Gramophone's editor introduces the September issue of the magazine
The latest issue of Gramophone - out now - feels very much bookended by the passage of life. As our news pages report, in late June my colleague James Jolly and I found ourselves immersed in the world of music competitions, where the young, aspiring and gifted are thrust into the heady mix of limelight, scrutiny and opportunity that would become a daily part of the career they seek. For my part, I was privileged to be a jury member of the inaugural Orchid Music Charitable Trust Young British Soloists’ Competition, held in the perfect acoustic of Wigmore Hall. Competition success has always carried kudos, and traditionally a cheque, though in recent years competitions have been more focused on how to enrich their alumni’s opportunities. In this case the winner – soprano Louise Alder – gets to make an album for Orchid Classics, which seems an ideal way to foster familiarity with the art of recording in tomorrow’s stars, as well as to offer an impeccable calling card at this crucial point in their lives.
In St Petersburg, meanwhile, James was presenting online coverage of the Tchaikovsky Competition for medici.tv. The contest has attracted much attention ever since Van Cliburn’s win in 1958 – but that two million people worldwide watched nine million broadcasts over the fortnight must have surpassed everyone’s expectations. The web – whether through live opera streams to cinemas, or offering those new to classical music playlists to guide them through an otherwise alienatingly large catalogue – is transforming the way music reaches people. As the Tchaikovsky Competition statistics demonstrate, there is an appetite out there for classical music online: those with the imagination can, and are, both reaching and growing that audience.
But it’s also been a poignant month, as our obituaries pages reflect. Edward Greenfield was one of Gramophone’s longest-serving critics, whose recollections as a writer could take readers back to events, sessions and people that for most others were historical episodes from a past generation. A life devoted to passionate and eloquent advocacy for musicians and music-making was one well spent, and the beneficiaries are the millions who throughout those many decades will have enjoyed his broadcasting or read his reviews, and consequently listened to recordings they might not otherwise have heard. It’s a mission Gramophone will continue to honour. Then a week or so later followed the death of a musical giant who contributed so much to the world which EG surveyed. Tenor Jon Vickers was a figure who, for those of us too young to have seen him perform, had assumed a legendary status in the catalogue. That in a previous age such art would have been lost forever is justification enough for the medium we report on, and for the continued support of such projects as the studio Aida we also cover in this issue. So while we mourn the passing of greats, let us reflect that perhaps the best respect we can show for their legacy is to look ahead, to support the next generation, whether championing the remarkable talent of tomorrow or capturing today’s stars for posterity in recordings, so that the future may be enriched by what was achieved today.