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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’

The greats of the past – and of today too

‘T

his recording isn’t dead,’ said Andrew Walter, an engineer at Abbey Road. ‘It’s an alive recording. But all the people involved in it are dead – so it’s just the metals, and me. It’s a huge responsibility.’ Walter was, a few years ago, talking to me about remastering Pablo Casals’s 1930s recording of Bach’s Solo Cello Suites. But the comment is a fine definition of the approach, and achievements, of remastering engineers in general. Through painstaking attention to detail, superior sonic skill, application of the highest of tech and shrewd investigative work – science and art in perfect harmony, if you like – they are responsible for giving continued existence, indeed, breathing new life into so many of the past century’s greatest works of recording.

core’. To my ears, not least listening in the Abbey Road remastering suite where the work was done, it was not the vivid drama that impressed most but the newly revealed detail and intimacy. Maria Callas’s recorded voice sounded more alive than ever before.

It might seem odd to be reflecting on a historic recording, made by people the majority of whom are no longer with us, when this special issue, and the Gramophone Classical Music Awards themselves, are about celebrating the new, the artists of today and, given the youth of some of them, of tomorrow too. Yet for me there is no incongruity. Ours is an art form in which the new finds itself, in almost all cases, joining the continuing evolution of how music is explored, performed and presented. Today’s acclaimed recordings may well be the revered historic documents of tomorrow: time will tell.

This month sees the release by Warner Classics of the remastered complete studio recordings of Maria Callas, almost unrivalled as an icon and inspiration among classical musicians of the recording era. Part of the reason for the project – the recordings have already been remastered twice – is that the original tapes are becoming increasingly difficult to work with, so the last opportunity to capture those historic sessions as brilliantly as today’s technology allows may be approaching. But the other reason is that that technology simply allows the detail and decisions of the day to be recreated as authentically as possible.

Ultimately, though, it is of course all about the music. In his insightful review of the set (see page 102), Richard Osborne quotes Jon Vickers’s description of Callas’s ‘power to touch people to the

But one thing is different. It’s a foolish man who claims recording technology has now advanced to unassailable limits – of course it hasn’t – but we are at a point where recording artists and their production teams need not feel themselves in any way compromised by the medium. The clarity, the ability to capture atmosphere and precision of performance is today what the early pioneers of recording more than a century ago, even in the days of Callas and Walter Legge, could only have dreamt of. But, most importantly, the best of today’s performances are every bit as remarkable as any from the past. Do listen to as many of our Award-winners as you can – your time will be richly rewarded. martin.cullingford@markallengroup.com

THIS MONTH’S CONTRIBUTORS

‘I have long admired Judith Weir’s music,’ says GUY RICKARDS, ‘but writing the Contemporary

‘I remain inspired by an interview,’ says this month’s Icons writer MIKE ASHMAN. ‘Legendary singers are

Composers article a„forded me the opportunity to catch up on her recent work and „ill in some gaps. I have come away with increased appreciation for her music and look forward to seeing her next opera, Count Öderland.’

not inevitably easy to question. But Carlo Bergonzi talked unhesitatingly about Verdi and Donizetti with the quiet „ire of his performances – a passion that I had known previously only from Baroque musicians.’

‘I love Stanley Kubrick and I love Richard Strauss,’ says PHILIP CLARK, who writes the Gramophone

Collection in this issue, ‘but Kubrick’s use of Also sprach Zarathustra in his „ilm 2001: A Space Odyssey has left us with a skewed image of Strauss’s piece. I wrote with that idea in mind – not that I could resist a few space-age puns…’

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 Green„ield • David Gutman • Lindsay Kemp • Philip Kennicott • Richard Lawrence • Ivan March • Ivan Moody • Bryce Morrison • Jeremy Nicholas • Christopher Nickol • Geo„frey Norris Richard Osborne • Stephen Plaistow • Peter Quantrill • Guy Rickards • Malcolm Riley • Marc Rochester • Julie Anne Sadie • Edward Seckerson • Hugo Shirley • 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, which has been serving the classical music world since 1923, is irst 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 o fer 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.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE AWARDS 2014 3

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