Saturday, May 22, 2010

The thing about Gramophone

"250 GREATEST RECORDINGS OF ALL TIME", the latest issue of Gramophone trumpets across its picture-free front cover. Well, it must be important, if they've foregone a cover with Vassily Petrenko, who's featured inside. But of course it isn't important. "35 of the world's leading musicians" chose these 250 recordings. It's a nice thought, that people like Marc-André Hamelin, Harry Christophers, and Anne Sofie von Otter all sat in a room for a weekend to produce a finely honed document that can serve as a "ready-selected classical music collection". Except of course it didn't happen that way. What we've got, basically, are 35 "desert island" lists all mashed up into one big one. Sidebars give us the specific choices of just 4 of the musicians, with some sort of explanation as to why these particular recordings were selected. But otherwise it's just a list of 250 recordings that are loved by at least one person who isn't a music critic.
People who've been reading Gramophone for a lot longer than I have, and indeed for a lot longer than I have been alive, will level various criticisms at the magazine - the reviews are too short these days, and the audio section used to be so much better (it had graphs!). But this latest stunt typifies for me where Gramophone's gone wrong. International Record Review says on its cover it's "for the serious classical collector"; Fanfare, too, is "the magazine for serious record collectors". Although Gramophone likes to say it's got "the world's best classical music reviews" this is just wishful thinking based on a long-held reputation, and the magazine's much too keen to resort to hype - it seems like the word "great" must appear somewhere on the cover.
I suppose there just isn't a market anymore for a serious review magazine that wants to stay mainstream. The thing about Gramophone is, if it didn't exist, would it be necessary to invent it? Reputation aside, the answer has to be no, largely because of the existence of BBC Music Magazine, upon whose general style Gramophone has been gradually converging in recent years.
Anyway, next issue is the Proms issue, to be guest-edited by a mystery guest. It's so exciting!

1 comment:

Robert said...

Looking forward to the Proms Issue and even more so to the Prom with Scriabins "Le Poème de l'estase" on TV too.

Maybe a Le Poème party..surround sound and a bunch of people who'd never heard it before just to see the look an their faces.

May give Billy Hill a call and find out whats odds I'd get on André Rieu being the mystery guest in the next Gramophone issue.