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Founded in 1923 by Sir Compton Mackenzie and Christopher Stone as ‘an organ of candid opinion for the numerous possessors of gramophones’

Musical meeting points and storytelling

Each year, around this time, members of the Gramophone team head to the Classical:NEXT conference in Rotterdam. The conference – partly trade fair, partly a series of talks and performances – is an excellent opportunity to take stock of trends, of the challenges facing the music world and how they’re being surmounted, and to talk to so many of the innovative indie labels about their plans. This year, 1300 delegates from 48 countries gathered and the overall impression, I’m delighted to report, was one of positivity and optimism. I covered some of the reasons for this optimism last month, following reports from record industry trade bodies about the growth in digital and streaming revenue. Many people I spoke to had good stories to share which backed up some of those statistics. There was also, as we predicted at the start of this year, much talk about smart speakers, which will play on demand whatever you ask; there’s clearly a strong desire to perfect that technology.

But another theme that cropped up several times was something else we’ve explored in our pages, and that’s the mingling of music at meeting points. Meeting points of genre, or of traditions, or of technology. During the conference I saw a showcase by pianist Belle Chen in which light, sampled sound and scent were employed to enrich an already evocative experience; another in which music for the African kora was transcribed brilliantly for guitar by Derek Gripper. It’s a theme which can also be found in this issue of Gramophone. Our cover story explores percussion music: is there another instrument family

for which the relationship between classical music and other traditions is closer? When so much is about the beat – in both senses – it renders divisions based on matters such as key and notation much less relevant. As the feature’s headline puts it, percussion is about ‘listening to the world’. And if one of its leading soloists – Martin Grubinger – can appear on the stage of both Carnegie Hall and the Eurovision Song Contest, and feel perfectly at home on each, then percussion has clearly found a way of reaching out to audiences far and wide.

The notion of musics meeting is also an idea explored in this month’s My Music by folk singer Sam Lee, a questing artist who through his song collecting work walks in a path pioneered by the likes of Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams in understanding and absorbing other traditions. But he also puts beautifully a further point about rethinking the musical experience, and that’s the issue of how artists interact with audiences and talk to them about the music they’re about to hear – something both the showcase artists mentioned earlier did well. Audiences want to hear stories, he suggests. People new to classical music don’t want to know about, and are not going to be engaged by, complex musical analysis (not initially, at least), a point too often forgotten. What they want to know, suggests Lee, is: ‘Why is that musician in love with this music, why have they devoted their life to making it?’ Ultimately, one hopes, that will come across in the power of the performance of course – but a few anecdotes first can’t do any harm. martin.cullingford@markallengroup.com


‘When you delve into the world of percussion, you realise that it’s not so much a

‘What struck me most’, re lects RICHARD LAWRENCE, author of this month’s feature on

world as a universe,’ says ANDREWMELLOR, who writes this month’s cover story. ‘We are only starting to see the full force of its in luence on so-called classical music.’

Opera Rara, ‘was the sheer dedication and enthusiasm of everyone concerned. Opera Rara’s achievement in the meticulous preparation of little-known 19th-century operas is outstanding.’

‘I wondered whether listening to multiple versions of this old friend might spoil our relationship,’

muses JEREMYNICHOLAS, who writes this issue’s Collection on Mendelssohn’s G minor Piano Concerto. ‘But far from it. I’ve ended up even fonder of this magical work than I was before.’

THE REVIEWERS Andrew Achenbach • David Allen • Nalen Anthoni • Tim Ashley • Mike Ashman • Michelle Assay Richard Bratby • Edward Breen • Liam Cagney • Alexandra Coghlan • Rob Cowan (consultant reviewer) Jeremy Dibble • Peter Dickinson • Jed Distler • Adrian Edwards • Richard Fairman • David Fallows David Fanning • Andrew Farach-Colton • Iain Fenlon • Neil Fisher • Fabrice Fitch • Jonathan Freeman-Attwood Charlotte Gardner • David Gutman • Christian Hoskins • Lindsay Kemp • Philip Kennicott • Richard Lawrence Andrew Mellor • Ivan Moody • Bryce Morrison • Hannah Nepil • Jeremy Nicholas • Christopher Nickol Geo frey Norris • Richard Osborne • Stephen Plaistow • Mark Pullinger • Peter Quantrill • Guy Rickards Malcolm Riley • Marc Rochester • Patrick Rucker • Julie Anne Sadie • Edward Seckerson • Hugo Shirley Pwyll ap Siôn • Harriet Smith • David Patrick Stearns • David Threasher • David Vickers • John Warrack Richard Whitehouse • Arnold Whittall • Richard Wigmore • William Yeoman

Gramophone, which has been serving the classical music world since 1923, is irst and foremost a monthly review magazine, delivered today in both print and digital formats. It boasts an eminent and knowledgeable panel of experts, which reviews the full range of classical music recordings. Its reviews are completely independent. In addition to reviews, its interviews and features help readers to explore in greater depth the recordings that the magazine covers, as well as o fer insight into the work of composers and performers. It is the magazine for the classical record collector, as well as for the enthusiast starting a voyage of discovery.