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The spanner in Gramophone’s works

The wonderful pianist James Rhodes lets rip on the Guardian website at the flaccid folly of the annual awards: …. mutual masturbation… impotent bleating … stultifying vacuum.

Yes, he’s got it about right. Click here for a rollicking good read.

james rhodes


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  1. David Wilson-Johnson says:

    glorious stuff……Thanks James!

  2. A music critic was mocked during one of the speeches at the Gramophone Awards, a critic who had claimed Decca as dead in the water. And how everyone laughed at said critic as Decca collected Label of the Year in recognition of superb projects like the Britten box set, Kaufmann/Wagner and Chailly Brahms symphonies. If only I could remember that critic’s name…

  3. It’s all very well getting attention for slagging off something, but unless you proffer some solution or alternative, it means nothing.

  4. Theodore McGuiver says:

    The article is quite fun but the comments thread is better.

  5. Sounds like the Oscars in terms of self-congratulatory back slapping. Perhaps they should get Ricky Gervais to host it next year?

  6. Interesting more for the trail of comments underneath than the article itself.
    For example here is Simon’s observation:

    “I’d like to know what Rhodes has got against Varese and Xenakis or people who like their music. I don’t claim to like those 2 and a lot of other 20thC music. I DO enjoy them. If the best he can do is slag off 2 of the last century’s most original musical creators, then I suspect he knows that the rest of his thinking is dodgy and has to try to draw attention away from the fact. And previous posters are right – I can’t see him suggesting any ways to make things better.”

  7. James says that these awards amount to mutual masturbation and are stuck in the mentality of the 1930s. Alexandra Coghlan in the New Stesman gives quite another impression:

    Setting the curve in 2013 with a winning Record of the Year was Moldovan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja performing concertos by Bartók, Eötvös and Ligeti. It’s a wonderful result, in large part for being so unexpected. Smart money might have been on vocal winner Jonas Kaufmann, nominee Joyce DiDonato or even Gramophone’s most-awarded artist John Eliot Gardiner. A victory for Kopatchinskaja and three 20th and 21st-century concertos is a victory for grit over polish, for challenge over comfort. This young artist is not one to mince her musical words. Sacrificing beauty for emotional engagement she risks much, and to reward this daring with a win at such an early stage in her career sends a vital message to an industry of retouchers and studio edits that truth is more valuable than the loveliest of illusions.

  8. Doesn’t pull his punches, does he?

    Good. We need more like this.

  9. Gonout Backson says:

    Why would you?

  10. Richard Bernas says:

    He’s right, but it’s been the case at those awards for at least the last twenty years.

  11. Robert Kenchington says:

    I am in total accord with James Rhodes’ assessment of the classical music world in this country. Before I became interested in the classical repertoire I perceived it’s followers to be a snobbish, elitist bunch of old and young fogies who kept the music to themselves and wouldn’t let anyone born after 1960 join in. Nowadays, having been an avid classical recording collector for 30 years (and briefly a freelance critic for Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine) nothing has changed my opinion.

    Indeed, I have never found the symphony concert a comfortable experience. I have only endured the closed atmosphere and prissy attitudes often displayed by the people who go to these events purely to experience the talent of the artist(s) I have paid to hear. Provincial concert halls are especially cliquish. (There’s a regular at Leicester’s stuffy De Montfort Hall who goes clutching an Eulenburg study score of the evening’s main work to prove to others that he knows more about it than anyone else and has gone to check that the conductor/soloist/orchestra is ‘getting it right’).

    Of course, there are a lot of people who go to concerts simply to say they’ve been. Many’s the time I’ve seen middle-aged couples (again at De Montfort) who clearly don’t know the piece being played (one man wincing at every cymbal clash in Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony) yet prate noisily to someone at the next dreary assembly of the local recorded music society so say how ‘MAAHVELUSS’ the Philharmonia had been and ‘we got to speak to Christopher Warren-Green’ etc. It’s enough to put you off classical music altogether. Indeed, I once walked out of an especially dull evening with an ageing Russian conductor and went straight down to the local disco for a refreshing boogie. At least the nightclub had some life about it!

    In Europe, the attitude is, in general, quite different. Classical concert audiences are not only younger and from a wider social and racial spectrum, they believe the music to be a living, vital part of life – not something to wrap in mothballs and keep exclusively for academics and self-appointed ‘specialists’. And as for Gramophone, well, they lost the plot some time ago. In their view, only CDs featuring Simon Rattle or John Eliot Gardiner are worth listening to. Everything else, from Toscanini onwards, is ‘not really for them’ etc.

    With attitudes like the aforementioned, and what James has related in his vitally refreshing article, it’s little wonder that classical music has atrophied in this country. I for one see little hope of change there. The stern disapproval my comment will no doubt receive by certain readers of Norman’s blog will no doubt, compound the strength of both James’ argument – and my own.

  12. I dunno. Seems to me that James is slamming the Gramophone Awards for not doing things that they aren’t meant to do.

    It’s true that classical music needs more outreach to the general public. There are many such efforts, and there will be more. The Gramophone Awards was never intended to be one of them.

  13. Rollicking good read? Anyone can write negative crap like that. All mockery with not a single constructive idea about what to do.

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