A month is a long time. When I last wrote this column it was to note that some halls, in some countries, had been forced to close due to the spreading coronavirus – to send my sympathies to those affected, and to hope that things may make a swift return to normality. A few weeks on, and the world is a very different place. It’s from home that I’m putting the finishing touches to this edition of the magazine, produced remotely by Gramophone’s brilliant team. Rest assured that we’ll continue to get each issue to you, and even if the challenges facing distribution networks means we’re sometimes a little later than usual to reach your doormat (digital subscriptions are of course entirely unaffected!), do bear with us. But there are now no public concerts anywhere in the world – the halls are empty, the stages silent … an extraordinary thing on which to reflect. Most importantly, though, everyone at Gramophone wishes all those actually suffering from the virus a speedy and complete recovery.
We’re very aware of the impact on musicians’ livelihoods that the cancellation of live performance is having, and that the steps taken by arts organisations and nations to financially support those affected varies greatly. While few of us are in a position to alter such matters, there are things we can all do to help. Gramophone has long chronicled the growth in digital access to music, from downloading albums (including in high-resolution) and streaming (both audio and visual), to online concert halls. If ever there was a time for exploring such services, a period of housebound isolation is surely it. The online musical community is bursting with inspiring and innovative initiatives too – from free-streamed concerts by leading ensembles and opera companies, to pop-up performances by major artists in their homes. We’ve been comprehensively listing these on our website – do take a look, and enjoy the riches out there. Some initiatives are accompanied by an invitation to donate to support performers who are impacted – please do what you can, but the most important thing is to watch, and listen. Let’s take this opportunity to leave the world – and every funding body, sponsor and government – in no doubt of the huge and passionate appetite for classical music, whatever the circumstances.
Ultimately, Gramophone has always been about recordings, and rarely has that medium been more important for music than now; in another feature on our website, Lockdown Listening, we’ve invited some of the world’s leading musicians to introduce an album that they’re finding particularly meaningful to them at this challenging moment. Perhaps they might be ones you’ll choose to add to your own collection.
A month is a long time. And yet viewed from afar it will be a short time too – as, with the passing of years, will be even the several months we may yet find this goes on for. Given the stability and relative luxury of most of our lives, it’s too easy to forget that the centuries of music that forms today’s canon was often created against a backdrop of adversity – and often performed under difficult circumstances. At some point we will emerge from this, and normal life will resume. Music, however, never stopped – and it never will.
Gramophone's May issue is available now, and you can read more about its fascinating mix of interviews, articles and reviews here. Given the challenges referred to above, the most reliably way to read Gramophone is currently with a digital subscription: find out more.