The Philadelphia Orchestra unveiled this morning an online music store where you can download archival recordings, commerically released CDs and, coming soon, recent Philadelphia Orchestra concerts.  Other orchestras have done the same thing but the orchestra says it is first major American ensemble to market directly to the public without a distributor. 

There are 26 pieces currently available on the site, including eight Beethoven symphonies conducted by Christoph Eschenbach over the 2005-06 season, plus Wolfgang Sawallisch’s Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 from 2005 and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 from 2000.

For a limited time, you can download Beethoven’s Fifth (can’t get too many copies of that one) in a performance led by Eschenbach, recorded live in the orchestra’s home, Verizon Hall at The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

Prices are $4.99 for basic MP3 files; shorter works, such as Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, cost 99 cents.

Smart move by Philadelphia.  Downloading is clearly becoming the dominant form of music distribution which is good news for classical music in general because the economics of digital mean almost anybody can get into the game.   A lot more music will be available in a lot more flavors.  Take that, EMI.

Elsewhere, check out Darcy James Argue’s splendid review of Monday’s Wordless Music concert at the Good Shepherd-Faith Church.

You’ll note in the right-hand column that the Metropolis Ensemble, one of the hipper new chamber music groups around town, has joined Bridge Records as a distinguished sponsor of  S21.  The ensemble will open its second season on Thursday, October 19, 2006 at 8 pm at the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center for the Arts, 172 Norfolk Street, with the New York premiere of David Schiff’s song cycle All About Love, a panoramic meditation on love and all that good stuff. Schiff, the ensemble’s composer-in-residence, is best-known for his opera Gempel The Fool.

The program also features rising vocal stars Thomas Glenn and mezzo Hai-Ting Chinn and a semi-staged performance of the Rite of Spring of the Baroque Era: Monteverdi’s musical drama Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda.

If you’re interested, we still have space for a couple of more sponsors.  For the time being, at least, any dinero we take in will be used to pay musicians for the S21 concert on November 20.

One thought on “Roll Over Beethoven: Philadelphia Orchestra Goes Digital”
  1. I’m glad to see the Phillie orchestra moving toward the future, but my concern is the same one I’ve had about the record/CD stores in the last 10 years. They start out as gangbusters with lots of product and within a year or two, the selection is down to Mozart’s greatest hits, or The Most Relaxing Classical Music Ever, etc.
    This may be rather simplistic, but what if, just what if, the reason fewer people are buying classical music or art music is, we already have 5 copies of Beethoven’s complete symphonies. I don’t need another copy of that. I would like to have a couple of different performances of Carter’s Clarinet Concerto or Schnittke’s Third string quartet. I have money I want to spend on NEW product or recordings of pieces that are rarely if ever recorded or performed. I’ve heard about some of these pieces, I’ve read about them, but since I don’t live in God’s city and don’t get to enjoy the performances of all NY City’s various new music groups, I must get my music on disc. If it is available that is. Amazon doesn’t have EVERYTHING.
    Is another cycle of Beethoven’s Symphonies really going to help the Philadelphia Orchestra? Or save Tower Records. I doubt stocking the complete works of Berio or Boulez or Chen Yi will do that either, but I’d buy everyone one of them — twice if they’re recorded by different groups.
    It shouldn’t amaze anyone that students in Music Appreciation class get turned on by new music. They’ve never heard it. And, except for those of us who try to promote it anyway we can, they never will. Except as a gag on South Park or the Simpsons.
    This is an old and tired subject, but it is worth mentioning again. Hopefully word will get around about the links on this site (maybe get the orchestra(s) to provide a link to NEW music on their site. Maybe there will be some nice new music on their concert rebroadcasts. New, of course, meaning within the last 10 years. Startling music from 1913 is not new anymore no matter how awesome it was and still is. Hell, something from 1968 would be refreshing.
    I love you Beethoven, but I’d rather hear Henze right now.

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