Monday, 1 September 2014

Gramophone Awards 2014

So, the Gramophone Classical Music Awards 2014 have been announced, and the winner of the Recording of the Year will be revealed at the awards ceremony on 17 September at St John's Smith Square. Schubert and CPE Bach are to the fore in the recordings. Jonas Kaufmann has won the Solo Vocal category for the second year running (this time with Schubert's Die Winterreise), the Pavel Haas Quartet won the Chamber Award (with Schubert's Death and the Maiden Quartet and String Quintet). Mahan Esfahani won the Baroque Instrumental category with CPE Bach sonatas and Hans Christoph Rademann's recording of CPE Bach's Magnificat with the RIAS Chamber Choir won the Baroque Vocal category.

Jonas Kaufmann - © Gregor Hohenberg / Sony Music
Jonas Kaufmann
© Gregor Hohenberg / Sony Music
George Benjamin's Written on Skin won the Contemporary category, though not the Opera category which went to the Ravel double bill from Glyndebourne. Choral category winners were the Dunedin consort in their reconstruction of Mozart's Requiem. And Iestyn Davies recital Arise my muse won Recital category.

But increasingly as I look at the shortlists for these awards I start to wonder how relevant they are to the modern recording industry. The Awards were founded in 1977, a period when there was a small number of large classical recording companies with a good roster of well known stars. Each company would produce their annual star recordings and these would, generally, compete for the awards. It was comparing like with like. Nowadays how on earth do you compare? There are few tenors in the world today to compare to Jonas Kaufmann. And you can't even listen to his recordings blind, because his voice is so distinctive. The structure of the seems to reflect our old way of thinking about classical recording production.

You have to start thinking: What is best? What makes a recording stand out? Does a super budget with imagination stand a chance? How can the awards reflect the real imagination and diversity of the records available to the public.

If you are interested in reading more of the background to this year's awards, then the original Gramphone reviews have been put together in an on-line edition.

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