Celebrating a century of Gramophone
Martin Cullingford, Gramophone Editor
Friday, March 17, 2023
Gramophone's Editor introduces a special anniversary edition of the magazine
Marking a century is a momentous occasion for any magazine. But in Gramophone’s case it’s not just our own longevity we’re celebrating, as our history really mirrors that of the very thing we cover: classical music on record. A short period of recording infancy did precede our foundation in 1923. But the need for a reviews magazine emerged in our founder Compton Mackenzie’s mind when it did, because it was an industry coming of age. The growth of recordings – not to mention the considerable expense of acquiring them – made a magazine devoted to honest opinion timely, indeed necessary. And that’s been our guiding principle ever since.
Formats have come and gone. How very far removed does Mackenzie ordering up crates of crackly 78s to be shipped to his Channel island seem from a streaming service instantly offering pretty much everything ever recorded, invariably in studio-quality sound. It’s an extraordinary story of artistic and technological evolution, and our Editor-in-Chief James Jolly – whose own relationship with the title spans more than a third of its existence – has written an absolutely fascinating history of it, one which forms a substantial segment of our special anniversary edition.
It’s appropriate to ask ourselves what – in this modern media era – a reviews magazine aims to achieve. Many of you of course continue to collect physical media, CDs and so on, and to you we hope we still act as an essential buyer’s guide. But for those who subscribe to streaming services, we hope our analysis and honestly expressed opinions help you better understand what you’re listening to, and crucially point you towards things you might not otherwise ever have encountered. And to the artists who give so very much of themselves every time they step into a studio, we aim, as we always have, to fly the flag as energetically as we can for what they contribute to our cultural life, whether – as in Mackenzie’s day – we do so via the printed page, or via our website and podcasts. And who knows what innovations the decades to come will offer?
All of us at Gramophone have been greatly touched by the memories many of you have shared about what the magazine means to you – comments that echo those we received during the pandemic, which made movingly clear how deeply valued our window into classical recording is. We’d be nothing without our readers, and I offer my sincere thanks to each and every one of you for your support, however you choose to read (or indeed listen to) us. My grateful thanks, too, to the labels and other organisations who have offered us such vital and devoted support down the years – for your trust, and for your unfailing respect of our dedication to complete objectivity.
And finally, a personal thanks to all my colleagues, and to all who have contributed their ideas, expertise and passion to our pages over the past century, many excellent examples of which we’ve reproduced in our centenary issue. It is the most extraordinary and humbling privilege, month after month, to be able to offer a home to the world’s most compelling, inspiring and insightful writing on classical music. Thank you all once more – and here’s to Gramophone’s next century!
Gramophone's special centenary issue is available now - find out more