18 OCTOBER 1997, Page 40

A sour note

Sir: Peter Phillips applauds ITV's televising this year's Gramophone Awards, but then casts aspersions upon the voting (Arts, 11 October). He says that the Early Music cat- egory 'has interested me most over the last few years' and might better have served the integrity of his article had he mentioned that his interest derives from being a past winner, on three occasions, of this award. He complains that the Gramophone critics vote for groups who are 'British, young and being preferred for the first time', rather as he and his Tallis Scholars were in 1987.

I'm uncertain why Mr Phillips is upset; is it at the apparent Anglocentricity of the judges' decisions? If so, then I suggest that his own work has acted as an encourage- ment to other young British groups, and that in Early Music recording British groups can justifiably claim to lead the world. (Their supremacy • in the Baroque field, also once unquestioned, is now con- tested by recent award-winners such as Rinaldo Alessandrini, Giovanni Antonini and Chiara Banchini; perhaps the same will happen in Early Music.) Mr Phillips also suggests that the inde- pendence of the judges' decisions is 'pre- tence'. I can only say that, as usual, the crit- ics in that category voted from home, in secret, having had the benefit of long expo- sure to the nominated recordings. More- over, aside from a few obvious specialists, it is not known who votes in each category, which might make the conspiracy that Mr Phillips seems to believe in hard to arrange.

You will by now gather that I found Mr Phillips's article short of the high standards set by your journal, not least because I con- sider it disingenuous for him not to men- tion his personal interest. He refers to com- ments he made on the Today programme but fails to point out that he was only on the programme because his recording of Josquin's masses was Gramophone's Record of the Year, and that the publicity occasioned was sufficient to render the recording (released by the company, Gimell, of which he remains a director) out of stock across the country that day.

That last fact makes his statement that 'winning one of these awards makes very little difference to the sale of the iecord concerned' rather hard to accept, even more so when I note that of last year's win- ners a dozen immediately appeared in the following week's classical chart. Anecdotal evidence over many years suggests that the sales benefits to winning discs are global and long-lived.

Finally, Mr Phillips seems to applaud Tower Records' decision to boycott this year's awards on the basis of the sponsor- ship of Britannia Music Club; he will no . doubt watch with as much interest as I the line which Tower takes over next Febru- ary's pop awards, the Brits, which have been sponsored by Britannia, and support- ed by Tower, for many years.

Christopher Pollard

Gramophone, 135 Greenford Road, Harrow, Middlesex