Editor's Blog

Looking ahead to summer...and back to the glories of past recordings

Martin CullingfordWed 28th March 2018

Gramophone's Editor introduces the April issue

Such are the long lead times of monthly magazines – and, more to the matter, the vagaries of the weather – that we completed our annual festival guide this year while snow fell steadily and travel was generally discouraged. Never has reading about interval picnics on country-house lawns, let alone hikes up to mountainside sculptures for late-night solo Bach, seemed so far removed from the reality outside.

But, in a strange way, what makes music festivals so special is, indeed, that sense of being removed from reality. We all have our own favourite memories of music festivals – what are yours? I’d hazard a guess that landscape, setting and even weather are as integral to those evocative recollections as the music-making. From one festival alone – Aldeburgh – I can recall both the powerful tranquillity of stepping from a concert to see the summer sun setting scenically over the Suffolk reed beds, and on another occasion our car needing to pull in to the side of the road when an unseasonal deluge made driving impossible, straight after hearing Britten’s Four Sea Interludes. These experiences are an inseparable part of the overall memory, though that’s as it should be: great art is never meant to exist in abstract isolation, but to be experienced within the context of our lives and the world around us. So it’s about more than simply enjoying pretty scenery. The focus that can be achieved by removing oneself from the chaos of a city, or the crowded commute, or the juggling of commitments, can make us listen differently and more reflectively. Not to knock the attraction of scenery of course – we all go on holiday to enjoy new locations, whether walking in hills or exploring unfamiliar urban architecture – but why not combine that with some world-class music-making? Everything you need to know about what’s on offer this summer is in our 26-page guide, part of the April issue of Gramophone available in shops from today: we hope you enjoy it, and most importantly enjoy wherever it takes you! 

Also this month, we’ve further increased our focus on reissues. Everyone (except perhaps Gramophone’s postman) is impressed by the dedication and care currently being lavished on box-sets, whether in remastering, or the invariably beautifully presented packages themselves, full of both written and visual context. We’ve tried to keep up to date with these through our Reissues pages, but from this month we also launch a new monthly column by Rob Cowan devoted to box-sets. Together with the familiar Reissues pages, with Rob’s long-running Replay column devoted to historical issues and our Classics Reconsidered feature – in which two critics reassess the status of a ‘classic’ recording of the past – we hope our new section will encourage you to spend some time thinking about, and listening to, the artists and recordings of the past. 

Speaking of which, next month we’ll be celebrating an extraordinary artist from the past century, the great Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson. And for those not familiar with her legacy, we’ll be bringing readers a free CD featuring tracks from a forthcoming celebratory box-set from Sony Classical and the Birgit Nilsson Foundation. That issue - May 2018 - will available from April 25.

martin.cullingford@markallengroup.com

Gramophone's April 2018 issue is now on sale – take a look inside... 

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