Who are you voting for?
By now many of you will have already voted in the Gramophone Hall of Fame. To remind you, it’s a new initiative we’ve launched to celebrate the people whose artistry – whether that be on the podium, on stage, ‘A&R-ing’, or behind the control desk – has changed the history of classical music recording. We’ve drawn together a long list of several hundred contenders, and we’re asking you to help us narrow it down to the first 50 names to be admitted. You can find out more here: Gramophone Hall of Fame.
A furtive glance at the voting thus far would leave few of you surprised at many of the iconic names hovering near the top. And I’m not here to sway opinion either way, but to join in the conversation about the personal choices I might make were I to vote – in the hope you’ll do the same beneath.
It might not surprise you, given my short biog below, that Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia would get my nod. Segovia was a remarkable communicator, whose tone – evident through even some of the earlier recordings – combines a solidity of power with soulful depth of expression, and an almost effortless virtuosity. But on top of that was his advocacy of an instrument and repertoire which, prior to the popularity he brought it, was not afforded the attention and respect it deserves. His tireless touring, his commissioning of new works and arrangements of old, his influence on performance technique which set the tone – quite literally – for the great players which followed (two of whom, Julian Bream and John Williams, are also in the list of nominees), and most importantly for our present context his recordings, changed for ever the way people heard and viewed the classical guitar.
And to another artist whose impact on the repertoire of his chosen instrument was immense: Mstislav Rostropovich. Russian cellist, and later conductor and occasional pianist, his impassioned, deeply human performance style lent a romanticism to the cello which has done much to influence the way it is now played and heard. But it is the sheer number of world premieres he gave – 240! – of works by the likes of Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Britten and Dutilleux that most astonishes. And though not written for him, his playing of Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata led the composer to change the tempo indications and metronome marks. Without Rostroprovich, cellists might well have played some of the instrument’s masterpieces a little differently; but in a quite remarkable number of cases, they wouldn’t have had them to play at all.
I’m not saying in either instance that their recordings are necessarily always the definitive versions to reach for, but in terms of who changed the history of recorded music – the question we are inviting you to ask of our nominees – few surely did more for their respective instruments than the great Andrés Segovia and Mstislav Rostropovich.
Who are you voting for and why? Let us know below, or in the Gramophone Forum.
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.