Magazine article The Spectator

Healthy Competition

Magazine article The Spectator

Healthy Competition

Article excerpt

The 2010 Gramophone Awards took me by surprise the other day - quite possibly because I took no interest in the 2009 Awards and therefore may have missed out on a trend. It was as if the recording equivalent of the Campaign for Real Ale had come along, swept away the Watney's Red Barrel, Whitbread's Trophy Bitter and Worthington 'E' of the classical music industry and replaced them with all those myriad microbreweries with funny names and higher alcohol levels. Where once there was EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and RCA touting their short list of famous names in predictable repertoire, there is now so much variety that the punter needs a degree in Comparative Listening to keep abreast of it all.

I think this is a healthy scene, which in a way corroborates the average turnout recently announced for the latest season at the Proms: 92 per cent across the board.

Classical music is clearly becoming more and more popular, and it isn't just the Viennese classics that are making it so. There is now plenty of room for all manner of diversity, which is as true of repertoire as it is of specialist artists and record labels. With so many significant ensembles founding their own labels to promote their own corner of the market, one wonders where it will all end, except to say it does not mean big bucks for even the most renowned any more, at least not from record sales.

It appears that I do not have the necessary degree, since I found I had not only not heard of some of the winners, but had scarcely heard of the labels recording them. For example, the Baroque Instrumental Award went to Vivaldi - 'The French Connection' played by La Serenissima under Adrian Chandler on Avie (AV2178); the Baroque Vocal Award to a group called the Baltasar Neumann Chorus under Thomas Hengelbrock, on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (8869 752684-2). This is not, of course, the record company called Harmonia Mundi, which won two awards this year including this curiously named category: Chamber in association with the Eilat Chamber Music Festival.

Linking awards with music festivals is a new one on me and suggests all sorts of interesting conjunctions. The Proms would be eyecatching.

Perhaps classical music just doesn't throw up that many celebs these days, which is not to say the talent isn't there. …

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