Go online, download your favorite tunes, grab your MP3 player and take the New York Philharmonic with you! The Orchestra, whose first commercial recording was made in 1917 on an acoustical disc, has leaped into the digital age. Two pioneering recording deals have been inked that will yield a total of seven recordings of live Philharmonic performances a year‹four as downloadable concerts, three in the form of CDs, but also available online.
The downloads, called DGConcerts, come courtesy of a three-year agreement with Deutsche Grammophon (DG), which will distribute four live concerts per year as downloads‹at first exclusively on iTunes‹as well as an additional concert on CD. The first DG Concert has already reached the iTunes Music Store: Mozart's final three symphonies, Nos. 39, 40, and 41, "Jupiter," recorded live at Avery Fisher Hall in February, led by Music Director Lorin Maazel. The New York Times, in reviewing the concerts, spoke of the "elegance" of playing, and noted that "Mr. Maazel and his orchestra were sophistication and attentiveness themselves." The symphonies are available individually or as a package of all three. Forthcoming downloads will be announced in the near future.
In commenting about the arrangement with Deutsche Grammophon, New York Philharmonic President and Executive Director Zarin Mehta notes, "The Philharmonic was the first orchestra to do a radio broadcast, and has been the most recorded orchestra in America, so being in the vanguard of the technologies of the time is nothing new for us. But of course, we're thrilled."
The second recording deal is a partnership with New World Records, which will produce two CDs per year that will mine the rich store of recent New York Philharmonic commissions in their world premieres. The first disc, to be released at the end of May, will include two commissions, both recorded live and in concert: Stephen Hartke's Symphony No. 3 (2003) and Augusta Read Thomas's Gathering Paradise: Emily Dickinson Settings for Soprano and Orchestra (2004). Soloists are The Hilliard Ensemble and soprano Heidi Grant Murphy. A 1991 Philharmonic performance of Jacob Druckman's Summer Lightning will also be included. All three works were conducted by Lorin Maazel.
"The commitment by the New York Philharmonic and New World to present works by deserving composers that would otherwise go unrecorded is a major achievement," says New World Records President Herman Krawitz. "We are particularly proud of the longevity‹ nearly 30 years‹of our fruitful association with this extraordinary ensemble." New World Records recorded 13 American works with the Orchestra between 1983 and 1991.
Throughout its history, the New York Philharmonic has appeared on some 1,500 recordings. But, like ensembles around the world, it found that making recordings the old-fashioned way was becoming increasingly costly. According to Mr. Mehta, it was a breakthrough agreement with the Philharmonic players that made these digital recordings possible: "Compliments are owed to the musicians for recognizing that this is the future of classical music."
Lorin Maazel adds his own compliment to the musicians: "Since this orchestra performs so perfectly and so precisely, many of our live performances are worthy of documentation." As for the digital aspect, he adds, "Everyone's at it anyway‹why not get on their side?"
Lucy Kraus is a Publications Editor at the New York Philharmonic.