We need to nurture the next generation - in the studio, and in schools
Awards ceremonies offer a wonderful opportunity to step back and celebrate great achievement. When so much discussion centres on where things are going (musically, technologically) and what we might do about it, it can be a joy and a relief simply to focus on the here and now. On the album in front of us – or, rather, surrounding us sonically. And what achievements we have before us. I shan’t spoil the discoveries that await – you can read full coverage of the Awards in the special Awards section of our website – but suffice to say that this year’s winners exemplify all that is great about music-making. Our Recording of the Year went to the sort of project about which we can accurately use the word ‘event’, in terms of the occasion itself (live concerts, but ones conceived as recording sessions), the gathered cast (A&R at its finest), the contribution to the catalogue and the way we, listeners and collectors, felt when it arrived.
Some soloists venture so rarely before the microphones – not least our extraordinary Instrumental winner – that any recording by them does feel very much like an event. Others, our Chamber winners among them, have proved regular visitors to the Gramophone Awards stage. We might even run the risk of taking such groups for granted.
And that phrase – taking for granted – is a cautionary reminder that while revelling in the riches at hand, we need to make sure celebration never tips over into complacency. For a start, the sheer number of superb albums before us month after month shouldn’t obscure the fact that making records remains an expensive undertaking. I’m sure most readers here fit firmly into the category of supporting recording through paying for it, whether buying a disc or subscribing to a streaming service, but it’s an approach to art, indeed to life, that we need to nurture in everyone – to recognise and reward value, and to give something back.
On which subject, so many of today’s stars imaginatively put their names, expertise and resources towards supporting young artists, and the latest is one of the greatest indeed. Cecilia Bartoli has chosen to mark 30 years on Decca by launching a new sub-label, ‘Mentored by Bartoli’, to help exceptional new talent make their first records. It’s wonderful that the notion of making a record clearly holds just the same prestige for aspiring artists today as in the past but it’s also a salutary reminder of the importance of nurturing the next generation. Being a recording magazine, our focus is invariably on those whose lives are already devoted to music, but let’s spare a moment to reflect on how they reached that point in the first place. Recent figures in this country show a 15 per cent decline in just two years in those taking GCSE Music exams (and 23 per cent in the past eight), something that those who shape both education policy and wider society’s perceptions of music’s value need to address. Many musicians of course devote their livelihoods to doing exactly the latter: the visionary work of so many involved in education and music outreach should be cheered and cherished. And this is a time of celebration after all. So I do hope you’ll follow our critics’ guidance and explore this year’s Award-winners, safe in the knowledge that if you do, you’ll be very richly rewarded.