor mean to their futures? We have two reports today, from Times critics Melinda Bargreen and Patrick MacDonald.

The Seattle Symphony Orchestra has its first Grammy nomination - in triplicate.

And hats are being tossed into the air from Los Angeles (where the symphony's Delos label is located) to Hawaii (where conductor Gerard Schwarz is currently in rehearsal) to Seattle, where the news was received amidst loud whoops yesterday morning.

The three nominations are for the symphony's Howard Hanson compact disc, now in its 25th week on the Billboard Magazine Top 20 classical releases chart, and the recent winner of Stereo Review Magazine's prestigious ``Recording of the Year'' for 1989. The latter award calls the Hanson disc a ``performance that stands up to the very best. . . . a major achievement.''

Music director Schwarz also received another Grammy nomination for his Angel Records disc of Copland works (including the Clarinet Concerto with soloist David Shifrin), with Schwarz's New York Chamber Symphony.

``I'm thrilled for the Seattle Symphony, and happy for this recognition,'' Schwarz said last night in a telephone interview. ``I thought the Hanson disc wouldn't sell at all. But here I think you're seeing a real case of us influencing the world of music in our country, bringing a great American composer into prominence again, and that pleases me very much.''

The Grammy nominations are a clear indication that Seattle - after a little more than three years of making compact discs with Delos - now is being taken seriously as an acknowledged force in classical music, with a recording that is ranked on the short list of great international discs of 1989. Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony will be up against such artists as Leonard Bernstein, James Levine and the late Herbert von Karajan, in two of the Grammy nomination categories, best classical album and best orchestral performance. Delos engineer John Eargle was cited in the third nomination, best engineered recording.

Delos head of production Adam Stern, recording producer for the Hanson album, calls the nominations ``justice being done. Gerard Schwarz has built what is probably the single most flexible recording orchestra in the country, and now we've proved it. It's a tremendous honor, no matter what the outcome, and the first step in letting everyone know what a great orchestra and conductor you have in Seattle.''

Delos president Amelia Haygood is equally jubilant: ``We have been pushing the public to let them know great things are happening outside of New York. It is wonderful to get this recognition. We've been telling everyone, `Gerry (Schwarz) and Seattle,' and now this is the response.''

It's a particular triumph for Delos, too, which was in reorganization bankruptcy a little more than a year ago, prior to signing with A&M Records as distributors last May. Delos has another nomination: a solo disc by cellist Janos Starker, who is set to perform here with Jan. 29 and 30.

One aspect of the nominations that particularly pleases Delos marketing director and media coordinator Rudi Simpson is that Hanson - like several of the other composers Schwarz has recorded - is an American, and Delos is devoted to what Simpson calls ``raising everyone's consciousness about American composers.

``We're planning the release of new Seattle Symphony discs of American composers Walter Piston, David Diamond, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin, plus another Hanson disc,'' Simpson reports. ``This is just the first step. We've been getting many calls from abroad, as well as coast to coast, expressing interest in these recordings. And the Seattle Symphony certainly deserves the attention: They just enjoy playing, and it really shows.''

Area nominees at a glance

Seattle Symphony: Classical engineering, performance and disc

Diane Schuur: Female jazz vocal

Gerard Schwarz: Classical instrumental

Queensryche: Metal vocal or instrumental

Soundgarden: Metal vocal or instrumental

Kenny G: Pop instrumental

Robert Fulghum: Spoken word