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Founded in 1923 by Sir Compton Mackenzie and Christopher Stone as ‘an organ of candid opinion for the numerous possessors of gramophones’
Embracing the past can enrich the present
It’s quite possibly a situation unique to the classical recording industry: that our past – a century of recordings – is the chief rival to our present. In literature, painting or other genres of music such as pop or (in most cases) jazz, each new creation is entirely unique. Of course, it being our raison d’être, we at Gramophone would be the first to argue that each new recording of classical music is unique – it’s an individual performance immersed in the styles and concerns of our day. But the work itself will usually have been recorded many times before. Thus the potential buyer standing before a rack of discs (or, increasingly, seated in front of a computer) is faced with a dilemma: why should I spend £15 on this new recording when I can buy Karajan, Bernstein or Harnoncourt for less?
It’s a nice problem to have, of course. Reissues, when thoughtfully presented, are a rich part of the recording world. They enable us to journey through sound worlds of the past, to experience the artistry of great figures long dead, or to tune into the A&R imaginations of some of the most inspired executives of recording’s heritage. The best reissues are those which help us do this. Those which, far from just re-pressing old issues, offer essays and photography that look at the life and legacy of the artists concerned, how they were received and who they influenced, and in the case of the most extensive, a comprehensive overview of a musician, ensemble or label. Sometimes we might even listen to a mucheulogised figure from the past and wonder what all the fuss was about – but that’s important too.
It’s because of all these things – and in response to the ever more imaginatively curated catalogue releases that arrive at Gramophone every month – that I’ve reintroduced a reissues section in which our writers will survey some of the most interesting recent catalogue offerings, as well as the Classics Revisited feature which discusses in detail a historic benchmark.
And yet if what makes historic recordings so fascinating is what they reveal about the eras, approach and styles of their time, how much more relevant for us, then, are recordings made today? Music feels most vivid of all when explored and interpreted by those who share our contemporary experiences, something I’m continually struck by when selecting the Editor’s Choice recordings each month. All such selections are necessarily subjective, but I’m very confident that any of those chosen – you can see this month’s list on page 7, led by a thrilling survey of Beethoven’s cello sonatas by Steven Isserlis and fortepianist Robert Levin – will justify your time and money. But don’t take my word for it: more important are the words of our reviewers, and if you’re still unsure, the samples you can hear on the Gramophone Player or our monthly Spotify playlists (see gramophone.co.uk for more details) should also help you to make up your mind. And when you have, why not let us know whether you agree, either on our online forum or by email. Speaking of which, I’m very grateful to all those who took the time to email me to share their thoughts about the changes to Gramophone, and would be delighted to think you will continue to do so. email@example.com
THIS MONTH’S CONTRIBUTORS
MICHAEL MCMANUS, the author of this month’s Musician and the Score article, says: ‘Until I spent an
‘If you are a member of the Richard Strauss admiration society, you don’t really need a 150th anniversary engrossing hour discussing it with Edward Gardner, Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony had largely passed me by. Now I find I listen to this innovative, conflicted and delightful piece with entirely new ears. What a privilege!’
as an excuse to write about him,’ says MICHAEL KENNEDY, author of our cover story, ‘but the birthday gives an opportunity to write about some of his less-frequently performed works and to reinforce my lifelong devotion to his music.’
‘Opera doesn’t come much more complex than Strauss and Hoffmansthal’s Ariadne auf Naxos,’ says
HUGO SHIRLEY, author of this month’s Collection. ‘There was no danger of tiring of the piece as I worked my way through its discography. Instead, I was left convinced of its position as the two men’s most rewarding joint creation.’
THE REVIEWERS Andrew Achenbach • Nalen Anthoni • Mike Ashman • Philip Clark • Alexandra Coghlan • Rob Cowan (consultant reviewer) • Jeremy Dibble • Peter Dickinson • Jed Distler • Duncan Druce • Adrian Edwards Richard Fairman • David Fallows • David Fanning • Iain Fenlon • Fabrice Fitch • Jonathan Freeman-Attwood Caroline Gill • Edward Greenfield • David Gutman • Lindsay Kemp • Philip Kennicott • Tess Knighton • Richard Lawrence • Ivan March • Ivan Moody • Bryce Morrison • Jeremy Nicholas • Christopher Nickol • Geoffrey Norris Richard Osborne • Stephen Plaistow • Peter Quantrill • Guy Rickards • Malcolm Riley • Marc Rochester • Julie Anne Sadie • Edward Seckerson • Pwyll ap Siôn • Harriet Smith • Ken Smith • David Patrick Stearns • David Threasher David Vickers • John Warrack • Richard Whitehouse • Arnold Whittall • Richard Wigmore • William Yeoman gramophone.co.uk
Gramophone, which has been serving the classical music world since 1923, is first and foremost a monthly review magazine, delivered today in both print and digital formats. It boasts an eminent and knowledgeable panel of experts, which reviews the full range of classical music recordings. Its reviews are completely independent. In addition to reviews, its interviews and features help readers to explore in greater depth the recordings that the magazine covers, as well as offer insight into the work of composers and performers. It is the magazine for the classical record collector, as well as for the enthusiast starting a voyage of discovery.
GRAMOPHONE FEBRUARY 2014 3