Gramophone's editor introduces the Awards issue of the magazine
This is my first Gramophone Classical Music Awards as editor of the magazine, though my 11th as a member of the editorial team. In each of these years, as I’ve watched the vast numbers of recordings whittled down through so many deeply considered (and intensely argued) critical decisions to the winners and, ultimately, the Recording of the Year, I’ve marvelled at the astonishing artistry, variety and innovation behind the releases each year has offered.
We read about them every month in our reviews pages, of course (in itself only a proportion of all that is released) – but to see them, first as extensive longlists and later, after the first stage of the voting process, as vast numbers of boxes moving via our office from label to critic, is to be reminded of what rich times we live in for classical music recording.
The recording industry may change and evolve year by year as it engages with economic realities, but also embraces the opportunities brought about by technological innovation (on which note, find out how you can download selected Awards tracks from iTunes for free here). But nothing but praise can be given to an industry that can offer us, to take just a few examples from this year’s Awards contenders, wonderfully performed surveys of early music composers but also insightful performances of core repertoire by the likes of Schumann and Beethoven that make us marvel again at what’s revealed in these oft-recorded works. Or a debut recital from a 19-year-old pianist of formidable talent as well as a film of a Bruckner symphony from one of the most revered and respected of today’s maestros. Or carefully curated song programmes built around an 18th-century castrato, or the subject of war, as well as a documentary about the history of an American orchestra that is both captivating and inspiring. I could go on – but turning to the Awards section of this issue will reveal more. We salute the ultimate winners, of course, but they are only part of the story. Explore the shortlists too, all excellent and deserving recordings, and in so doing celebrate – and support – performers, composers and a recording industry, thanks to which our lives are much the richer.
Martin Cullingford is editor of Gramophone - brought up in Britten country on the Suffolk coast, when not practising the guitar he can often be found enjoying Evensong.