An album recorded and produced by West Virginia University faculty has received a nomination for a 2018 Grammy Award in the Best Classical Compendium category.
Lucy Mauro, associate professor of piano, and Mark Benincosa, recording engineer and instructor of music technology, released “Mademoiselle – Première Audience” in March 2017 to document the work of Nadia Boulanger.
Boulanger was one of the leading musicians of the 20th century, an influential teacher and gifted pianist and organist whose students included Roy Harris, Quincy Jones and John Eliot Gardiner. But because she dismissed her own compositions as useless, many remained almost completely unrecognized until Mauro and Benincosa stepped in.
“We’re thrilled and honored that Boulanger’s beautiful music has been recognized,” Mauro said. “And we’re so grateful for all the support from WVU and the state to make the recording possible.”
Mauro jumpstarted the project by researching scores, gathering funding and practicing to perform on the album. Benincosa took care of technical details like selecting equipment, and creative ones, including devising production techniques.
“Personally, I felt it was important to document so much unreleased music because of the impact Boulanger has had historically and simply because the music is of a high quality,” Benincosa said. “I find it interesting that Nadia Boulanger kind of gave up composing because she felt she did not have enough talent and instead focused primarily on teaching. Imagine the ‘what might have been’ scenario had she decided to focus on composing and less on teaching.”
Mauro and Benincosa recorded much of the music in Bloch Hall at WVU’s Creative Arts Center with soprano Nicole Cabell, tenor Alek Shrader, baritone Edwin-Crossley Mercer and cellist Amit Peled. The duo traveled to the L’eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Paris where Benincosa recorded the church’s official organist, François-Henri Houbart, play Boulanger’s work on the same historic organ that she once used.
“It seemed so natural to record the organ music in the actual place that Nadia played organ,” Benincosa said. “Recording in a historic location is both exciting and challenging.”
This process took Mauro and Benincosa nearly three years. Once all the pieces were recorded, Benincosa began mixing and mastering the tracks, looking to Mauro for feedback.
“We sat down and listened to various takes to choose what would make it to the album,” Benincosa said. “We worked very hard on picking the best balance of technique, emotion and sound quality.”
To support the project, Mauro and Benincosa applied for and received the WVU Senate Research Grant, West Virginia State Arts Council Grant and the WVU College of Creative Arts and School of Music Faculty Development Grants. They worked with Delos Productions to bring the album to market.
Mauro and Benincosa will be in attendance at the 60th Grammy Awards at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 28. The ceremony will be broadcast live on CBS from 7:30 – 11 p.m.
“Seeing this album nominated for a Grammy is so very exciting all around and, obviously, an honor,” Benincosa said.
In addition to the Grammy award, the album is also nominated for the International Classical Music Awards based in Europe.