The 2021 ARIA Award nominations have been announced, with ABC Classic dominating the Classical category with four of the five nominees.

In the Classical category, wunderkind violinist Christian Li was nominated for his album of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – the youngest soloist to record the famous works. In our September issue Li spoke to Jo Litson about recording with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and his incredible career to date.

Emily Sun and Andrea Lam were nominated for their album of French repertoire, Nocturnes, which Will Yeoman called “a beautiful recital” in his four-star review. In our August issue, Sun spoke with Deputy Editor Hugh Robertson about the stresses of recording one’s debut album, particularly in the middle of a global pandemic.

Emily Sun

Emily Sun. Photo © Shi-Joong Kim.

Genevieve Lacey and Marshall McGuire have been nominated for their lockdown recording project, Bower, an extraordinary juxtaposition of Baroque and new experimental compositions that Will Yeoman described as “the perfect antidote to cabin fever” in his four-and-a-half star review.

Perennial nominees Slava and Leonard Grigoryan are nominated again for their album This is Us: A Musical Reflection of Australia, a fascinating project created in partnership with the National Museum of Australia, where the brothers composed 18 original works inspired by historical objects in the museum’s collection, from frames and lenses used by Professor Fred Hollows to A protest placard used at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra.

And Melbourne pianist/composer Nat Bartsch is nominated for her album Hope, an album initially composed amidst the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20, and then shaped anew by the pandemic.

The Jazz nominees come from several different labels, reflecting the diversity and ingenuity of the local scene. The only label to receive more than one nomination is Earshift Music, the Sydney-based label established in 2009 by saxophonist-composer Jeremy Rose. They have had two albums nominated: Haven, by Kristen Beradi, Sean Foran and Rafael Karlen, and The Sacred Key by Vazesh, the world/jazz ensemble featuring Rose, bassist Lloyd Swanton (The Necks) and Iranian oud, tar and setar virtuoso Hamed Sadeghi. Another Earshift release, Project Masnavi by Eishan Ensemble (also featuring Sadeghi) is nominated for Best World Music Album

Also nominated in this category were Tariro Mavondo, Reuben Lewis and Peter Knight for Closed Beginnings, their debut collaborative release with the Australian Art Orchestra, Melbourne-based, psychedelic jazz fusion group Mildlife for their album Automatic, and singer and jazz violinist Petra Haden’s album Songs From My Father, performed with The Nick Haywood Quintet and inspired by Haden’s father, legendary bassist and composer Charlie Haden.

Caitlin Yeo, Maria Alfonsine, Damian de Boos-Smith were nominated for Best Original Soundtrack or Musical Theatre Cast Album for their score to the ABC TV series Wakefield. In our November issue, former Deputy Editor of Limelight, Angus McPherson, speaks with Yeo and other leading Australian composers about the unique pressures of composing for the screen.

The nominations were announced in a video premiered on YouTube, with the winners to be announced via the same method on 24 November.


Best Classical Album
Christian Li – Vivaldi: The Four Seasons (Decca Records Australia/Universal Music Australia)
Emily Sun & Andrea Lam – Nocturnes (ABC Classic)
Genevieve Lacey and Marshall McGuire – Bower (ABC Classic / Universal)
Grigoryan Brothers – This is Us: A Musical Reflection of Australia (ABC Classic / Universal)
Nat Bartsch – Hope (ABC Classic / Universal)

Best Jazz Album
Australian Art Orchestra, Reuben Lewis, Tariro Mavondo & Peter Knight – Closed Beginnings (AAO Recordings/The Planet Company)
Kristen Beradi, Sean Foran & Rafael Karlen – Haven (Earshift Music / The Planet Company) Mildlife – Automatic (Inertia Music / [PIAS])
Petra Haden & The Nick Haywood Quintet – Songs From My Father (ABC Jazz / Universal)
Vazesh – The Sacred Key (Earshift Music / The Planet Company)

Best Original Soundtrack or Musical Theatre Cast Album
Angus & Julia Stone – Life Is Strange (BMG/WMG)
Antony Partos – Rams (Original Motion Picture Score) (ABC Music)
Caitlin Yeo, Maria Alfonsine, Damian de Boos-Smith – Wakefield Season One Official Soundtrack (MADBS Composing Palace)
Sia – Music: Songs From And Inspired By The Motion Picture (Atlantic Records / Warner Music
Yve Blake – Fangirls (ADA/Warner Music)

Best World Music Album
Bob Weatherall & Halfway, with William Barton – Restless Dream (ABC Music)
Bukhu – Bukhchuluun Ganburged – The Journey (Bukhu/Distrokid)
Eishan Ensemble – Project Masnavi (Earshift Music / The Planet Company)
Joseph Tawadros – Hope In An Empty City (Independent / The Planet Company)
Kuya James – ISA (Settle Down Records / MGM Distribution)

Read the full list of nominees on the ARIA website.