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Thread: Gramophone magazine

  1. #1
    Senior Member flamencosketches's Avatar
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    Default Gramophone magazine

    Is it worth getting in this day and age? For a bit of context, I'm a Millennial and have never had a magazine subscription in my life, but I love classical music, love print media, and would love to keep up with what's going on in the world of recorded music. But I don't know whether my money would be better spent elsewhere.

    Who here is a subscriber? Are you satisfied with the quality of journalism and criticism in Gramophone magazine in 2019?

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    I've been a subscriber for decades - well satisfied.

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Same as Bulldog, probably been subscribing for 30+ years, or at least buying monthly. Still very happy with it, but as I get older and more cantankerous, finding myself more likely to disagree with venom with some of their recommendations.

    We can all disagree with things like "greatest this and that" lists til the cows come home, but to publish a "50 greatest conductors" list with Dudamel in it, and only one Czech in there (or two if you count Mackerras), really embarked my paridae....
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Jun-22-2019 at 15:54.

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    Senior Member Kiki's Avatar
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    I was a subscriber for 20 years but I stopped subscribing around 15, 20 years ago.

    The ads and the "telephone directory" (list of new releases) used to be how I found out what new records were coming out. However, with the internet coming to age, I found the magazine slow and redundant in that respect.

    The quality of reviews was mostly excellent, and I suppose they were probably the most authoritative in the English speaking world. (Did need to pay attention to who the Karajan haters were though. ) However, today we have free reviews all over the web (but probably not as authoritative); and we can easily sample for ourselves on Spotify etc., free, to make up our mind.

    The features, the interviews and the comparison of recordings were good. If that's what one's interested in, they offer various levels of digital subscriptions in addition to prints, where one of the packages will allow you full access to their whole review database. That may be an attractive option.

    However, one annoying thing for me was that they seldom quoted recording dates. The dates that they quoted were review dates on their magazine, which is useless for me, but then one might not care.

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    Senior Member Art Rock's Avatar
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    I had a subscription from 1990 until 1999 (when I moved to Singapore). I enjoyed it, good interviews, good reviews, and advertisements for mail order of CDs that I used a lot. When I renewed my interest in classical music around 2005, the world had changed completely. Internet is now a primary source of information and ordering stuff. I never considered taking a subscription again (as a matter of fact the only subscription we have left in our home are monthly Sudoku magazines).
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

  6. #6
    Senior Member gardibolt's Avatar
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    If you listen to the free Gramophone podcast, they always have a 20% off coupon for subscribers. May as well save a few bucks if you take the plunge.
    Hours of unrecorded, unpublished and unknown Beethoven works at The Unheard Beethoven

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    Senior Member Kjetil Heggelund's Avatar
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    I only get their newsletter, but there's enough there to keep me occupied. That is the recordings of the month and once a year, the annual awards.

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    The best of the British classical rags was International Record Review, or IRR, in my opinion. They didn't show as much of a bias towards the perennial British favorites, which I found refreshing. For example, if they had a mixed reaction to a recording by John Eliot Gardiner they would dare to criticize it, and explain why, with good reasons. But unfortunately they closed their doors a few years ago. I'd love to know where the IRR music critics went, and if they're now writing for any other classical magazines? Does anyone know?

    Otherwise, between Gramophone and BBC Music magazine, I tend to slightly prefer BBC Music magazine. The monthly 'free' CDs that come with the magazine are occasionally treasurable, which is an added bonus. For example, I received these two excellent CDs through my BBC subscription--(1) Thierry Fischer's premiere recording of Pierre Boulez's final edition of Claude Debussy's "Le Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian", which is a rarity, since it includes every note that Debussy composed for D'Annunzio's play, and (2) one of the finest recordings I've heard of Schubert's String Quintet, performed by the Vellinger Quartet & cellist Bernard Greenhouse (of the Beaux Arts Trio):

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Martyrdom-S...y&sr=8-1-fkmr0
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Schubert-Qu...y&sr=8-1-fkmr0

    Etc.

    http://www.classical-music.com/

    But I do get disappointed with the critics at both magazines, from time to time. They're not always as informed as they should be. For example, I recall reading a review of Corelli Violin Sonatas, Op. 5 a couple of years ago, where the critic obviously had a limited knowledge of the other available recordings, but that didn't stop them from recommending the recording they were reviewing as 'the one to buy'. Plus, they have a tendency to recommend 'middle of the road', safe performances (which some might call boring), and in certain cases, they favor the same artists & ensembles repeatedly (such as Mitsuko Uchida, who can do no wrong, or the Florestan Trio or the Lindsay Quartet, etc.). It can get annoying (& limiting), especially when I get suckered into buying yet another recording that I find ordinary (or worse), but which has received a glowing review & monthly plaudit, or even a year end award. I've noticed that it's not just a British bias either, but rather extends to any musician that lives and works in London (such as Uchida, Perahia, Brendel, Schiff, etc.), or possibly the larger UK.

    Yet, the bias is actually a very good thing otherwise, as I see it, because it supports the local arts, and helps to build a stronger musical identity & culture in Britain--even if they do occasionally miss on supporting great artists from other cultures. Plus, it's hardly just a shortcoming of the British classical magazines. American classical music culture leads the way in that regard, and yet, unlike Britain, they seldom manage to even support their own.

    Of course, I'm only speaking in generalities, and what I'm saying above isn't always true, as there are tons of examples that would argue to the contrary, I admit.

    One way to enjoy the fruits of both Gramophone and BBC Music magazine is to stay up with the Presto Classical website, which lists the monthly plaudits from both magazines on a regularly basis, and also covers the annual awards voting & prize winners:

    https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/articles/browse

    Another way to stay up on reviews of the most recent recordings--as reviewed by British critics, is through MusicWeb-international. However, I haven't found the critics on this website to always be reliable:

    http://www.musicweb-international.co...v/classrev.htm

    Classical.net may be preferable, critically, but I don't know if that's a British website?:

    http://classical.net/

    For music of the Middle Ages & Renaissance, I'd strongly recommend Medieval.org, which is based in Boston in the U.S.:

    http://www.medieval.org/

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Jun-28-2019 at 00:04.

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  10. #9
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    Gramophone articles are good for what they are. Just be aware of their English bias, and take what they say about the merits of various English conductors and composers with a grain of salt.

  11. #10
    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I never bought the magazine but had two or three editions of the yearbook. They were an invaluable source of reference when my collecting was in its infancy and I totally lacked the 'nose', but I got rid of them some years ago. The British bias (perhaps I might prefer the word 'emphasis' here) may not be too much of a surprise for a British magazine but I did detect a certain whiff of over-adulation of Simon Rattle, especially with his Mahler recordings, virtually all of which were featured, as I recall. Somewhat illogically, there wasn't a single review for any of Mravinsky's Shostakovich's recordings - other Soviet conductors such as Kondrashin and Rozhdestvensky fared little or no better either.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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