Tuesday, December 02, 2008

BSO Musical Offerings

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has decided to offer performances from both its archives and studio recordings as downloads on its web site. The initial batch of performances includes the 12-CD set From the Broadcast Archives:1943-2000 and a recent Mozart disk by the BSO Chamber Players. Prices range from $8.99 to $12.99. You can find the download page here.

About that price differential: what you pay depends on the format you choose. The recordings are available as 320 kbps MP3 and as HD Surround with PC Lossless encoding.

I haven't bought any of these and so can't report on either the sound or musical quality. I stopped looking at the site when I realized I'd have to click every album to find out what's on it, because the recordings index page doesn't display the track listings. Sure, it wouldn't take that long to go through the 15 or so albums now available, but this is an avoidable (and easily correctable!) design error. I've emailed the BSO about this because I'm not the only crank out here, and they will want to maximize sales while minimizing user frustration.

In addition to the recordings, I want to point out another fine feature of the BSO web site: the BSO Classical Companion, where you can find information about classical music. To my relief, it's not focussed on the 18th and 19th century warhorses, but primarily on music of our time and the recent past.

I listened to a chunk of the Elliott Carter Centenary episode, which features both talk and performances. I wasn't paying attention when the works and performers were introduced, but the first piece seems to be the Double Concerto, and isn't that Oliver Knussen conducting? There are also episodes about Berlioz & Messiaen (what a pairing!), John Harbison, William Bolcom, and Henri Dutilleux. Highly, highly recommended.


Elaine Fine said...

It would also be nice if they would give the names of the soloists. The Strauss Duet Concertante, for example, which is on the first Ozawa recording, has Harold Wright as the clarinet soloist and Sherman Walt as the bassoon soloist, but the only name mentioned is the name of the conductor.

The BSO people have a lot of work to do on their site to make it really useful.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I agree. The SFO web site has different, but related, problems: you have to click through too many layers to find out exactly what's being played on a given day. The calendar and the front-page blurb for the week's program both state only the headliner, as defined by marketing. "Emmanuel Ax Plays Strauss," but what you care about is the Szymanowski he's playing elsewhere on the program. "Argerich Plays Ravel" - okay, Argerich playing anything is worth a headline - but also on the program is the Ligeti Requiem.