A recording can engage the listener just as intensely as a live performance

Martin CullingfordWed 18th September 2013

Gramophone's editor introduces the Awards issue of the magazine

If awards are to be worth anything, those bestowing the accolades must be able to proclaim proudly that they offer to the wider world an account of the very best. We’re confident that we do. The various stages of critical listening, which draw on the world’s leading experts, make the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 
an incredibly thorough process.

When talking to those reviewers, I’m often reminded of how listening to music should be an active, not passive, experience. Such is evident in a concert hall, where several thousand people can be united in intense communal concentration. But at its best, listening to a recording can also engage you with a performance every bit as intensely as in the concert hall – and, given that a studio recording is the result of a painstaking process of crafting precisely the performance the artist wants to give, in the best sound possible, sometimes more so.

When talking about live music people often refer to a ‘sense of occasion’. Well, yes, there undeniably is. But the flip side, that a recording therefore lacks that, simply isn’t true. I defy anyone to listen to our Recording of the Year and find its sense of occasion any less palpable, its virtuosity any less visceral.

But while the sheer amount of music, legitimate or otherwise, available online, often for free, has enhanced access to recordings, it also brings challenges. In short, fewer people are now buying fewer recordings. And yet the sessions, the hyper-skilled production teams, the costs of packaging and distribution, remain just as expensive. 
And if those recordings aren’t bought...

If you’re a regular reader, I beg your patience and offer the continued gratitude of Gramophone, the labels and artists for your support of the recording industry. But perhaps you’re an irregular reader, or a new record buyer (and if so what an amazing journey you have ahead of you!). If you are looking for recordings to buy, all our Award-winners – we proudly proclaim – represent 
classical recording at its very best.

Martin Cullingford

Martin Cullingford is the Editor and Publisher of Gramophone.

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