New York Philharmonic Unveils Digital-Music Partnership With Google – Wall Street Journal

The New York Philharmonic performing at Avery Fisher Hall earlier this year. The orchestra is working with Google in a new digital-music initiative called Classical Live.
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Missed the New York Philharmonic’s thundering rendition of Verdi’s Requiem this winter? How about the Cleveland Orchestra’s sizzling take on Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony No. 3?

A new digital-music initiative launched Monday by five orchestras hopes to woo classical-music fans by making live performances available faster through Google Inc.
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’s digital music service.

The initiative, dubbed Classical Live, offers current live recordings of the orchestras on Google Play Music, the search giant’s digital music service.

Besides the Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra, the other groups are the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

Users can purchase works for digital download starting at 69 cents, or listen via streaming subscription in the 58 countries where the service is available.

“We hope that the program will bring a closer and more dynamic connection between audiences around the world and these major orchestras, and generate more interest in classical-music recordings in markets where the orchestras don’t typically reach,” said Jessica Lustig, co-director of Classical Live and a managing director of 21C Media Group, an arts publicity and consulting firm.

The Philharmonic, one of the first orchestras to broadcast on the radio in the 1920s, is also one of several major orchestras that already offers live recordings through its website or music services such as iTunes, Spotify or Amazon.com.

But Classical Live will allow the orchestra to expand its audience even more world-wide, said Matthew VanBesien, the Philharmonic’s president.

Digital technology and classical music might seem like strange bedfellows. But while hip-hop and country music get downloaded more often, according to Google spokesman Matt McLernon, classical-music fans are used to paying for subscriptions, albeit ones that involve showing up at a concert hall.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us to help bring an audience that may not be already in the streaming world into it,” Mr. McLernon said.

One selling point: Classical Live plans to make new material available more quickly than many fans are used to, with quicker turnarounds between live performances and listening.

The initiative’s June releases include exclusive, digital-only performances from Boston and Cleveland’s orchestras, as well as newly available recordings from the other partners. The London Symphony Orchestra is offering four works by Mendelssohn, all conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

The Philharmonic is contributing Verdi’s Requiem and highlights from its 2014 inaugural new-music biennial, which are also available on other music platforms.

Nothing can replace the live concert experience, said Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director. Still, as both a performer and a user of digital technology, he said, “I get excited when I discover a new platform embracing classical music—particularly one as globally impactful as Google.”

Write to Jennifer Smith at jennifer.smith@wsj.com

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