Last Sunday (April 29), an Orchestra concert conducted by music director Christoph Eschenbach was transmitted live, in high-definition video and audio, from Verizon Hall to the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Delaware, Montgomery County Community College (Pa.), the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, the University of Porto in Portugal and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
The "multicast" was sent over Internet2 (a non-profit consortium of over 200 universities connected by an advanced high-speed and high-bandwidth network). The Philadelphia Orchestra has already used this technology for master classes with Miami's New World Symphony (the first US orchestra to make regular use of Internet2) and Philadelphia's Curtis Institute of Music.
The concert program included Beethoven's Violin Concerto (with soloist Julia Fischer) and Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. Remote audiences were greeted prior to the start of the concert by Eschenbach and viewed live pre-concert and intermission interviews with him, Fischer and and concertmaster David Kim; they also had the opportunity to e-mail or instant-message questions to the three interviewees.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Orchestra officials expect to offer live transmissions for public viewing during the 2007-08 season in movie theaters with hi-definition screens and sound systems around the world, along the lines of the Metropolitan Opera's highly successful simulcasts.
Ed Cambron, the Orchestra's vice president of marketing, told the paper, "My dream is that we could have 10,000 or 20,000 people hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra live, instead of the 2,000 sitting in the hall." Board chairman Hal Sorgenti added that the broadcasts could be particularly helpful to connect the Orchestra with audiences in Asia, where Western classical music is enjoying major growth in popularity.
According to the Inquirer, while Met simulcasts require a satellite dish on the receiving end, Internet2 is less expensive to run (although the visual quality isn't quite as high) and offers an interactive element.
The paper adds that, as with the first Met Opera simulcasts, there were glitches: at Penn, for example, the Internet2 connection wasn't enabled until after the concert had started.
The technology can also be used for rehearsals when conductors can't be present in person. Michael Tilson Thomas, artistic director of the New World Symphony, conducted a run-through of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring over the fiber-optic line. "They were behind the beat," he told the Inquirer, "but not as far as some continental [European] orchestras are, even when you're in the same room with them."