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Long term Gramophone reader, now ex

Discussion in 'classical' started by JOHN VAN BAVEL, Mar 1, 2017.


    JOHN VAN BAVEL pfm Member

    I have read Gramophone magazine religiously since about age 16 and am now 73 ' I have also presented and prepared 2 classical music programs a week for the past 8 years . [Establishing my credentials ] So it is with some regret that I decided to no longer read this magazine .
    Various reasons
    1] Content has shrunk a lot over the years
    2] The magazine is grossly anglo-centric . Not UK centric but English to the n th degree and as a Scot and now Australian I find this unacceptable '[I could be ruder. ]
    3] English performers get undue praise an
    d the rest are nowhere . There is a big world out there that is non English .
    4] The almost heavy preponderance of small music i.e. chamber, solo instrument , song and choral music . The balance is out of kilter .
    5] Major review articles have been mind numbingly uninteresting and heavily biased towards 4]

    Sorry guys , you've lost me

  2. kimmiles

    kimmiles pfm Member

    Couldn't agree more.
    Have been a subscriber off and on for about 40 years and I have found myself more and more actually being angry after reading an issue!! I thought that that was confined to hifi magazines (who I also no longer subscribe to!).
    However (and rather sadly) it is still streets ahead of the BBC Music Magazine, which is truly awful!
    Your reasons 1, 4 and 5 would be my major reasons for (trying) to go elsewhere.
    (Perhaps this should be in the 'classical' section??)
  3. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    I picked a complete bound set from 1955-78 up at the local auction house for about £15 a few years ago and really like dipping into it both for music and audio reviews. I find the jazz reviews especially amusing, they really did not 'get' many now benchmark albums! I have to admit I've not seen a copy for decades now so I've no idea where it has ended up, but a great shame if it has declined. I'm surprised it is heavily England-centric given it must be trying to attract global readers.

  4. sls4321

    sls4321 pfm Member

    As a reader from early 1980s can agree. Listen mostly on Francocentric Qobuz and there is great music from our nearest neighbour mostly ignored. The loss of the annual Classical Music Guide, the last one in 2012, was bad news.
    My favourite reading are the Compton Mackenzie editorials from the very start, many still relevant today. So I suppose it peaked 90 years ago.
  5. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    What magazines (online or print) or websites would you subscribe to nowadays for good classical coverage?
  6. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    I tend to buy the BBC Music Mag in a local shop simply because I like the cover CDs. Bottled Radio 3. :) But the reviews I generally skim though.

    I gave up on buying The Gramophone a long time ago. The number of reviews seemed to be falling away and their hifi/audio section became too trivial. (As is the section in BBC Music Mag.)

    I still have items I kept from The Gramophone back in the 1970s-2000 and they are far more informative than they became later. And from what I've seen, earlier issues were also excellent.

    Many years ago their catalogues of what was issued on LP, etc, were excellent and decently priced. Then they racked up the price by an amazing amount over a few years and I stopped buying them.

    Seeing Tony's collection triggers my "Gramophone Envy" again! I really wish I had a copy of the issues pre the ones I have here. Lots of audio history in them.
  7. ciderglider

    ciderglider pfm Member

    Gramophone is not what it was before Haymarket took it over (in the 1990s, I think it was), but it has improved since Mark Allen Group bought it. The magazine is based in England, so it's not surprising that it focuses on English artistes. Your claim that "English performers get undue praise and the rest are nowhere" is utter twaddle. I had thought Australia had thrown off its Cultural Cringe, but it would seem I was mistaken.
  8. narabdela

    narabdela who?

    How about, "The magazine is based in The U.K., so it's surprising that it focuses on English artistes."?
  9. eisenach

    eisenach Thüringen

    I have shelves of G from early 1980s to around 2000. I used to subscribe but I stopped buying it not long after Haymarket "spoilt" it. I haven't tried it recently; maybe I should.
    I agree with many of the comments above.
  10. camverton

    camverton pfm Member

    I must have bought every issue since the mid seventies, now on iPad.

    Unlike International Record Review it has moved with the times to have a lively appearance, but I haven't any complaint about the overall standard of reviews. They are but an opinion which lead one on to further research (and sometimes disagreement :)). I haven't noticed any particular bias to the English. The audio section doesn't seem so good as in the past, but then I view that through rose tinted specs.

    I still enjoy reading it every month, although with access to the internet and the ability to sample the goods it is no longer such an essential read.
  11. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    Do you have a subscription that lets you access their archive? If so, I'd be interested to know how extensive that is, and what scan resolution, etc, they provide for very early issues. i.e. before the 1950s?

    I have no real interest in current issues. But I would like to find things in the very early issues. However my interest is specifically in audio/radio equipment reviews and features *not* in the music reviews.
  12. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    But that was one of the big appeals of IRR - that it hadn't gone all flashy and trendy, and the reviews were written by serious learned folks wearing tweed! Such a shame it stopped publishing.

    I used to subscribe to Gramophone for a while but found myself not bothering to read it anymore in mid 2000s, so stopped. The Audio section under Keith Howard and Geoffrey Horn was great in the old days, but when it became an adjunct of What Hifi under Haymarket with reviewers who had no interest in classical music it was time to stop. Similarly the Soundings section, where they took the month's best reviewed recordings and assessed sound quality was a great favourite - but that stopped when Haymarket took over.

    I think the music reviews did have a bias towards brit performers - for example the adulation for everything by Simon Rattle, including the G'phone award for his Gurrelieder which tbh was the worst sung and worst recorded version I've yet heard.
  13. camverton

    camverton pfm Member

    My subscription on the iPad is £3.99 a month and allows me to access issues back to the 1920s. There are 13 issues per year and the occasional extra supplemet. I had a quick look at the scan quality of December 1949 and it was quite acceptable - some yellowing of the pages and a few bits of smudged type notwithstanding.

    Good grief, I hadn't realised IRR had stopped publishing. On reflection I'm not that surprised as it always struck me as a serious journal for serious people, who might be in limited supply these days.

    The modern issues do look good on the iPad with many of the photographs looking excellent. On the whole I find it a decent mag these days, even if the audio section isn't much cop.

    As for Simon Rattle; I have never understood why he is so highly regarded. He once said (in interview) to Michael Berkeley "you know, I just love anything that makes the orchestra sounds like a million dollars" - perhaps that is his appeal.
  14. Richard C.

    Richard C. pfm Member

    I agree that it has been many years since The Gramophone was The World's Authority on Classical Music since 1923 and its appeal is much reduced from earlier times. I too missed the equipment reviews but then I am of the view that modern stuff does not lend itself to review in the same way as was practised in the '50s and earlier '60s. It is some time since I read a copy for I felt that the writing was on the wall when the title was acquired some time in the '90s. It was evident then that quality was going to be sacrificed for increased circulation. The current format may well be "out of kilter" but there is nothing unusual here; so much of modern life is unbalanced. At least Mr van Bavel, living in Australia, is spared the execrable programming of BBC3 with its perennial bias towards "first perfomance" (never to be heard again) works. However, in fairness I have to acknowledge that Aunty does provide a reasonable inclusion of "small works" as an antidote to yet another Beethoven symphony.

    However, I do think Mr van Bavel's observations are un-necessarily dispeptic and sounding more like a press release from the Scottish National Party than a balanced consideration of this once august journal. Perhaps I have missed something here for I remember that the English magazine's founder and first editor also was a Scot (although English by birth) and a rabid supporter of Scottish independence.

    I'm suddenly confronted with the whimsical vision of the two knights, Sir Compton MacKenzie and Sir Les Patterson sparring on one of Melvin Bragg's shows. :eek:
  15. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    I don't think there is nearly enough contemporary music on R3. Every concert or recital (not just on the radio, but in general) should have a piece composed within the last 20 years on the programme.
  16. SteveS1

    SteveS1 I heard that, pardon?

    I read it from the 70s up to about ten years ago. They lost me then for reasons similar to the OP. I have fond memories of it but things change.
  17. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    I'm quite happy for it to have a mix. Particularly given the iPlayer which lets you choose as and when you fancy!
  18. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    If you can resurrect some schoolboy French and want to keep the little grey cells ticking over, Diapason is an excellent substitute.
  19. Richard C.

    Richard C. pfm Member

    I think it is very much part of the Beeb's brief to commission new works and I'm pleased that the Corporation is active in this regard. My gripe is that broadcasts of this material so often seem to be unduly concentrated; the music of much of these new works being of doubtful quality (which is why they are not heard again) and contained within lengthy programmes at inappropriate times. For those who do not care for Philip Glass and the like, this is irritating. There was a time when Aunty had the grace to leave transmission of avant garde works (and jazz) until after 22,00 but now we get Hindemith at 08,00 which aids my breakfast digestion not at all. ;);)

    Frankly, having a piece written in the last twenty years as a required inclusion would be little more than tokenism and we have enough of that in life already! But I'm not averse to such inclusions given a sensible balance and that musical quality is not jettisoned for just mere novelty.
  20. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    Couldn't agree more. We 'consume' music for different reasons at different times, in my case relaxing with something familiar more often than not. Occasionally I'm prepared to stop being lazy and to work at something new, but it's an entirely different experience, active rather than passive, and I have to be in the right, receptive frame of mind.
    When there's a reference on R3 to the famous Beethoven benefit concert, I try to imagine what it must have been like when there was such an appetite for new music. The second Viennese school has a lot to answer for! (Dons tin helmet and awaits flak barrage.)

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