Gramophone's Editor introduces the December issue
‘Celebrating the voice!’ Those are the words emblazoned on our cover this month, and throughout the magazine we’ve done exactly that: explored and celebrated singing, in all its extraordinary diversity.
Let’s begin with Erato’s set of Berlioz’s Les Troyens, our Recording of the Month and the subject of a fascinating feature by Editor-in-Chief James Jolly. It draws on some of today’s finest singers, and the interpretative insight of a conductor, John Nelson, for whom exploring Berlioz has been a career-long quest. It also intriguingly – and fairly uniquely – bridges that oft-discussed divide between studio and live recording, drawing on the best of both. Though taken from concert performances, it was conceived first and foremost as recording sessions in front of an audience. It’s an approach other labels might consider when juggling such matters as interpretative excellence, the frisson of live performance, and budgets. Either way, as a celebration of both the voice and the art of recording, it’s a formidable achievement.
Then we’re perhaps on more familiar ground for our Christmas issue – choral music. The Reformation’s impact on religion was seismic. Its long-term part in shaping the development of music was also profound, and the nature of what so many of us sing today can still find its roots in those events of half a century ago. Then from marking five centuries to five decades, and the King’s Singers. Their distinctive sound – from polyphony to pop – has remained as impeccably excellent as ever through the many line-up changes, as has their commitment to reaching audiences throughout the world in a manner which is open and engaging. It’s hard to think of many groups that better embody the desire to celebrate singing; a whole-hearted Happy Birthday to them from all at Gramophone. Finally, still in the choral world, our festive season brings our annual round-up of releases from the choirs, cathedrals and colleges who tap into the powerful resonance Christmas has for composers, congregations and audiences alike.
All the above features were planned. What emerged with delightful serendipity was that, when considering this month’s Editor’s Choice list, there was an extraordinary strength among vocal releases. Settling on the Editor’s Choices usually involves balancing a desire for variety of repertoire with offering a true representation of which releases simply stand out. And after discussion this month, it felt only right – and, as it turned out, highly appropriate – to lean towards the latter consideration. Thus, of the 12 Editor’s Choices (including Reissue and DVD of the month), 10 involve singing. But what rich achievements – and what breadth of repertoire! Majestic medievalism from the Sollazzo Ensemble, or fin de siècle French songs from Sabine Devieihle and Marianne Crebassa don’t perhaps have a lot in common. Except, of course, for the obvious link. The voice. Diversity then, but a single compelling constant: the remarkably direct communication between an artist and an audience, achieved through that most fundamental and basic aspect of music-making, singing. Happy listening – and a very happy Christmas to you all.