Celebrating the world’s true servants of music

Martin CullingfordTue 19th November 2019

Gramophone's Editor introduces the November issue

Last month we held our annual Gramophone Awards. It would be unbecoming of me to lavish superlatives on our own ceremony, if not for two things: firstly, that this wonderful event is led not by me but by our tireless Editor-in-Chief James Jolly, and secondly, because what makes the event most memorable lies not with us, but with the artists we honour. You can still watch the whole event, thanks to our filming partners Medici TV, on the Gramophone website (100,000 people worldwide have already done so). And if you do, you’ll encounter moments almost as significant for what they represented as for what they sounded like. One such was when this year’s Lifetime Achievement winner Dame Emma Kirkby joined our Young Artist Jakub Józef Orlinski to perform a duet from a Bach cantata based on Pergolesi’s Stabat mater. It will have been lost on no one present that the sort of career this young countertenor is already enjoying is that much richer in opportunity and repertoire because of the passionate advocacy Dame Emma has brought to early music across so many years. That she chose, with her acceptance speech, to deflect attention from herself and refocus it on some of her equally pioneering period colleagues was characteristically humble, and entirely fitting for an artist who, as fellow soprano Catherine Bott put it in her filmed tribute, ‘has total integrity’.

That three remarkable pianists – Víkingur Ólafsson (Artist of the Year), Bertrand Chamayou (Recording of the Year winner) and Denis Kozhukhin (signed to our Label of the Year, Pentatone) – performed so characterfully distinctly reinforced the idea that we have surely entered a golden era when it comes to extraordinary young pianists. To them we can add the cover artist of our current issue, Beatrice Rana. Younger even than the aforementioned, but already playing with a sense of grace and maturity that belies her youth, our interview reveals her to be, like Kirkby, a truly self-effacing, down-to-earth servant of music. 

But servants of music can take many forms, as the November issue's My Music reminds us. I’m struck by how often a My Music interviewee – a well-known person from outside the classical world – recalls the pivotal influence of an otherwise anonymous mentor, someone who spotted a spark of interest and, through encouragement, changed that person’s life. Often it’s a teacher, and one hopes that there’s still space in schools for a more free-form approach to education which allows the expansion of a child’s horizons by stepping away from a set curriculum to listen to and discuss music. In Sir Tim Waterstone’s case it was the owner of his village’s record shop (imagine that today – a village with a record shop!) who gave the empty-pocketed young boy some scratched records to take home. Víkingur Ólafsson has also recalled how he, too, was lent albums by a Reykjavik record store, sparking his lifelong love of recording. In all such cases, the gift – whether of albums, or simply of time – is selflessly given, the only reward being the knowledge that someone is being set on a journey of discovery. In whatever capacity we find ourselves able to do so, let us all pledge to follow likewise in the same spirit. 

martin.cullingford@markallengroup.com

The November 2019 issue of Gramophone is available buy now 

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Martin Cullingford

Martin Cullingford is the Editor and Publisher of Gramophone.

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