Gramophone's editor introduces the May 2012 issue
For the Gramophone reader, it’s a hypothetical question of course, but still one worth asking: why do we need another recording of a Mozart piano concerto, or Beethoven symphony, or Tosca – or any of the works recorded so many times that you could fill a shelf with one of them alone? The answer is, simply, that music is inexhaustible and infinitely complex; that each new performance has the potential to reveal new ideas, beauty and power, and that no single one can ever claim to be definitive. And what makes each recording different from the next? It’s the expertise, insight, understanding, musicianship and vision of the people involved, and perhaps something of the period in which it was recorded. Every generation, since the first wax cylinders were pressed more than a century ago, has had its inspirational recording artists – as well as A&R executives and producers, without whom the artists would not have made it into the studio, let alone on to tape. It is these people we are here celebrating as we unveil the first 50 names to be welcomed into the Gramophone Hall of Fame. It is thanks to them that a new interpretation of an oft-recorded work can compel us to admire the music anew and more than justify that ever-expanding catalogue.
We originally drew up a longlist (we didn’t include composers, unless they happened to be prolific recording artists, too) and then invited you, our readers – both in print and online – to nominate up to eight names each. Some of the names to have made the final 50 you would expect to see there – Karajan, Callas, du Pré, Kleiber, Pavarotti – others may be more of a surprise. For each one we’ve then invited another leading musician, or in some cases one of our critics, to comment on how that person’s art and legacy – or ongoing work – is so important to us.
And this is just the beginning: every year, we will admit another group of people into the Gramophone Hall of Fame; between now and the end of the year, feel free to send us your suggestions of who should be on next year’s longlist.
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.