hide captionThis Decca recording is one of the few major label albums to be nominated for a Gramophone award this year.
People love to debate the importance — or lack thereof — of the Grammy Awards. Watching the wearisome telecasts, you have no idea classical music is even a concern. Still, most classical musicians will tell you it's still a pretty big deal to actually win a Grammy.
But the Grammys aren't the only game in classical music. It's also quite an honor to win a Gramophone Award. The British have their own classical awards, the most important of which are doled out each fall by the venerable Gramophone magazine, which has been publishing record reviews and articles on classical music since 1923. Unlike the Grammys, a Gramophone award feels like it's handed out by people who really care about the music. On the other hand, the recordings they care about are routinely Brit-heavy and Eurocentric; you'll find few North American musicians on this list.
Yesterday, the magazine released its annual shortlist of nominees, a preliminary roundup of the best albums of the past year. Out of thousands of recordings issued, Gramophone determined a list of 646, and from that jurors have winnowed it down to 45 contenders. Below, you can see the top three picks in 15 categories. Plus, you can vote for artist of the year from a list of 10. All winners will be announced at a ceremony Oct. 6 at London's Dorchester Hotel.
Like the American classical Grammys of recent years, a trend toward nominating recordings by smaller labels has been emerging in the Gramophone awards. Out of the 45 recordings listed below only six are from major labels — labels like Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, EMI, Sony and RCA (the last two merged a few years back) — which used to dominate the field. For instance, in the opera category, the top three recordings come from Harmonia Mundi, Opera Rara and the London Symphony's own label LSO Live. This is clearly an era where online CD sales and downloads have leveled the playing field, toppling old-school distribution channels and brick-and-mortar record stores.