primephonic: classical music in the digital age

Amplify your life with our 2017 e- magazine, featuring interviews with Philip Glass, insights on classical music in New York City and more!

Amplify your life with our 2017 e- magazine, featuring interviews with Philip Glass, insights on classical music in New York City and more!


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for life on an epic scale printed issue 2017

philip glass

a mystical portrait

the chronicles

of streaming

an unprecedented


augustin hadelich

how do i listen?


music in

the digital



Press play.

And pause.

Immerse yourself in a

world of classical music


for life on an epic scale

downloads | streaming | experiences

table of


from the editor................................ 6

brooklyn, a classical portrait............ 14

from the recording studio................ 24

streaming user experience............... 44

label portraits.................................. 46

reviews............................................ 63

historical calendar........................... 67


the brown


pentatone’s graphic designer shares his

enthusiasm for bringing a breath of fresh air

into the creation of album art



maria callas

maria callas had a remarkable

voice unlike any other


the chronicles

of streaming

‘it feels like we're just getting started’


how do i listen?

augustin hadelich



music &


hans scharoun’s berlin philharmonie, one

of the wonders of modern architecture



philip glass




there are more obscure and uncommon

instruments in existence than ever before’

‘can Philip Glass really be 80?’




Rachel Deloughry

Creative director

Simon Eder

Art direction & design

Joost de Boo

Design assistant

Bob Mollema

Head of marketing

Sharri Morris

Marketing, distribution & advertising

Domingo Fernandez

US marketing & distribution

Jennifer Harrington

US chief marketing officer

Jonathan Bradley

Head of business development

Veronica Neo


Kevin Painting


Jessica Duchen

Kevin Painting

Rokas Kučinskas

Melanie Garrett

Matt Adomeit

Tristan Renfrow

Beth Adelman


Prinses Marielaan 10C

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NY 10003

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from the editor


We live in a fast-paced world of replaceable possessions, short attention

spans, ever-changing fads and a constant fear of missing out. When I think

about streaming I usually think in terms of the here and now – it is current, I

have immediate access, but what about the future? What will we have to show

for it in years to come?

Well that’s just it – streaming is the future. We have come to a point as consumers

where paring things down to their essentials has become of higher

value than owning reams of “stuff”. Experiences are more important than possessions.

This could not be more relevant than it is now, however, in terms of

streaming, the quantity of quality classical music recordings is astounding. A

listening experience brings you right to the epicentre of the music and brings

you closer to the real live performance, yet at the same time it gives us access

to a diversity within classical music that we could never have dreamed of even

a decade ago. You can have unlimited listening but it’s not going to clutter

your house and your life. A monthly streaming subscription that costs as little

as an album and is kinder to the environment? Its value is indisputable.

In this magazine, you will encounter mixing and matching of the obvious and

the unexpected: take for example the architect of the Berlin Philharmonie for

whom organic structure proved fundamental to good sound and a designer

of album art who manages to pay tribute to the past looking toward the

future, thereby playing with our expectations; to a Grammy-winning violinist

who grew up in the countryside, accessing the sound of the greats mostly

through recordings. In this issue, we explore the world of streaming music and

how far we have come since the so-called Golden Age of Recording of the

mid-twentieth century. Enjoy!



Can Philip Glass really be 80? He and his music possess a

quality of youthfulness, of timelessness, that is entirely of

our day while going beyond it into more mysterious, universal

spheres. So distinctive is his voice, and so influential, that

he has plenty of detractors. Minor arpeggios, incantatory

melodies, interweaving motifs, a gradual progression of

change… But take a closer look. Minimalism? No way.









philip glass playlist

Philip Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2 “The

American Four Seasons” I.


Philip Glass: Satyagraha, Act I Tolstoy,

Scene 1


Philip Glass: Dreaming Awake

Sono Luminus

Philip Glass: Naqoyqatsi,

“The Vivid Unknown”


Philip Glass: The Photographer, Act I

“A Gentleman’s Honor”


Philip Glass: The Complete String Quartets

of Philip Glass – String Quartet No. 2

“Company” I. Signum Records


Glass distanced himself from that

term decades ago – now he prefers

to say that he composes “music

with repetitive structures”. Indeed,

you only have to look at his multifarious

range of influences to grasp

the sheer range that has fed into

the mix. Among important formative

experiences, he could cite his

intensive studies with the pedagogue

Nadia Boulanger in Paris; working on

Indian music with Ravi Shankar; the

downtown art scene of New York

in the 1960s; theatre, poetry and

literature including Hermann Hesse,

Samuel Beckett and Allen Ginsberg;

travelling the globe, exploring music

of many cultures; a passion for

Schubert; and the visceral energy

and atmosphere of New York itself.

The list could continue.

Yet there is mysticism, somewhere in

the heart of it. Travelling across India

by train, he recalls in his autobiography,

Words Without Music: “Music

was no longer a metaphor for the

real world somewhere out there. It

was becoming the opposite. The ‘out

there’ stuff was the metaphor and

the real part was, and is to this day,

the music.”

All of this is reflected to some

degree in the pianist Bruce Levingston’s

latest album of Glass’s

music, entitled Dreaming Awake.

A pianist celebrated for his devotion

to performing contemporary

repertoire, Levingston has included

a selection of Glass’s piano études –

poetic distillations of his composition

method in which musical process and

substance become one. There are

unmistakable nods towards Schubert

the Etude Book 2 No.12 opens

with the same figure as Schubert’s F

minor Fantasy for piano duet. Alongside

these pieces is an extraordinary

work, Wichita Vortex Sutra, in which

the actor Ethan Hawke joins Levingston

to recite part of the poem of

that title by Ginsburg, the declamation

– which sounds as if torn from

the depths of the poet’s and actor’s

souls – becoming part of the musical

fabric. With poetry its driving force,

in words or music, the album proves

both seductive and hypnotic.

It was a chance encounter with

Ginsburg in a New York bookshop

in 1988 that led to the piece’s

composition: having agreed to

perform in a fundraising event, Glass

asked the poet if he would agree

to appear with him, performing

together a recitation with new music

that Glass would compose specially.

Ginsburg chose the poem at once

and Glass wrote the music in a

matter of days. The two remained

close friends thereafter and worked

together extensively, notably on the

collection Hydrogen Jukebox, 20

songs for six singers.

If there is a meditative quality to

Glass’s music and its effect upon us,

that is no coincidence. Born in Baltimore

in 1937, he has been a spiritual

seeker for most of his life. The many

inspirations behind that included

the writings of Hermann Hesse,

whose works he devoured eagerly

as a young man, along with those of

Kerouac, Ginsburg and others. “It

was a time of awakening,” he writes.

He was interested in Hesse’s vision

of “a transcendental life…that took

you beyond the visible world.”

He took up yoga before it ever

became fashionable, seeking out



a teacher in New York simply by

looking under the letter Y in the

White Pages. He contacted the sole

entry, Yogi Vithaldas, who became

his teacher and under whose impact

he quickly turned vegetarian. It later

turned out that Vithaldas had also

taught Yehudi Menuhin. Over ten

years Glass visited India and Tibet,

immersing himself in particular in

research on Mahatma Gandhi: work

that eventually morphed into his

seminal and transformative opera

Satyagraha. Since those days, his

explorations of spiritual cultures have

extended to Buddhism and Mexican

Toltec traditions.

It’s tempting to wonder whether the

sounds of chanting and the repetition

of mantras infiltrated his developing

style at the time. “Did it affect

my style? It’s hard to say,” Glass

muses. “But besides Satyagraha, I did

a big piece about Ramakrishna, and

the Symphony No.5 uses around 34

texts from different traditions. So in

some ways it’s gone into the music

directly, either because it’s about the

person, or because it’s their texts

I’ve used. It’s not an influence: it’s an

actual usage. The connection is right

in the music itself.”

The Passion of Ramakrishna is the

“big piece” in question, a grand-scale

oratorio: “The interesting thing is

that I made the chorus the voice of

‘ sometimes

you can hear

things, but

you don’t

know how to

write them


Ramakrishna and the soloists are

his students – so when he speaks,

it’s the whole chorus,” says Glass.

“The idea is that he spoke in terms

of universals – and we put 60 or 120

people together so that it becomes

humanity, not just singers any more.

I made the voice of Ramakrishna


So because of the way I

processed it I began to understand

which of the voices Ramakrishna is. I

called it The Passion of Ramakrishna,

like the Bach St Matthew Passion. I

talked to the head of the episcopal

church in New York at the time and

asked him if that was the proper use

of the word: ‘passion’ as the moment

of transfiguration when he leaves the

mortal life and maybe he enters into

the world of immortality – something

like that, we don’t know what it is. He

said it was perfect.”

Glass’s devotion to matters spiritual,

humanitarian and social may

spring in part from his background

as the youngest son of a family of

Jewish immigrants who sent him to a

Quaker school. His father, Ben, had a

record store in Baltimore and Glass

recalls that he and his brother as chil-

dren were required to break up some

of the unsold records in order to

return them, damaged, for refunds.

But when Ben began to bring home

recordings of music by Schoenberg,

Bartók and others to see why they

were not selling, father and son were

both entranced by what they heard.

For years Glass explored new music

of all types, soaking up works across

the spectrum from Pierre Boulez to

John Cage to rock music. Instead of

following traditional academic routes

into the music world, he took an undergraduate

degree at the University

of Chicago, then enrolled in the adult

education section of the Juilliard

School in New York. There followed

two years in Paris on a scholarship,

studying with Boulanger, before he

returned to New York with the rigorous

technical grounding that enabled

him to develop his own musical voice.

He juggled creative work with earning

a crust variously in steelworks,

haulage, plumbing and cab-driving.

By the time anyone approached him

about a teaching position, he relates,

he was 72 and not remotely interested.

But then, Glass has never fitted

the academic bill. Perhaps his routes

did not match the approved fashions

of the time. Yet his enduring effect

on the world around us – musical and

more – has gone far beyond that of

many esteemed music professors.



Young composers have beaten a

path to his door for advice in any

case; some have worked for him –

among them Nico Muhly – assisting

with the matters of administration

and publishing of his works, all of

which he controls.

Glass relates in his book that his

mother on her deathbed instructed

him to keep hold of his copyright –

and he still does. Some of his works

may be legally played only by his

Philip Glass Ensemble. “We started

the group when I came back from

Europe,” he explains. “I came back

because no one in Europe would

play the music. I called some friends

I went to school with, and we put a

group together. Right away, when

I was writing music, I felt had to

control the publication of it, because

to give it away was not a good idea

from my point of view.”

Because people didn’t understand

it? “No, because I wouldn’t get the

income,” Glass responds. “I was

making my living playing – it was a

practical matter. So if you want to

hear Einstein on the Beach played,

my group has to play it. No one else

can play it. They don’t have the music

and it’s actually illegal to handle

it. I also became a publisher very

quickly because I knew I wouldn’t be

a teacher. This was only way I was

going to make a living from writing –

and it was far from clear that I would.

I was 41 before that happened.”

The work that changed everything

was his opera Satyagraha: “That

took me into making a living. But it

‘we have to



one of

the great


of being a


is playing


started off slowly and even the year

before I had no idea that later on I

would not be working at a day job.

In fact, I’d been living off of music

for six months before it occurred to

me that I hadn’t had a day job all that

time. I remember it very clearly: my

cab license came up for renewal –

and I renewed it. I had no confidence

that I would be able to make a living.

But I didn’t use it and three years

later when it came up for renewal

again I didn’t renew it. That tells you

where I was at.”

Whether opera, theatre, dance, film

or music to match the visual art or

writing of his friends and colleagues,

Glass has always excelled in collaborative

music-making. Performing

with his own ensemble seems an

organic part of that openness and

practicality. “We have to remember

something: one of the great pleasures

of being a musician is playing

music,” he adds, with a smile, “and

that’s not restricted to performers

only – composers can play music

too. My generation played our music

and we were influenced by people

from John Coltrane to Ravi Shankar

these were composers who played

music. That’s one way to go. Not

everyone did that, but a lot of young

people do now. The money won’t be

in the records any more, but it can

be in the way music is used, whether

it’s in a film or a fashion show.”

Despite his prolific output and

worldwide fame, Glass never rests on

any laurels – hence the intersection

of spiritual practice, physical condition

and absolute pragmatism. “I

would say that because of yoga I’ve

gotten a long, healthy, active life,” he

says. “That’s without even going into

the other benefits to do with being

more able to control stress, tension,

anxiety and all the maledictions of

contemporary existence.

“I’ve been a vegetarian since I was

20. It’s a practical way of living.

Younger people are much more

inclined to see it as a necessary part

of life and the people who don’t, who

simply ignore it and do nothing at all,

by the time they’re in their seventies

they are falling apart. You can’t

consider working into your nineties if

you haven’t done it – well, some can,

but it brings tremendous benefits

not just to your physical health, but

your mental health. My work is very

difficult in that we’re often working

on four hours of sleep because the

travel doesn’t allow for anything else.

It’s not a good way to do it. But I’ve

also learned how to rest. There are a

lot of things you can learn: there are

ways of putting your body to sleep


title goes here

and resting for even 20 minutes.”

The surprise is that he is clearly

considering working into his nineties

– but then again, why would he not?

The joy of creating music has never

left him. “I write very fast,” he remarks,

“but to invent a language you

need time. You need time to work

out what you’re hearing. Sometimes

you can hear things, but you don’t

know how to write them down. That’s

when you know you’re really working:

when you don’t know how to do it.

That’s the best time. And that can

still happen.”

Now anything can happen, and

probably will. Events to mark his big

birthday are currently taking place

all over the world. His operas The

Perfect American, about Walt Disney,

and The Trial, based on Kafka’s novel,

are having their US premieres; he

is writing a piano concerto entitled

A Far Cry to be premiered in

September by the pianist Simone

Dinnerstein; next season he will

hold the Richard and Barbara Debs

Composer Chair at Carnegie Hall.

London has already brought him

a Total Immersion weekend at the

Barbican; other European events

include the Swiss premiere of

Satyagraha and Austrian premiere of

the Symphony No. 11, and the Violin

Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 are both

touring widely. These are just a few


Glass is a composer whose music has

encapsulated the spirit of today as

few others could. The mystery is only

what he will turn his hand to next.

As he has sometimes said, “When

society becomes unhinged, the arts

get really good.” And now? “Today

the arts are getting really good!” he


Jessica Duchen’s music journalism

has appeared in The Independent,

The Guardian and The Sunday Times.

She is the author of a number

of novels (most recently Ghost

Variations, published in 2016),

biographies and plays. Current

projects include an opera libretto

for composer Roxanna Panufnik

(for Garsington Opera 2017). Her

popular blog JDCMB has run since





a classical


New York City has five boroughs, but when people say “The City,” they

mean Manhattan. The other four have always been “the outer boroughs,”

full of people who make their way into Manhattan to work, eat out in the

better restaurants, and enjoy all the culture New York is famous for. It’s a

Manhattan-centric world. Or at least, it has been.



Welcome to Brooklyn. Powered by that greatest of all

drivers in New York City—real estate—in the past decade

Brooklyn’s demographics have been transformed. An

explosion of high-end housing in downtown Brooklyn

and Williamsburg, along with the transformation

of much of the Brooklyn waterfront,

has lured people priced out of

Manhattan to a borough that’s diverse,

livable, cultured, and still affordable (just


The influx of culturally enthusiastic and

curious residents has created a place

for the arts to flourish. Brooklynites are

staying in their home borough when

they go out at night, and supporting

cultural institutions that are now luring

Manhattanites across the water to see

what’s happening in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn’s classical music venues, old

and new, are figuring out ways to bring

these audiences in and show them something traditional

in a new way, or something new in an untraditional way,

or some of all of those things. They’re asking questions

about programming choices and ticket prices and

seating arrangements, and all coming up with different


the stage

area puts the


so close to

the audience,

it's like a

petting zoo’


For years, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), one

of Brooklyn’s oldest cultural institutions, ran a bus from

midtown Manhattan to its home in Fort Greene. BAM is

two blocks from a major subway hub,

but those two blocks seemed like too

much to walk for some.

These days, the BAM bus is gone, the

subway hub is also a mall, there’s an

NBA arena a block away, BAM has

three buildings, and is at the heart of

the Brooklyn Cultural District—a $100

million city development project that

focuses on arts organizations, affordable

housing, and public spaces.

Classical music is part of BAM’s very

eclectic programming, and is usually

part of something else—opera, dance,

or theater, said BAM president Katy

Clark. “We’re very much interested in

the way genres collide.” A few seasons ago the Debussy

String Quartet shared stage with Australian acrobat

troupe Circa, for example, each interpreting Shostakovich

in its own way. And BAM often plays host to Baroque

operas staged by Les Arts Florissants and ballets by Mark



“We want to present music in its many forms,” Clark said,

“and a lot of that is driven by architecture. The Gilman is

the city’s most beautiful opera house.”

BAM’s audience has never been the same demographic

as a typical Manhattan audience, she added. They’ve always

been younger, more adventurous, and less affluent.

That’s why even today, one-third of all

tickets are under $35. Most events offer

a wide range of ticket prices. BAM’s

three buildings are all set up as traditional

theatres with seats.

Clark said just over half of BAM’s audience

are Brooklynites, and the rest are

mostly from Manhattan. That’s a recent

development. Fort Greene is now full

of high-end restaurants and high-rise

apartment buildings, where BAM is

partnering with developers to make

sure its neighbours know what’s coming

up. “People are walking around late at

night; the whole area feels comfortable and vibrant,”

Clark said.


Perhaps no recent Brooklyn venue has opened to more

buzz than National Sawdust, which debuted 2015 in

Williamsburg, the poster-neighborhood for hip young

gentrification. David Lang, John Zorn, Meredith Monk,

Nico Muhly, Philip Glass, and Laurie Anderson—a who’s

who of the new music scene—are

among those on the artistic advisory

‘...actually, they

hoot and holler

after the arias,

which is how it

used to be in the

old days’

board, and composer Paola Prestini

is executive and creative director.

The 13,000-square-foot venue, a

renovated sawdust factory, includes

rehearsal and development spaces, a

recording studio, and a trendy bistro.

About half the events in the performance

space are classical music,

according to Courtenay Casey, vice

general manager and senior director

of artistic planning, with a clear

preponderance of new music.

There are 350 to 400 events a year, and most nights are

double-booked. Many of the performances are planned

by curators in different genres; about a quarter of them


work in classical music. There are also residency programmes

for 12 artists a year, including commissioning

support and concerts. Casey remembers one night when

a string quartet was playing Bartok for the first show and

pop singer Kimbra was the second show. “About 20 people

came to both,” she said. “That’s what we want to be.”

The performance space holds 250 standing, 150 chairs,

or 95 in a cabaret configurations with tables and chairs.

“We realized audience members anticipate what a show

will be depending on how the room is set up,” Casey said,

so club music is standing and classical music is seated.

Ticket prices range from $29 to $35 and up.

Brooklyn is definitely the biggest audience base, Casey

said, and locals get a break on ticket prices. But Manhattan

audiences do come when it’s something they specifically

want to hear. The advent of Uber has helped drive

some of that attendance, because New York’s yellow

taxis don’t cruise for fares in Brooklyn. Ages range from

people in their 20s—who like the club vibe of standing

room—to opera fans in their 50s and 60s, who like the

eclectic programming.

“People will go where the music is that they want to

hear,” Casey said. But the ultimate idea is to make National

Sawdust a music destination where people come

to hear whatever is on that night. It’s a goal they’re still

working on.


Roulette began in the late 1970s as a 75-seat venue in

the TriBeCa apartment loft of one of its founders. It was

lean and nimble and alt and risky. Bill Frisell, Philip Glass,

Yusef Lateef, Kaija Saariaho and John Zorn made music

there. But it was also in a residential building, and zoning

laws are such that eventually they had to leave. So in 2011

Roulette took up residence in a 400-seat theatre with a

classic proscenium arch—housed in a YWCA built in 1928.

“Suddenly we were in a million-dollar facility with overhead

and staff,” and about 120 events a year, said David

Weinstein, director of special projects and one of the

founders. “We had to become more Manhattan-y to

meet those new standards.”

But it has not strayed far from its musical roots. “A lot

of what we do is edgy, experimental, not easy or even

necessarily fun, so you get an audience of 50 people. But

you’re glad, because the musicians get paid and something

gets born,” Weinstein said.

To balance that out, Roulette also programmes jazz and

world music, and classical music. Plus, there are several

curated series and artist residencies offered every year.

“We want to energize people to try new things and feel

supported and comfortable. But I also want everyone to

have a nice, quiet room that is appropriate for listening.”

That means the audience is seated, and there is just one

show a night, so artists are not rushed, and can mingle

with the audience afterwards. Tickets range between $15

and $30.

“People who are used to performing in a dingy space

may overreach or misunderstand what’s great about their

work, but a space like this can be a little leap forward for

them, encourage to up their game a notch and be a bit

more ambitious in scale. When someone succeeds, it’s

super inspiring.”

Roulette is very much artist-driven, meaning most people

who come are fans of the performers, know exactly what

they’re going to hear, and have no problem getting on

the subway and going to Brooklyn to hear it. The staff is

still trying to figure out who is moving into the cluster of

high-end high-rise apartment buildings going up in downtown

Brooklyn, and what they want to listen to. For now,

they’re working with developers to introduce themselves

to the new neighbours.


ooklyn playlist

Caroline Shaw: Its Motion Keeps

New Amsterdam

Bryce Dessner: Murder Ballades –

Omie Wise


Jennifer Higdon: Cold Mountain,

Scene II, Inman’s aria ‘The Metal Age’


Philip Glass: Etude No. 1


Michael Daugherty: Brooklyn Bridge, IV.


GIA WindWorks

Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2

in G Minor, Op. 63 II Andante tranquillo

Canary Classics


Bargemusic, an old coffee barge permanently

moored in the East River at the

site of the old Fulton Ferry, has been a

venue for chamber music for 40 years,

showcasing young talent and, originally,

exclusively classical repertoire—Mozart,

Brahms, Schubert, Chopin, and so on.

The barge seats about 75 people, and

lately artistic and executive director

Mark Peskanov has been cutting that down a bit because

he prefers the acoustic and ambience with a smaller

audience. “This is a very different place, and people have

very different expectations,” he said. “You have that very

special view of the river and New York City, and that

feeling of gently rocking—sometimes not so gently. The

stage area puts the performers so close to the audience,

it’s like a petting zoo.”

Peskanov, a concert violinist, took over in 2005 as artistic

and executive director from founder Olga Bloom,

and has expanded the repertoire with the Here and

Now series of newer works, some jazz and early music,

‘maybe to get

here you’re on

a subway line

you’ve never

taken before’

and free family concerts on Saturday


Bargemusic is an important first step

for many young musicians; it’s got a

group of regular performers, but “it’s

not like a private club,” Peskanov said.

“If you are a fine performer, sooner or

later we will invite you here.”

It’s a first step for many young listeners,

too. It suddenly finds itself in the middle

of the growing DUMBO neighborhood and a brand new

waterfront park, and the free concerts attract a lot of

parents with little kids. Yes, they do talk and wander and

cry, Peskanov said, but “they eventually learn how to

behave, and meanwhile they are hearing music played at

an artistically high level and it is sinking in.”

The audience is “tourists and neighborhood people,

people who wander in from the park, people who have

never listened to classical music and real connoisseurs,”

Peskanov said. “The barge is just an amazing experience.

People tell me they feel like they’re on the king’s barge,

like royalty. This is what chamber music was made for.”








Bargemusic presents about 200 concerts a year. Tickets

are $40 to $45, with discounts for students and seniors.

The seats are arranged in many configurations, but it’s all


Peskanov added, “I love playing here myself. It’s great to

have such close communication within such an intimate

space. I often ask how many people have heard a piece

for the first time—something typical like Mozart—and a

lot of people raise their hands. So for them I have played

a world premiere.”


Unlike most of the other classical music venues in Brooklyn,

LoftOpera has taken a very conscious turn away

from new music. “We always wanted to take a populist

stance and also bring people to the classics,” said Brianna

Maury, the general manager and cofounder. Their

audience is mostly first-time opera goers, and producing

works whose names people recognize adds a bit of

familiarity. “These beautiful masterworks are also more

accessible than new music,” she said.

LoftOpera was founded by Maury, her stepbrother Daniel

Ellis-Ferris, and his classmate at The New School Dean

Buck, basically on a dare. (“We dared ourselves to do

a production of Don Giovanni in 2013 and it sold out.”)

It has since grown from two events a year to four, with

productions like Così fan tutte and Tosca, and coming up

later in 2017 Pagliacci and Bluebeard’s Castle. Each one

is an original production, with six performances. There

is seating for about 500 on benches and all tickets are


Each production is in a different venue in Brooklyn,

typically hidden-away spaces in Bedford-Stuyvesant and

Bushwick—areas Maury says are “not really gentrified the

way other parts of Brooklyn have been.” The locations

add to the sense of adventure. “We want to strip away

the pretense of going to a place like Lincoln Center,”

said Maury. “Maybe to get here you’re on a subway line

you’ve never taken before.”

The singers and orchestra are recruited by music director

Sean Kelly, who also teaches voice in the U.S. and

Italy. Musically, they have, for the most part, enraptured

New York critics.

They’ve enraptured audiences as well. Maury said her

novice audiences (almost all Brooklynites, with a smattering

of visitors from the Upper West Side of Manhattan),

many of whom have only heard music in clubs

before, sit quietly because “they’re listening so intently

that they’re on the edge of their seats. They clap at all

the right places—actually, they hoot and holler after the

arias, which is how it used to be in the old days.”

Many first-time opera goers come for date night, and

that is very much by design. LoftOpera markets itself on

event sites like Thrillist, Flavorpill, GILT City, and Fever as

a romantic, classy, yet affordable date. As a result, “We

get couples making out in the audience,” said Maury. “We

have even caught people having sex in the bathrooms.

That’s how we know we’re successful.”

It’s the sort of thing that would get you thrown out of

Lincoln Center. Welcome to Brooklyn.





maria callas

the voice

Franco Zeffirelli’s new production of Puccini’s Tosca at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden

in January 1964 was the most hotly anticipated event in the calendar. Not only did the lavish

production cost an eye-watering £32,000 but it also marked the return to the stage of the

celebrated soprano and diva extraordinaire Maria Callas. After a glittering career in the 1950s

when she had divided the critics and the public alike with her remarkable singing voice and

mesmerising stage presence, there had been whisperings of her fading powers especially after

she had taken up with the wealthy shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis and all but disappeared

from the stage. But Callas was coaxed out of her two year absence by the prospect of singing

again in a new production with the renowned baritone Tito Gobbi for “mio caro public di London”

in the role that for many defined her – Tosca.




maria callas playlist

Vincenzo Bellini: Norma, Act I

“Casta Diva”


Giacomo Puccini: Gianni Schicchi, Act I

“O mio babbino caro”


Giuseppe Verdi: La traviata, Act I

“Sempre libera”


Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde,

Act III “Dolce e calmo”


Gioacchino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia,

Act I “Una voce poco fa”


Unsurprisingly, the six performances

were hopelessly over-subscribed with

120,000 people clamouring for 12,000

seats and ticket touts reported a brisk

trade. But she did not disappoint. True to

form, Callas confounded her critics on

the first night, receiving 27 curtain calls

and a standing ovation lasting 40 minutes

for a performance still described in

hushed tones as one of most memorable

ever seen. She returned the following year

in July to reprise her role in a Royal Gala

performance at Covent Garden for what

would be her final operatic appearance.

Maria Callas was easily the finest

dramatic soprano of her generation and

one of the most recognisable and glamorous

figures from an era when celebrities

usually had talents. With her remarkable

and distinctive singing voice, she breathed

new life into bel canto opera and brought

a fearsome dramatic intensity to the roles

she played on stage. Seldom out of the

limelight in her lifetime for her singing or

her colourful behaviour, she left behind

a remarkable legacy of recordings which

have never been out of the catalogue.

Maria Callas was born on 2 December

1923 in New York to immigrant Greek

parents. In 1937 she moved to Greece

where she studied at the National

Conservatory in Athens with

the noted coloratura soprano

Elvira de Hidalgo. Although she

made her professional debut in a

leading role playing Tosca in Athens

in 1942, her career began in

earnest in 1947 when she sang

the title role in Ponchielli’s La Giaconda

in Verona. There she met

her future husband and manager,

the Veronese businessman

Giovanni Battista Meneghini, and

her musical mentor, the great

conductor Tullio Serafin. Her international

breakthrough came in 1949 in Venice when

Serafin shrewdly cast her at short notice as

Elvira in Bellini’s I Puritani, a bel canto role

which Callas triumphantly brought to life.

She went on to score considerable success

in the 1950s in Italian opera with many

signature roles in Anna Bolena, Lucia di

Lammermoor (Donizetti), La Traviata, Macbeth

(Verdi), Norma (Bellini) and of course,


As one of the most glamorous and

photographed women of her day, stories of

her temperamental behaviour were lapped

up and inflated by the press. Soon the

strains of her punishing schedule inevitably

took their toll and when she sensationally

left her husband for Onassis in 1959, she

also drastically cut back on her appearances.

When she separated from Onassis in

1968, she essentially retired from the concert

platform and, apart from a concert

tour in Europe, North America and Japan, a

master class series at the New York Julliard

School and a brief foray into acting in Pier

Paolo Pasolini’s film Medea, she lived quietly

in her elegant apartment in Paris until her

premature death in 1977.

Maria Callas had a remarkable voice

unlike any other, not conventionally beautiful

or infallible but powerful, intense and

thrillingly dexterous. Love it or hate it (and

it was not uncommon for vegetables to be

thrown with floral tributes at her performances),

her voice is unmistakeable and

impossible to ignore.

It has been remarked that she had

three voices which she glided between

with deft artistry. A high coloratura voice:

nimble, agile and precise, it could dispatch

the most difficult passages of fioriture with

consummate ease; a richly expressive middle

voice which was capable of effortlessly

sustained legato passages; and a chest

Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo et

Eurydice, Act IV “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice”




voice, often startling in its intensity. While

she may have reigned supreme in the bel

canto repertoire, she was not preoccupied

with producing a beautiful, sweet sound per

se but more with communicating the drama

and meaning of the text, admitting that

“to convey the dramatic effect … I must

produce sounds which are not beautiful. I

don’t mind if they are ugly so long as they

are true”.

It was her instinctive musical ability

to build and sustain an atmosphere through

her vocal technique and commanding stage

presence which makes her performances

so compelling. With Callas, the blood-curdling

taunt “Muori!” that Tosca cries as she

stabs the villainous Scarpia is genuinely unsettling,

and on one occasion Callas nearly

drew blood from Tito Gobbi when a stage

knife failed to retract.

Maria Callas was a workaholic who

took herself and her work very seriously

and, like so many great musicians, it was

only through the dint of hard work combined

with a perfectionist streak that she

managed to achieve so much. She was not

averse to spending hours in the recording

studio to perfect a particular passage, nor

did she baulk at the challenges of a difficult

repertoire or the reproaches of an indifferent

audience: they were all opportunities

for her to prove herself and, above all, to


The same perfectionism extended to her

meticulously cultivated appearance. The

director Luchino Visconti once told Callas

that if she lost some weight, she would

make “a truer Traviata, who is after all dying

of consumption”. Nine months later in 1953

and 30 kg lighter, she had transformed herself

from a chubby, overweight soprano to

an alluring svelte beauty. Dressed to kill,

with an impeccable fashion sense, La Divina


callas had

a remarkable


unlike any


as Callas became known to her fans had arrived.

(Her contemporary Joan Sutherland

was dubbed La Stupenda on account of her

voice and not, as some wags have suggested,

for her girth).

The public became enamoured with

the Maria Callas phenomenon and newspapers

were packed with glossy photographs

and gossipy stories of her temperamental

behaviour. In one of her rare interviews

for American television, there is a delicious

moment when the British conductor

Sir Thomas Beecham mischievously asks

whether there was any truth in the rumour

that she had struck an opera director over

the head with a bottle of brandy. “I never

threw anything at anybody unfortunately”

she replied, beaming “I wish I did.”

Callas’s meteoric rise to fame coincided

with the introduction of long-playing

records and a rush by record companies

to expand their catalogues. Fortunately

for the listening public, she had a long and

fruitful working relationship from 1952 to

1964 with the legendary Walter Legge, the

husband to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and a

music producer, and as strong-willed and

perfectionist as Callas herself. This resulted

in an astonishing series of both live and studio

performances, many of which are considered

benchmark recordings that remain

unsurpassed, even after half a century.

A true measure of the affection in

which Callas is still held by the public can be

seen in Venice. Thanks to a public campaign

which gathered over 100,000 signatures,

the bridge Ponte della Fenice was renamed

Ponte Maria Callas in 2005. It’s just down

from the Teatro La Fenice, the opera house

where she made her breakthrough in 1949

performing Bellini’s I Puritani, winning the

accolade prima donna assoluta, a position

she still maintains for a new generation of

opera lovers.



from the recording studio

with jean-marie geijsen

reflections on hi-res audio, music streaming, and wagner

Jean-Marie Geijsen grew up in a musical family of 6 children.

He studied recording techniques at The Royal Conservatory

in The Hague, specialising in classical music. Owing to the

conservatory’s culture at the time, he became interested in

baroque music. After graduating, Geijsen started working at

Philips Classics. Today he is a director and a balance engineer

at Polyhymnia International. Geijsen has worked with major

recording labels, including Sony, PENTATONE, Decca, harmonia

mundi, BMG and Deutsche Grammophon.


KUČINSKAS • Does recording

classical music differ from other

music genres?

GEIJSEN • There’s a huge difference

between recording classical and

pop music. In classical music you

record an ensemble playing in an

acoustic environment, eg a big

church or a concert hall. Pop music

is recorded in a studio. There are

many occasions where musicians

don’t even see each other for the

whole duration of a given session. A

drummer records on the first day,

a bassist on the second, a guitarist

records a week later. Finally, a

singer comes when he has time. It

is then dubbed on one tape, with

an endless editing and overdubbing

process afterwards. Classical music

recording has a completely different

approach. Interactions between

musicians, as well as surrounding

acoustic environments are so

important. A hall, the public – and

so much more – need to be taken

into consideration when recording

classical music.

KUČINSKAS • You specialized in

baroque music. Does recording

baroque music differ from recording

other periods, such as classical or


GEIJSEN • Not when it comes to

the technical side. You do have

to know the differences, though.

How instruments sound, combine

and meld together. Their unique

properties, too – they all have their

special character. Yet when it comes

to microphones it’s not so different.

They have to be as neutral as

possible, so that they don’t influence

the sound. A balance engineer then

recreates the ensemble's sound as

heard in the hall.


title goes here

recording studio


Glass: Violin Concerto No. 2

LPO, Robert McDuffie, Marin Alsop

Glass: Satyagraha, Act I Tolstoy, Scene 1

New York City Opera

Glass: Dreaming Awake

Bruce Levingston

Glass: Naqoyqatsi, “The Vivid Unknown”

Yo-Yo Ma

Glass: The Complete String Quartets

– String Quartet No. 2 “Company”

The Smith Quartet

Glass: The Photographer, Act I

“A Gentleman’s Honor”

Philip Glass Ensemble

KUČINSKAS • What exactly does

a “balance engineer” do? I haven’t

encountered this term before.

GEIJSEN • It’s a common English

term for the guy who puts up the

microphones, sits at the mixing

desk, and in my case reads the

score. Combining all this and then

recording the sound - that’s a

balance engineer. It also means that

you have to work with a producer

(sitting behind or next to you), a

conductor, and an ensemble. Your

main task is to create the internal

balance of an ensemble, its direct

sound and the reverb of a hall. It’s a

balancing act.

KUČINSKAS • How is a mixing

engineer different then?

GEIJSEN • There are so many

titles in the world, which makes it

confusing, I know [laughs]. I'd say

that a mixing engineer is someone

who sits behind a 24- or 48-track

machine and mixes a production. It

doesn't have to be a classical music

production, though.

KUČINSKAS • Over the years you

have made so many recordings.

Which recording you are most

proud of and which was the most

challenging to do?

GEIJSEN • That has to be the 10

major Wagner operas I recorded.

The operas are immense and I

recorded them live for radio and

CD in one concert in Berlin over

2-and-a-half years. It wasn’t a

staged performance, yet the singers

had to move around and change

microphone positions. The goal

was to achieve a close effect of the

setting the way Wagner intended.

Hence, a performer could end up

standing on a balcony, or in the

middle of the stage, in front of the

orchestra, and so on.

KUČINSKAS • Who made such

directorial decisions?

GEIJSEN • It’s written in the score,

but in our case the conductor made

some adjustments too. Throughout

the rehearsal we had to read the

score, know which singer was

standing where; we also had to mark

how loud a singer should be in a mix,

and how loud he or she was during

the rehearsal. I was marking the

score in the hope that the singers

would remember where they should

be standing. And we had a 120-voice

choir, an off-stage orchestra, and

many soloists! Don't get me wrong

– it was as difficult for the entire

performing crew as it was for us.

We only rehearsed bits and pieces

and never did a full A-Z rehearsal

throughout the operas. Hence,

everything had to fall into place

during performances, and by some

miracle – I don’t know how – it did.

Without a proper preparation, with

all the risks, we did all the 10 operas

this way. I mean, a singer could

have fallen sick at the last moment



or a technical problem could have

occurred. There were so many things

that could have gone wrong, since

we only had one concert. If there

had been one major disaster, the

whole series would have died. What’s

more, all the operas were performed

and broadcast live on radio. It

meant that I had to mix on the spot

in stereo for radio and record for

SACD in stereo and surround. I also

had to read the 48-channel mixing

console while trying to read the

score to know what was coming. The

concerts usually started at 6:00pm

and lasted until 11:30pm. Let’s put

it this way – 5.5 hours of a rather

concentrated evening [laughs]. But

it worked for all 10 operas, and that

is something I am really proud of.

KUČINSKAS • Doesn't it make these

recordings the most difficult you've

ever made?

GEIJSEN • It probably does.

KUČINSKAS • Nowadays, people

are going back to analogue

recordings. Any thoughts on why

that might be?

GEIJSEN • Because they like the

sound, although I often wonder

what exactly it is that they like. Is

it the music itself, or the playback

system? If it’s the playback system,

does it add something to the music?

It must produce a certain feeling

that people like, but in my opinion

that doesn’t have much to do with a

neutral playback. LPs and analogue

tapes compress a dynamic range;

as a result, listening to music with

a little bit of compression can be

very nice. Especially loud passages

recorded on a tape can sound

louder than they actually are – all in

comparison with a digital recording,

of course. Also there’s a limited

frequency response and a very

low level of hiss that can be an

advantage and doesn’t disturb us.

Since our hearing is more sensitive

to change, you stop hearing it as it is


‘your main

task is to

create the



of an


its direct

sound and

the reverb

of a hall’

KUČINSKAS • Is a neutral playback

important then?

GEIJSEN • Since the days of Philips

Classics we've been looking for

neutral playback and recording

systems, meaning those which

do not influence the sound. We

would not compromise distortion,

frequency response, dynamics,

and what not. Over the past 50

years microphone quality has been

fantastic. The signal quality, too.

Hence, it has been our main goal to

record this pure signal, on analogue

and digital tapes, or on computer.

LPs or analogue tapes, however,

distort the sound. It is sometimes

called a “pleasant distortion”,

perfectly explaining what people

listen to. It appeals to them; it gives

them a certain feeling that there’s

something added to music that

wasn’t originally there. Don’t get me

wrong - that’s OK for a consumer.

They can do whatever they want.


GEIJSEN • For me, in a recording

studio, it’s very dangerous. I cannot

decide what people are going to

like. I have to be as objective as

possible, and shouldn't influence a

music recording. It’s not about me in

the first place. If you are listening to

music, you shouldn’t even be aware

that a balance engineer was there.

You listen to musicians, to a hall,

while all the signal chain should be

as transparent as possible. Nobody

should realise that someone had

been moving faders around. As soon

as that happens, you will straight

away think that it’s artificial.

KUČINSKAS • Why did you start

recording in hi-res?

GEIJSEN • One of the reasons is

the framing of time, which is much

more precise than in a CD, for

example. It gives you an ease of

listening; little pieces of information

(such as reflections of a hall, or a

stage) that were missing in early CD

recordings. CD quality doesn’t give

us the spaciousness – the definition

of a space – which is so important to

music making. For 10 years I worked

with Alfred Brendel. His musicmaking

was based and adjusted on

reverberations produced by a hall.

He often played different pianos,

listening to the environment and its

reflection patterns. Later he would

say: “I want my piano to move a

little bit forwards (or backwards).”


tech insights


In 1984 he began studying recording

techniques in The Royal Conservatory

at The Hague.

From 1988 to 1990 he worked as

a mastering engineer as well as a

freelance classical recording and PA


In 1990 he joined Philips Classics

where he worked on recordings with

many top artists, from Seiji Ozawa to

Valery Gergiev.

Became a balance engineer at

Polyhymnia International, working

closely with PENTATONE and other


Think about how complex the sound

information is. It bounces from

a floor, ceilings, and walls within

milliseconds. Thus, the more precise

framing of all these reflections is

in a playback, the better feeling of

the space you get. If you chop it up

in 44KHz, you’re omitting a lot of

information from all these random

reflections. Hence, smaller frames

means greater resolutions in early

reflection patterns.

KUČINSKAS • What do you mean

by that?

GEIJSEN • You start understanding

why a musician plays the way he

or she does. Timing determines

so much in music. It is also very

dependent on the acoustics of

a given surroundings. Musicians

constantly anticipate reflections of

their acoustic surroundings. Thus,

the better you hear the acoustics

the more sense the music makes.

People who listen to music over the

years will appreciate high resolution

more. A lot of logic that comes to

music making is better captured

in hi-res recordings. However, you

might not hear that much difference

by listening to the technical side

of hi-res audio only. That’s the

funny thing. You don’t hear early

reflections within 50 up to 100

milliseconds when I’m talking to

you, although they’re there. Hi-res

captures this and gives it back to

you. Although it isn’t very obvious,

it gives you this feeling. If you walk

into a hall you immediately notice

what the acoustic properties of that

hall are. Such acoustics entail things

like early reflections that you can’t

hear. Improved precision on those

acoustics' representation means

more information about music


KUČINSKAS • You say it's tricky to

hear differences when focusing on

the hi-res technical side only. Have

you ever heard more in hi-res than

acoustic details when comparing it

to PCM recordings?

GEIJSEN • Yes – it was in one of the

recordings I did with Mari Kodama.

We were listening to 3 different

versions of a track: a normal CD,

which is a CD layer on an SACD, a

stereo DSD, and a surround DSD.

It was a prior distribution quality

check. We first listened to DSD

surround and stereo files, which

didn’t grab our attention. While

listening to a PCM version, we

noticed a digital glitch, which is

something that needed to be dealt

with. It was strange, as we didn’t

hear anything on the DSD files. So,

once again we listened to the same

passage on the DSD version, and

we did hear it. Yet, it wasn’t a glitch,

but a fingernail hitting the key –

there was no doubt about what we

heard! This fingernail hitting the key

completely disappeared in a PCM

version. That might be one of the

most clear and obvious examples I

encountered over the years. It’s that

subtle. Oh, but wait, it’s not subtle

at all! [laughs] It brings you to the

core of music making. If a normal

PCM version cuts away this kind of

information, you’re losing a lot of

music making. It’s not a frequency

domain or distortion, but an acoustic

environment that makes hi-res of

what it is.

KUČINSKAS • Have hi-res recording

techniques changed over the years?

GEIJSEN • No, not so much. As

I said before, we are still using

microphones that are 50 and 60

years old. Of course we also use new

microphones, too. What I mean is



that microphones themselves are

of fantastic quality. The recording

technique hasn't changed since the

beginning of the stereo era, either. It

is a different story when it comes to

surround sound recording, which we

had to invent. But techniques used

to position microphones, making a

balance and so on, haven’t changed.

KUČINSKAS • There are so many

streaming services appearing right

now. Some have already started

streaming music in CD quality.

However, there is still no DSD

streaming service. Any thoughts on


GEIJSEN • Well actually there is

[laughs]. Of course not as big as

Spotify. Around two years ago we

were asked to do test recordings

of a live DSD streaming all over

the world. The first recording

we did was in Berlin with the

Berlin Philharmonic. We used

two microphones and recorded

straight to DSD in 2.8MHz, which

is a standard SACD quality. We also

recorded in 5.6MHz, which is one

step higher.

KUČINSKAS • Super Super Audio

CD (i.e. Super SACD, or S-SACD)?

GEIJSEN • Yes [laughs]. It was

broadcasted live all over the world

via internet in DSD. A couple of

hundred listeners were listening

to this broadcast. It was flawless.

We did it again in Warsaw during

the International Chopin Piano

Competition. We also did a

complete programme with the

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

in Amsterdam. Later we repeated

it in Japan using the same setup.

All these test recordings worked


‘ if you are

listening to

music, you


even be

aware a



was there’

KUČINSKAS • Why aren’t there

DSD streaming services similar to

Spotify then?

GEIJSEN • I don’t know if a

worldwide classical music market is

big enough to support a streaming

service like that. There needs to be

enough demand to set up such a

service and invest money in it. On

the other hand, there aren’t that

many really good DSD recordings.

So it is also a matter of how much

repertoire is available. Spotify’s

catalogue is dominated by pop

music in which hi-res recording

practices aren’t used at all.

KUČINSKAS • Why not?

GEIJSEN • Because it’s too

complicated. You don’t have all the

tools. In classical music we don’t use

all the effects. You put a microphone

in the right place, mix the balance

and that’s it – you have your master

track. You don’t need compressors,

limiters, EQs, or whatever. Not

even a compressor. It’s just 1:1 – a

straight mix. Whereas all those tools

are being used in pop music’s post

production. Reverbs, compressors,

equalizers, or, let’s not forget, the

autotune - it’s PCM. When you’re

lucky it’s 96KHz, but still a bit short

to DSD 2.8MHz.



title goes here





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It was a spring day, the sun was shining in a provincial wooded neighbourhood in

the Netherlands and I had something important to talk about – the colour brown

– with Joost De Boo, PENTATONE’s art director. He shed some light on album

artwork in classical music, voicing his frustration with the colour brown as the

norm, and his drive to breathe fresh air into the creation of album art.

Album art in classical music has tended towards safe colours and soft tones. If a

picture speaks a thousand words, then it’s up to designers of album art to help

disrupt the general standards in the classical music industry. There has been a renaissance

in opera, set design and costume design. Album art can have one too!





Classical music has been trying to

shake off its old, dusty and antiquated

vibe and Joost voiced what

many people have been thinking.

Although this stuffy, old-fashioned

reputation interestingly impacts visual

arts and public opinion of classical

music, the music itself is often

unrecognisable from its packaging.

“The cover of a particular Liszt

album was brown and olive green. I

listened to the album and it was very

energetic. But on a basic emotional

level, there was no connection

between the music and the colours

brown and olive green. In the bigger

picture of what the graphic designer

has done, though, it all comes down

to brown.”

This led Joost to make a sample

colour palette based on the top 50

albums in the classical charts. The

consensus was that the average

colours were brown, beige and grey.

Brown album art, low contrast and

old paintings are standard. “The

elements tended to be dark concert

halls or old churches, backgrounds

that are white, grey or brick, white

people (in suits!) and wooden instruments.

It all makes sense. But why

use that? And why use old paintings?

Why not create something new,

something fresh?”

This doesn’t mean designers have

to remove themselves from tradition

entirely, in fact Joost likes to

incorporate clichés in a playful and

unexpected way, hinting at a tradition

but letting the observer fill the

gaps. “I like to play with the obvious.

So on a cover for Beethoven’s

Missa Solemnis I wanted to use the

famous Beethoven image, but only

Joost had a prime example about

how he ‘just got on with it’ and

not only avoided the usual pitfalls,

but made a visual narrative around

the sonic traits of the album. “I’m

currently making a cover for Julia

Fisher’s vinyl of Bach’s Sonatas and

Partitas for solo violin where I only

used bronze ink. The delicately ex-

title goes here

parts of it. I chose this specific painting

because it is the most famous

and recognizable image of Beethoven.

However, not many people

know that Beethoven is holding the

Missa Solemnis score in his hand.

Therefore, I thought it would be

interesting to play with expectations.

I believe that the person who buys

this album is already a Beethoven

fan (because it is not a mainstream

work) so they would immediately

recognize the painting and the

missing element and appreciate the

cryptic approach.”

“That’s what I did with the Wagner

Ring box set cover too: on the

cover, it doesn’t actually say “Der

Ring des Nibelungen”. The words are

cut off. Even with titles you can play

around. By seeing the name Wagner

and most of the letters of the title,

you already know what it’s going to

be. It’s been recorded hundreds of

times, so why use the same approach


Album art is very much intertwined

with concerns in the age of reproducible

art. “Absolutely. Walter Benjamin’s

The Work of Art in the Age of

Mechanical Reproduction deals with

exactly this! When you have a piece

of art, reproduce it and put it in a

new context, its meaning changes.

‘why use old


why not

create something




And the meaning of the original also

changes because it’s not unique or

authentic any more. Why for example

produce an album of Bach’s St.

John Passion with an album cover

of a church? Yes, this was originally

a piece you could only hear performed

in a church around Easter

and what’s more, you could only go

there and listen if you were Christian.

Now, you can listen to it with

your headphones, you can read the

Koran at the same time, you can do

whatever you like. So the piece does

not have the same aura. Its original

aura is gone. We should still be aware

of the original meaning and stay

close to the original, but look for abstract

meaning within it. And if you

put an image of the Koran instead

of a church on the cover, then it

becomes even more about religion.

You should be aware of the fact that

it’s no longer the 18th century but a

lot of labels and artists behave as if it

still is. Thinking like this can harm the


There is a huge opportunity for

photographers in the transition

away from brown! After all, the

graphic designer’s ingenuity usually

only comes into play at the end of

the process and therefore they have

to work with what ends up on their

plate. Collaborating with visionary

photographers will surely bring out

the quirks and the extraordinary

compelling beauty that seems to

be falling into the brown, murky

abyss. “The featured artists are

photographed in old buildings, so I

have to make something out of that.

It already starts in the conversation

between the recording artist and

photographer. We should collaborate

with photographers that are

more involved in contemporary art

instead of using the status quo photographers.

We can make a bridge

there, because this is something

you cannot influence as a graphic

designer. If not then you just get on

with it.”


And You Must Suffer © Koen Broos

‘it’s been



of times,

so why use

the same




point of view

‘we should still be aware of

the original meaning and stay

close to the original, but look

for abstract meaning within it’

posed silhouette, the purest use of

colour, the mathematically balanced

page layout (1:1 ratio grid), and the

early 18th century typeface are

carefully brought together to enhance

the aesthetic characteristics

of Bach’s partitas and sonatas. But

the image they originally sent me

had a brown background with Julia

Fischer wearing a pink dress – and

her hair happens to be blond. These

elements combined meant that in

the end it all turned out brown. So

I thought – what can I do with this?

I dived into the music: the exposed

quality, focusing on just one instrument

was striking so I made a

story around that. The music is very

delicate and fresh. The result is that

you’re still very close to the piece

but in a contemporary way.”

Could designing album art veer

more towards contemporary art

than graphic design? Is this even

possible? Because an album cover

designer is somebody who manages

to strike a healthy balance between

being a visionary and being a team

player – to carry out the wishes of

artist managers, performers and

so on. “There’s a need for disruption.

Urania records, PENTATONE,

Concertgebouw and Challenge are

all labels that are really making a

statement and are very consistent

about it. Where I think this visionary

design happens is in contemporary

opera. Soon we have the Opera Forward

Festival in Amsterdam and the

Dutch National Opera is performing

Bach’s St. John Passion. “You Must

Suffer” is the tagline and the artist

has created artwork with images of

an x-ray of rats being crucified as

the stage design. You can do that in

art. (As an artist in Holland anyway!

I have grown up in this tradition.)

Pierre Audi is the artistic director

of the Dutch National Opera and

is known for this provocative style.

I saw Wagner’s Parsifal with stage

designs by Anish Kapoor. The designs

played on a subconscious mood

level and it was so beautiful. If you

used a photo of a stage design by

Anish Kapoor for an album cover,

it would work where the ‘church

performance’ photography would

fail. It takes in form and light and

reflection, because Parsifal is about

reflection. It’s much more meaningful

than having a portrait of the

opera singer who sings the role of

Parsifal, or a picture of the goblet.

There’s nuance to it because the

opera has such a clear story. There

is so much more richness than a guy

standing in front of an orchestra

wearing brown.”



There is further room for change in

classical album art, not just conceptually

but even in terms of the

basics: typography and dimensions.

“There are very specific titles in

classical music, compared with any

other genre. Opus numbers, full

titles, conductor, soloist, sometimes

multiple composers, and all opus

numbers for each work listed. For

digital we should just cut it out. In

a thumbnail you don’t see anything

anyway – text can just look like a

white line. I create two versions of

every album cover – one for digital,

one for physical. When you buy it in

hard copy you have more text on

the cover, but in digital, this is not


“For streaming and downloading it

doesn’t even have to be a square

anymore. Your screen is a rectangle,

not a square. It can be changeable

so that when you download an

album, there can be a cover that

becomes interactive depending on

screen size. In the not-too-distant

future, album art could even have

moving images or exist in a virtual

reality. Square CD-size will still work

when it’s advertised in a magazine

or in thumbnail size, but it’s not the

only dimension we need to work

with. Vinyl on the other hand, is a

fixed size and is sold on a merchandise

level, so from a design point

of view, vinyl should be treated

separately, as a work of art, as with

posters and so on.”

So why is there so much brown in classical? This conversation confirmed

some of my suspicions of how sepia tones and ‘playing it safe’ can hinder

the perception of what is an extraordinary, exciting and vibrant genre. We

can rest assured though that the genre is already being shaken up and we

have lots more innovation to look forward to, not just in design but on multiple

levels of creativity.

Parsifal © Monika Rittershaus & Ruth Walz


Art Direction and Graphic Design at

Pentatone Music and primephonic.

Previously worked at design studios

in Utrecht, Toronto and New York.

Studied at the Rietveld Academie,

Utrecht School of the Arts and the

Rhode Island School of Design.


title goes here

Our artists put all their heart

and soul into the music

“ An unrivalled

classical music






Now available at





the chronicles

From physical CD to Napster filesharing

and from iTunes to purposebuilt

classical streaming platforms

with richer metadata and room for

discovery, the classical music industry

has evolved beyond what any industry

maverick could have foreseen. The

ability of technology to change how

we listen to music has had a gamechanging

effect which has accelerated

considerably from the turn of the

millennium up to the present day.

primephonic editor Rachel Deloughry

had the opportunity to speak to PETE

DOWNTON, Deputy CEO of 7digital

about this exciting era.

of streaming


tech insights


an unprecedented


guess I saw the tail end of what had become

I the CD boom that had driven growth in the

recorded music industry. To provide a little bit

of context, I joined Warner Music Group initially

in 1996 and worked in the physical business in

the UK company. To give you a sense of what

that meant in practical terms: when I joined

Warner Music, there were five major record

labels. Between us, we employed upwards of

40,000 staff around the world, managing principally

the physical distribution of music. Of

course classical music was a meaningful part of

that activity.

And so, there was a transition in 1999

when peer-to-peer first emerged as a major

consideration for the music industry. With Napster,

one saw that the industry had, to a degree,

anticipated the shift to digital. But it tried to

make digital in the image of physical, by offering

the same kind of products in the same kind

of way but on an internet retail basis. I always

refer to that period in recorded music as ‘the

abbreviated grieving process’. We began with

denial, we experienced anger, which resulted in

us suing pretty much everybody!

And then in 2003 we reached acceptance

with the launch of iTunes. Having worked

at Warner as part of the team that helped bring

iTunes to the market, it had become apparent

from the previous year or so that the industry

needed help: it needed help to organise

itself and to make this transition, because

the old rules didn’t really apply any more. We

were struggling to organise ourselves and our

own assets, let alone determining and dictating

the way music should be distributed. So

we were really fortunate that around the same

time that this was taking place, we were at the

forefront of the discussions leading up to the

launch of iTunes. At Warner, Roger Ames, our

global chairman and CEO, was the first senior

executive from the recorded music industry to

engage with Steve Jobs and the team at Apple.

And so we saw up close the transition that the

industry needed to make. However when iTunes

launched, it was regarded in the technology industry

as the last roll of the dice for Apple. Apple

was a business that was completely dwarfed

by the big internet and mobile players of the

time, by companies like Nokia and others who

were worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Apple

was a relatively niche player in that marketplace.

So, one of the things that really enabled

Warner to have a disproportionate impact was

seeing the transformation of an idea as simple

as iTunes, and watching the reality of that idea

play out in the marketplace. I remember vividly

on the second full day of iTunes sales in North

America, receiving a phone call from the North



‘we thought, if only we could get this thing that

meant so much to people and make it available using

new technologies and new digital channels’

American team saying that they had sold a million

downloads, which was the forecast for the

first year! So this gave us a tremendous confidence

that music still had a real relevance. If we

could find the right combination of technology,

partners and distribution, and the confidence

that music would continue to have a valuable

role in people’s lives, if we could bring those

things together, then it was a signpost for the

way the market might evolve.

That said, if you were to

look at what happened after

iTunes, there was a renewed

confidence in the industry

and many larger players tried

to replicate what Apple had

done. Microsoft in particular

had a tremendous initiative

with many of the world’s retailers

involved in consumer



but nobody ever really replicated it in the form

of music downloads. The industry bubbled as

a download industry until 2007 when Spotify

came along. Now, at the same time, we were

constantly looking at what Rhapsody (the new

name for Napster) was doing, and we were seeing

that if you deliver a compelling product to a

music fan, the levels of engagement were fabulous.

I think the reality was that the industry

wasn’t prepared to make that transition. And I

don’t think consumers were either.

So if you think about where the industry

was: this was 2003 or 2004 and iTunes

had given great confidence to the industry.

We thought, if only we could get this thing that

meant so much to people and make it available

using new technologies and new digital channels.

Everything looked very rosy. What actually hap-

pened was that the transition from an old CD

business into a new digital retail

business turned out to be a

relatively niche opportunity, in

that it didn’t broaden!

iTunes was a success

in its own right but it was where near reaching the same

levels of consumers that the

physical CD had ever reached.

Frankly, consumers and fans

were looking for more depth

in a musical experience and for classical music

fans, it was just underwhelming. The way that

classical recordings were being presented on


internet services was almost impenetrable. It

was a model that was built around pop music

and driven by popularity. It was inconceivable

to most classical music collectors and fans that

they would use digital to replace their old physical

music library. To be fair, Apple have done a


tech insights

better job than most to enrich what they do,

but fundamentally those services were about

pop music and hit songs and genres other than

classical and they certainly didn’t lend themselves

to discovery of classical works for the

simple fact of the metadata. It was impenetrable.

Downloading didn’t take off in the classical

world initially. Consumers have always wanted

to upgrade to something better, but it wasn’t

better in terms of the convenience of discovery.

Arguably as important was the denigration

of sound quality. The trade-off between convenience

and quality certainly lost a lot of consumers

who had previously been classical music

collectors and jazz music collectors. There was

no comparison between what they were being

offered as a download and what they had been

offered in the physical world. And it wasn’t just

those genres that struggled.

We reached a ceiling because of so much

that was happening in people’s digital lives. If

we look at what happened in film and TV over

the same period, the quality, experience and

convenience was getting better and better.

Music, on the other hand, has tried to take the

physical experience and copy it across, business

model and all, onto a digital platform. So

we were constantly trying to find companies

that would deliver not only the convenience of

digital but at least as good a quality of an experience

as we had found in previous formats. If

you think about it, during that period Rhapsody

was doing reasonably well – it was a service

that had a million or so users but it never really

broke out into the mainstream because the

consumers were finding it difficult to get their

heads around not only recurring subscriptions,

but also the idea of being able to access music

as opposed to collecting music.

Music is so important for people’s self-expression

and the act of collecting music itself,

that ritual of music buying is art of the experience.

We then fast-forward to 2007 and the

launch of Spotify; not only did Spotify do a lot

for the music industry in terms of their techni-

cal capability combined with a music obsession,

but it was the first time we’d seen that in a single

company. And I think ironically it was able

to grow, develop and improve because it didn’t

come from North America. North America has

this tendency to burn brightly and often to

burn out but Spotify was able to thrive, initially

across a single territory and then in a handful of

territories. It really had the breathing space to

build and develop and improve on the experience.

And meanwhile, all the time Spotify were

improving their experience, customers were

becoming more accustomed to access music

as opposed to ownership, or accessing content

based on someone else’s schedule. Spotify allowed

audiences to access content according

to their own schedules and lifestyles. So I

think between 2007 and 2014, we were going

through this transition in consumer behaviour

and Spotify dragged the music industry kicking

and screaming into the streaming era. A lot of

the infrastructure that was necessary for the

music industry to completely change its model

was developed then.

But still, it’s fair to say that while Spotify provides

a great experience for someone who is a

mainstream music lover – someone who wants

pop, classical, rock, and many of the contemporary

genres – it’s not a finished article when it

comes to classical music. For the different ways

you want to search the catalogue as a classical

music fan or collector, the bar is set pretty high.

You want to search by composer or by work,

understanding that an overture is not necessarily

a full work, for instance. The infrastructure

necessary to deliver classical still wasn’t in place

by 2014 when I think streaming really started to

gain momentum.



such as Chromecast, you now have the ability

to stream to your hifi system. It’s an incredibly

exciting time to start to serve those audiences

in a way that genuinely is an upgrade to a much

better experience. So for 7digital, and for me

personally, it is a really exciting time.

I worked in the early days of DVD audio

and SACD and I was involved in attempting

to resuscitate the DVD audio format in 2000

when the industry had frankly missed probably

its most obvious opportunity to drive a

new wave of growth by following up on what

had been the most successful consumer package

media format of all time. The music industry

could not organise itself to deliver those

products as an experience, despite the fact

that they had tremendous momentum. And

then at that point the industry stopped for the

best part of a decade investing in audio quality.

We’re now starting to see all the major labels

and independent labels, especially in classical,

gear up to deliver not just the catalogues but

also new releases, contemporary artists and

working in much higher resolution. So over the

next couple of years, there are opportunities

for businesses to evolve which means that music

fans don’t have to compromise on quality or

convenience any more.

If we look at another phenomenon over

the last few years, namely the resurgence of vi-


experience, search

and discovery


think streaming has done a fantastic job at

replacing a lot of our listening habits and has

even improved them. Now we are starting to

see classical music being made available on

various streaming platforms in a way that’s appropriate,

and it’s being made possible because

the record labels in particular have been forced

to look closely at the kinds of metadata that

are necessary to underpin a classical streaming

service. And they are starting to build something

that supports services that are fit for purpose

in terms of search and discovery. But also

we are only now seeing the coming together of

services and devices in a way that makes it possible

for people to access a streaming service

and to listen to music in a quality that I think

most classical aficionados would appreciate. If

you give somebody the convenience and ability

to browse through a catalogue, that’s fine,

but you’ve also got to experience it. The ability

to stream higher quality is thanks to bandwidth

improvements but also because of progress

that’s been made in delivering new formats in

high resolution. That now means that the context

is there and the tools necessary to deliver

really compelling classical music experiences

on the internet are just becoming available.

That’s on the service side. If you combine

this with developments in connected devices,

particularly audio devices and platforms


tech insights

‘it’s being made possible because the record labels in

particular have been forced to really look closely at

the kinds of metadata that are necessary to underpin a

classical streaming service’

nyl, I think it’s evidence of demand without a

product. It tells us about the way that people

want to engage with music and what’s important

about music in their lives. There are certain

needs and requirements that are currently not

being satisfied by the existing digital music

marketplace and by that I mean the depth that

you get from being able to understand more of

the composer, the producer, the engineer, the

artist, the songwriter. The story around the music

and the context about the

way the music has been created

has always been a part of

the experience and so if I look

at today’s most widely used

streaming services, they‘re

great at finding things and

making things available that

are popular, but the depth of

context isn’t really there. That

creates tremendous opportunities

in the music industry, to provide services

that really do meet the expectations of those

who are looking for more depth, both in the

quality of the audio, listening to works from different

orchestras, being able to form their own

opinions about the best performances, and also

the stories and the context around those works.

So context is everything and if we’re to look at

where we are in the transition from a physical

packaged media business into a digital streaming

business, I think we’re in the first hour of

digital music. In some ways it’s painful to say

that because I’ve been at it for 20 years, but it

feels like we’re just getting started. And there

are ways we can approach new technologies to

make it easier to discover and navigate the catalogue

and then bring another context around

those recordings. The next few years are going

to be tremendously exciting for music lovers

of all persuasions. I’m tremendously

excited about this.

But at the heart of it all is the

storytelling. The way that you

experience and re-experience

music, there needs to be tremendous

depth to it and we

are only just getting started





investment in digital

music innovation

But at least we’re getting started with the

right tools now. There are more catalogues

available, better metadata and fewer technical

barriers. We forget how far we’ve travelled in

the last 24 months. So many of those early challenges

have been removed and that creates a

fantastic platform for innovation. The work is

not finished by any stretch of the imagination.

Over the last 2 or 3 years, the industry – the

likes of Universal Music Group, Decca, Naxos,

Deutsche Grammophon – has

become focused on how we

make sure the classical experience

is compelling. And

there’s a resurgence in interest

in artists and repertoire.

So despite the fact that

the relative share of the digital

marketplaces has been challenging

in classical music over

the past few years, I’m really

encouraged by the focus on investment that

we’re seeing across the major labels and the

major independent producers of classical music

and just a great example of where the indus-

try is headed. At CES (Consumer Electronics

Show) this year in Las Vegas, three major record

labels came together to demonstrate not just

a desire to help support high resolution music,

but also that they are investing in and making

these services available. So I am encouraged

about what the next few years will look like for

all musical genres, but particularly classical and

jazz that have been so under-served in the last

few years.

Goldman Sachs published a report not

so long ago about what the music industry will

look like in 2025.The most significant thing

about this authoritative report is that it pulls

together all elements of the music industry and

looks at them through a single

lens. The challenge of the

music industry over the last

couple of decades has been

fragmentation, and that is just

as significant in pop music as

it is in classical music. Once

you separate investment in

artist and repertoire from an

ability to generate revenue,

then it becomes challenging

to continue to invest. For the first time, we’re

beginning to look at the industry through a single

lens which is tremendously encouraging for

all genres of music. And I’m a cynic. I’ve been

doing this too long to be easily convinced of

these things! So I can safely say, it really is an

exciting time for the music industry.

The advice I’d give to those new to

streaming is: you’ve got to try it. You’ve got to


tech insights

‘so context is everything and if we’re to look at where

we are in the transition from a physical packaged media

business into a digital streaming business, I think we’re

in the first hour of digital music

look at the simplicity of the way that streaming

is now being delivered and the simplicity of

taking the music off a computer and making it

available through your audio system. The advances

we’ve seen in the last 12 months means

it’s a whole different proposition now. Find the

service that’s right for you because not all services

are equal in terms of their focus on context

or the breadth of content. The great thing

is that the industry is now in a growth phase.

So it’s easy to get a taste of this and give it a

try. You don’t have to let go of your CD or vinyl

collection to give it a go now. I think people will

be pleasantly surprised at just how far it has developed

just in the last 18-24 months.


Deputy CEO of 7digital.

He joined Warner Music Group in 1996.

In 2014 he joined 7digital, the B2B

digital music and radio services




music sharing

with Napster.


iTunes launched.

Apple was still a

niche company.




Beginning of

the concept of

accessing music

rather than

collecting it.


Improved metadata,


ground for classical




launches 100%

classical streaming







“I have enjoyed streaming the

available music during the beta

period. I hope that when you go to

production there is at least a tier of

service that is compatible with my

listening habits. If I had to crowd out

some other aspect of my musical life

in order to justify whatever I had to

pay then I would not do that.”

“I have used the service more during

the beta than I would on average

over the long term, as I did postpone

some other things to focus here

because of the limited time.”

“I was just playing a piece by a

composer I know, but a work of his

that is less familiar to me. And my

first thought was “I like this musically

but maybe I'd prefer a different



“The music is awesome – I am pretty

sure we all agree on that – and I am

grateful to have had the opportunity

to hopefully make the final product

a success.”

“So I went to the “work info” choice

that lives at the top of the bar and

clicked. I was shown information

about the piece that included the

date and place of its premiere

AND – of interest to me – other

recordings of this piece that I will go

and explore soon.”

“I wish to report that I am a fan of

this feature – please keep it! And

thank you!”







“I have been waiting for a classical streaming

service for a long time. It's great that my

needs as a user are being finally met!”




“Metadata for music is always an issue but

especially for classical music, simply because

there are no standards. What I see on

primephonic is better than what I get from

most CDs.”

“So far I played two releases and connected it to my

system via Bluetooth in my car system. Very nice. Keep

up the great work.”


We held a competition

for beta testers to

win a set of Bowers &

Wilkins P7 headphones.

Their exquisite design

and breathtaking sound

are a high-end treat for

the one lucky winner.

And that winner is:

Don McIntosh


tech insights

the streaming

user experience

In 2017 primephonic launches its streaming service, which complements the high-res

download store, adding a new dimension to the 100% classical platform. The successful

beta phase was well-received by the users, giving a great sense of satisfaction and

the road ahead looks promising. Here is what some of the beta testers had to say.



The scope of labels

primephonic offers is

astounding. This means

that the diversity of

music available on

primephonic ranges

from the staples of the

symphonic repertoire

to authentic period

instruments, to brand

new compositions

by the cutting-edge

composers of today. In

these label portraits,

we introduce. you to the

people behind some of

the labels.


harmonia mundi


As the focus of the early music

movement moved from scholarship

to musicianship in the 1970s and

1980s, it was harmonia mundi that

introduced the world to the some of

the first stars of the genre, including

Anonymous 4, William Christie and

Les Arts Florissants, Andreas Scholl,

and Andrew Manze.

The French label was founded in

1958 by Bernard Coutaz, who simply

wanted to record music that he

thought was beautiful. His quest

for exciting new sounds led him

to the emerging proponents of

historically informed performance.

“There was a special focus on a

quest for excellence, linked to the

notion of authenticity: more period

instruments, returning to the original

manuscripts, and above all, the idea

of exploring the repertoire with a

new perspective, always questioning

the score, never accepting it

without asking questions,” explained

harmonia mundi’s current head of

classics, Christian Giardin.

Coutaz passed away in 2010, leaving

his widow, Eva Coutaz, in charge



of the company. In 2015 she sold

harmonia mundi, still with a solid

line-up of early music artists, to the

eclectic European independent label

PIAS. At the time, PIAS co-founder

Kenny Gates called harmonia mundi

“a hidden gem.”

“The spirit of continuity,” is what

Giardin said he’s after as harmonia

mundi continues to grow. “The

mastering of historically informed

performance is now at the highest

level possible, with such artists as

Isabelle Faust, Alexander Melnikov,

Jean-Guihen Queyras, René

Jacobs, Andreas Staier and Kristian

Bezuidenhout. But new artists have

been joining the label in recent


The continuity shows in their

commitment to uncovering

something new and fresh in the

music they record. For example, the

conductor Brad Lubman is a brilliant

advocate for new music, Graham

Ross a leader in choral music,

and the stunning soprano Sophie

Karthäuser stars in opera and song.

“They embody that new generation:

new perspectives, new repertoire,

and a new sound,” Giardin enthused.



“There is no method available today

to reproduce the exact perception

of attending a live performance,

with all its commercial limitations.

On the contrary, we should

create the sonic experience that

emotionally moves the listener to a

better place,” said Morten Lindberg,

founder and CEO of 2L. “That leaves

us with the art of illusion when it

comes to recording music.”

This pursuit of the perfect illusion

makes 2L recordings sound almost

as if they are playing inside your

head. “Recorded music is no longer

a matter of a fixed one- or twodimensional

setting, but rather

a three-dimensional enveloping

situation; a sculpture that you can

literally move around and relate to

spatially,” Lindberg explained. “As

recording engineers and producers,

we need to do exactly the same as

any good musician: interpret the

music and the composer’s intentions

and adapt to the medium where we


The Oslo-based label started out as

a production company in the early

1990s. But as the major labels scaled

back their classical music recordings,

Lindberg said, “we wanted to move

forward. Our obvious solution was

to start our own label.” 2L currently

has 10 to 15 releases per year, all on

Pure Audio Blu-ray and HiRes files.

Most feature Nordic artists and

contemporary composers.

2L recordings have garnered 28

Grammy nominations since 2006—

mostly in the engineering and sound

categories. Lindberg has a hard time

explaining the science behind how

they make such beautiful illusions,

saying “It's a mixture between

intellect and the heart.”

He continued, “2L records in roomy

acoustic venues—large concert

halls, churches and cathedrals. This

is actually where we can make the

most intimate recordings. [There is

a] spaciousness due to the absence

of close reflecting walls. Making an

ambient and beautiful recording

is the way of least resistance.

Searching the fine edge between

direct contact and spaciousness—

that’s the real challenge!”

Sono Luminus


Like so many audiophile companies,

Sono Luminus began as an

engineering studio and eventually

branched out to record under its

own label. It started in 1995 when

the founders of Cisco Systems,

Sandy Lerner and Len Bosack,

decided that their knowledge of

digital signal processing could

be applied to recorded music, to

gorgeous effect.

They married a studio made for

natural acoustics (a 100-year-old

former Episcopal church with a 25

foot vaulted wood ceiling and the

original heart pine flooring) with the

best possible technology and the

minimal possible miking, to end up

with a remarkably natural sound.

Ten years later, they bought up the

entire catalogue of Dorian, one of

the first audiophile labels and an early

music pioneer, and launched Sono

Luminus as an independent label.



Today, the focus is still on using the

highest technology to create the

most natural ambient sound. Sono

Luminus was the first American

record label to release Pure Audio

Blu-ray discs. All recordings today

are made in 192kHz/24-bit stereo

versions as well as 7.1-channel,

96kHz/24-bit, and 5.1-channel,

192kHz/24-bit surround sound, and

Auro-3D 9.1-channel recordings. As

label CEO Collin J Rae said, “Once

you have recorded something, you

can always go down [in quality] but

you can’t go up.”

These days Sono Luminus records

an eclectic mix of early and

contemporary music, two genres

that Rae said are “relatable as an

aesthetic; there’s something similar

about the sonic quality and the

atmosphere.” So, for example, Jory

Vinikour playing Bach Partitas on the

harpsichord is coming out around

the same time as Nordic Affect and

a programme of new music from the

Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.

“We want to support artists who

are actively engaged with their

audience,” said Rae. “I’m trying to

take a holistic view and up the ante

on what

LSO Live


LSO Live was born in 2000, when

the musicians of the London

Symphony Orchestra decided

they needed to control their own

recording legacy. “LSO Live was

set up to be profitable, but we also

had other reasons,” said Becky Lees,

head of LSO Live. These included

replacing income lost from the

decline of traditional recording

deals, maintaining a high level of

exposure for the orchestra, and

reaching a wider audience through

digital distribution—something LSO

has been pioneering. “We were

adamant that only the artist truly has

their long-term business interests at


While other orchestras have since

launched their own labels, LSO Live

was the first. It grew out of the

structure of LSO itself, “a collective

built on artistic ownership and

partnership,” said Lees. “The LSO

is still owned and governed by its

members, and the chairman is an

elected member of the orchestra.”

The musicians decide what to

record, they control all rights, and

share the profits.

LSO Live recordings really are

live; they edit together several

live performances—combining the

best features of live and studio

recordings. “We wanted to capture

the energy and emotion of our

concerts, and for that we need a

high-quality sound,” said Lees. “We

are a world-class orchestra. We don't

compromise on the quality of our

performances and we don't feel we

should compromise on the quality of

our recordings.”

The label was founded when Sir

Colin Davis was at the helm, and

a lot of his core repertoire was

featured—Berlioz, Haydn, Sibelius.

With Simon Rattle now ready to

pick up the baton, “There will be a

greater diversity to the orchestral

programme, and that will broaden

the offer on LSO Live,” Lees said.

“Simon believes passionately in

living composers and each season

will begin with a new commission.

It's our intention to record these

for the label. We have also added

Gianandrea Noseda and François-

Xavier Roth to the roster. We look

forward to some exciting recording

projects with both conductors.”


title goes here

The energy and emotion

you only experience live





Erika Grimaldi

Daniela Barcellona

Francesco Meli

Michele Pertusi

Simon Halsey

London Symphony Chorus

‘Sheer majesty’

The Guardian


Sunday Times


The Guardian

The debut album from the

virtuoso LSO Wind Ensemble

Album of the week

Sunday Times

‘This could turn out to be the

finest Sibelius cycle’

The Observer



Listen on primephonic

for life on an

epic scale


There’s something ethereal about music that

speaks to humanity. Music expresses emotion

sonically without the need for language or

text. Music doesn’t even need to be understood

to be enjoyed.

Hearing the words ‘music’ and ‘universe’ in

the one sentence brings many things to mind

– from the Ancient Greeks to space travel,

or maybe the sound of Holst’s The Planets or

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos. Space can be perceived

in music, either in terms of physics and

acoustics or on a more abstract level within

our imagination. The universe holds a special

place; a source of wonder and mystery, it can

be admired and contemplated and it’s up to us

how deep we want to delve. The same can be

said of music.


title goes here

c. 495BC

The connection between

music and outer space was

already observed in Ancient

Greece and frequently discussed

by the likes of Plato,

Aristotle and Socrates. The

mathematician Pythagoras

suggested that celestial bodies

emit a unique humming

sound based on their orbital

revolution, known as musica

universalis or Music of the



Sir William Herschel was a

German-born English composer

and astronomer from

the 18th century. Although

better known for his work as

an astronomer, Herschel led

a short but successful music

career, with an astonishing

18 symphonies to his name,

as well as concertos for oboe

and viola. Using a telescope

in 1781 he found the planet

Uranus, the first planet to be

discovered since antiquity. .


Holst was an innovative English

composer, most famous

for his orchestral work, The

Planets. He was a modest

and introverted character

and spent the majority of

his career as an educator as

well as a composer, holding

many teaching positions in

various schools throughout

his life. The use of bitonality

and dissonance in The Planets

creates a unique and individual

element to the work. It

gained immediate attention

and most of his continuing

fame rests on this striking



In our solar system, there is

a minor planet named after

Hildegard of Bingen, the

German Benedictine abbess,

composer, writer, scientist

and philosopher of the Medieval

period. The minor planet

898 Hildegard, which orbits

the sun, was discovered on 3

August 1918.


On 12 April 1961 a melody

was whistled in space for the

first time. Russian cosmonaut

Yuri Gagarin, the first ever

human in space, whistled the

patriotic song "The Motherland

Hears, The Motherland

Knows" by fellow-Soviet Dmitri

Shostakovich, on board

the Vostok 3KA-3 (Vostok1).


The Voyager Interstellar

Record is a compendium of

human achievement which

was recorded on a gold-coated

phonograph and sent

into space on the Voyager in

1977. It is currently floating

through space at least 11.6

billion miles away from Earth.

In his book, The Murmurs of

Earth (1978), the astronomer

and astrophysicist Carl

Sagan refers to the curation

of this artefact – what was

chosen and why. Sagan

declares that the decision to

include the music of Johann

Sebastian Bach was a case of

unashamed showing off. The

full playlist consists of tracks

of music by Bach, Mozart,

Beethoven and many popular

and non-Western numbers.



Grammy Award winning violinist Augustin Hadelich has made a name for himself as one of the

foremost musicians of his generation. Born in Italy to German parents, Hadelich thrived at the

Juilliard School in New York where he evolved from young prodigy to fully-fledged concert soloist,

emerging as one of today’s most sought-after musicians. He plays on the 1723 “ExKiesewetter”

Stradivari violin which is on loan to him from the Stradivari Society of Chicago. primephonic

editor Rachel Deloughry caught up with him to discuss his listening preferences.


how do i listen:

augustin hadelich


Born in 1984 in Tuscany, Italy, to

German parents.

He is a graduate of the Instituto

Mascagni in Livorno, Italy and the

Juilliard School in New York

He won a Grammy for Best Classical

Instrumental Solo in 2016 for his

recording of Henri Dutilleux’s Violin

Concerto ('L'Arbre Des Songes') with

the Seattle Symphony and Ludovic


He plays on the 1723 “ExKiesewetter”

Stradivari violin which is on loan to

him via the Stradivari Society of


“When I perform violin concertos,

they are usually in the first half of

the programme but I almost always

listen to the second half of the

concert, which I greatly enjoy! I

also listen to many recordings for

research (especially other works by

the same composer as the piece I

am performing). However, because

my ear is next to the violin so much

when I'm practising, rehearsing or

performing, I do also find silence

to be very relaxing, something

which is very hard to come by

these days! I don’t like background

music (for example in restaurants),

especially if it is classical, since I

invariably start listening and then

can’t keep up with the conversation!

I still have my minidisc player

although I haven’t used it in years.

I generally listen to music on the

computer, either over speakers

or headphones. I can never quite

understand people who listen to

music while walking or running - I

would run into things or get lost if

I did that. The computer I take with

me when I travel doesn’t actually

have a CD player, so I usually buy

the music that I want to listen to

on iTunes. I feel it’s important for

musicians to buy recordings – we

have to set a good example!

When I’m studying a new work,

streaming makes recordings more

easily accessible. However, I

have also found that some of my

favourite recordings are not in the

streaming libraries. And sometimes

I find that it’s just nice to take out a

CD and hold it in your hand!

One thing I love about the digital

revolution is that it has changed

the programming of albums: it

used to be common to record the


title goes here

‘i greatly

prefer to

listen to

music in

the concert


repertoire of one composer on

each album, for example, the 3

Brahms sonatas, so that it could be

easily found in a store, under “B for

Brahms.” If there was Schubert on

the same disc, however, would the

disc be filed be under B or S? Such

categorical conundrums are now

obsolete, as we can now easily use

search engines to find composers,

works, or performers we want to

hear or buy. We can programme

albums more creatively, more like

a concert programme. Personally, I

love recordings with highly contrasting

repertoire and often find

anthologies boring!

I greatly prefer to listen to music in

the concert setting. There is something

special about being in a hall

with many other people, listening

to music that is being created in

the moment. But I do also enjoy

the recording process. Music is an

ephemeral thing and recording a

work after years of studying and

playing is very satisfying.’

The new recording of Lalo and

Tchaikovsky concertos with the

LPO are my first live recordings

and they are the perfect works to

record live! Playing Tchaikovsky

at 10.00am in a recording studio

just would not work because this

work thrives on the excitement

of the concert hall. On the other

hand, I knew that my recording

of the Adès concerto had to be

a studio recording, as only then

would we be able to work out the

more subtle details in the complex

score. I was also really happy with

my recording of the Bartók and

Mendelssohn concertos with the

Norwegian Radio Orchestra and

Miguel Harth-Bedoya on AVIE.


At the moment I am recording the

24 Caprices of Paganini for Warner

Classics, which will be released

in early 2018. The caprices are

really fun, interesting and beautiful

pieces, which are unfortunately

often treated more like etudes. I

feel very strongly about Paganini's

music because I grew up in Italy,

where he is beloved as a composer

and his works are played operatically,

more like Rossini.”

how do I listen playlist

Henri Dutilleux: L’arbre des songes,

II Vif Interlude 2

Seattle Symphony Media

Édouard Lalo: Symphonie Espagnole, I

Allegro non troppo


J.S. Bach : Herr Jesu Christ, wahr’

Mensch und Gott, BWV 127: Die Seele

ruht in Jesu Händen Steinway & Sons

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto

in D major, I Allegro moderato


Henri Dutilleux: Nocturne for Violin &

Orchestra “Sur le même accord”

Seattle Symphony Media

Béla Bartók: Mikrokosmos, Sz. 107, BB

105, Vol. 6 - Dance in Bulgarian Rhythm VI

Gramola Records


music &



The Berlin Philharmonie,

home of the Berlin Philharmonic

Orchestra, is one of

the most renowned concert

halls in the world, celebrated

for its acoustical brilliance

and its visual and spatial ingenuity,

with organic acoustics

at the centre of it all. The

fact that it was built during

the lifetime of Herbert von

Karajan – a towering figure in

the world of conducting and

the orchestra’s longest-serving

conductor – is monumental

in itself. The Berlin

Philharmonic Orchestra was

already recognised as one of

the world’s great orchestras,

so the construction of one

of the wonders of modern

architecture cemented

the orchestra’s status and

brought forth a hall appropriate

for an orchestra of

such calibre.

The architect, Hans

Scharoun, was celebrated

for his organic architecture

and this harmonious

balance between nature

and buildings has stood the

test of time. Scharoun was a

member of an architectural

collective called Der Ring,

from which expressionist

architecture emerged with a

socialist agenda. It dissolved

in 1933 and many members

left Germany during the war.

Scharoun, however, stayed

in Germany and worked on

the restoration and re-construction

of bombed-out

buildings. Interestingly, he

discreetly anticipated his

architectural plans for a

post-Nazi Germany by creating

watercolours of cityscapes

– secret architectural

blueprints in disguise.

The inside of the main

concert hall in the Berlin

Philharmonie has been frequently

described as “tentlike”

and German filmmaker

Wim Wenders called it “a

huge musical instrument in

itself”. Acoustics are centre

stage. The concert stage of

the main hall is placed centrally,

with audience seating

situated all the way around.

Symmetry is not one of its

features – in fact, it is noted

for its offset terraces of

seat rows at elevations that

irregularly increase around

the platform. While this may

not seem unusual, it charted

new architectural territory

and inspired the same asymmetrical

features in more

recent concert halls such as

the Walt Disney Concert Hall

by the architect Frank Gehry

and Jørn Utzon’s Sydney

Opera House.


title goes here

music & architecture


Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde,

Prelude to Act I


Amadeus Mozart: Symphony No. 40

in G Minor, K.550 I Molto allegro

(1996 - Remaster) Warner

Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Op.26

(2002 - Remaster)


Claude Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande,

L. 88, Act I Scene I Interlude


Richard Strauss : Don Quixote, Op. 35,

Variation V - Don Quixote’s vigil during

the summer night Warner


Christoph Willibald Gluck: Orfeo et

Eurydice, Act IV “Jái perdu mon Eurydice”



amplify your life

with primephonic

Our catalogue items have become as diverse

as they are numerous, with just the right

picks for the explorer, the adventurer and the

pioneer in classical music.







Every musical instrument started life as an invention, as a piece

of technology. In most cases they went through hundreds of trials

and modifications In a way the most successful instruments

are those, like the violin or the piano, which have gone through

so many perfections and modifications that their evolution has

reached a dead end, remaining essentially unchanged for decades

or centuries. However, for every instrument that reached

this stage, there are hundreds if not thousands of failed experiments,

impractical designs and creations simply too weird to

become popular amongst musicians or composers. Here are a

few instruments that, for one reason or another, failed to make

it into the mainstream.




The nail violin is one of many

instruments, including the Singing

Saw, that work on the principle of

bowing a sheet or spike of metal.

Invented in the mid-18th century by

Johann Wilde, a German violinist,

it takes the form of several nails of

varying lengths arranged in a circular

or semicircular shape and stuck into

a wooden soundboard. The sound

can be sharp and grating, and the

range and tonality is severely limited.

Combined with a quiet volume, it is

no surprise that the nail violin failed

to catch on. Its close relative, the

singing saw, continues however to

enjoy popularity as a folk instrument,

particularly in the United States.


Oddly enough, the glass harmonica

falls into the same category as the

nail violin in that sound is produced

by direct friction from a non-toneproducing

object. In this case

however it is not a bow but the

human hand. The modern version

was invented by none other than

Benjamin Franklin, and comprises

a mechanical device similar to a

lathe on which a variety of glass

disks are mounted, with the wider

(and lower pitched) disks on the

left. As these spin, simple contact

with a human finger emits an eerie

pitch, reminiscent of the sound of

rubbing one’s finger around the

rim of a wine glass. The popularity



brilliant simplicity to it, operating

based on the distance of the

player’s hands from two medal rods,

one to control pitch and one for

dynamics. It emits a pure, spooky

sound emblematic of decades

worth of movie soundtracks. But it

has however had some success in

the concert hall as well, with Dmitri

Shostakovich being the most famous

composer to write for it. The Ondes

Martenot, invented less than ten

years after the Theremin, can be

thought of its logical continuation.

Although they share some sonic

properties, including continuous

pitch, the Ondes Martenot is more

complicated and features multiple

speaker cabinets and a sounding

board with strings. Although the

Ondes Martenot can still be found in

France where it was invented, it has

not enjoyed the same longevity as

the Theremin.

of the instrument used to be much

higher than most people realize, with

many notable composers including

Mozart, Beethoven and Strauss

writing music for it. However, it

began to decline precipitously in

popularity by the mid-19th century,

perhaps due to the legend that

listening to the sound for too

long would drive the listener (or

performer) mad.


Also falling in the relatively small

category of instruments that are

largely mechanical in nature but

not electronic, the orchestrion

can refer to a variety of inventions

of dazzling complexity that arose

around the turn of the 19th century.

Essentially a “super-organ”, the

aim of the orchestrion is to imitate

even more of the timbres from

the orchestra, often including all

of the wind instruments and many

percussion instruments. Although

the nearly endless possibilities

were surely tantalizing, the sheer

cost, size and complexity of the

orchestrion ensured from the

start that only a few would ever be

produced. Synthesizers have also

replaced many of the roles that the

orchestrion was designed to fill.


Perhaps the most famous

“alternative” instrument, the

Theremin was invented in 1919 by the

Russian physicist Leon Theremin,.

In addition to being one of the only

musical instruments to operate

without physical contact between

the performer and the instrument,

it is also the first famous electronic

instrument. The Theremin has a


In recent years, countless digital

devices have been added to the

growing pool of instruments vying

for attention. Many of these take

the form of keyboard instruments,

hence the special significance of the

EWI, or Electronic Wind Instrument.

With variable settings that can

duplicate the fingerings of the flute,

oboe and saxophone, together with

sensors that can detect changes in

dynamics and vibrato, and a whole

catalogue of synthesized sounds, the

EWI is another extremely versatile

instrument. Made famous mostly by

jazz and genre-crossing saxophonists

such as Michael Brecker and Bob

Mintzer, it was never taken seriously

as a concert instrument. However

with the additional breath sensors,

the possibilities of the instrument

are in many ways even more



numerous than on a traditional

keyboard synthesizer, ensuring that

the instrument will continue to be

used in new and exciting ways.


Despite its niche status today, the

mandolin used to be surprisingly

popular, particularly in early 20th

century America. By the onset of

World War II, hundreds of mandolin

orchestras had sprung up all over

North American and Europe,

typically featuring mandolins,

mandolas and mandocellos (which

correspond to the three highest

instruments in the violin family) in

addition to the occasional guitar or

contrabass. Seeing an opportunity to

create orchestras consisting entirely

of mandolin-family instruments,

several companies, most notably

Gibson, began manufacturing

mandobasses in the early 1910s.

Typically tuned identically to a

contrabass but with frets and

an A-style mandolin body, these

awkward and uncomfortable-looking

instruments were produced until the

1930s, when interest in mandolin

orchestras began to wane.


The Shofar is the instrument most

closely associated with many Jewish

ceremonies and holidays. Crafted

from a ram’s horn, the Shofar is

typically used to emit a piercing

tone or rapid burst of short notes,

and is mentioned numerous times

throughout the Old Testament.

Interestingly, the asymmetrical

shape of the air cavity often

means that the instrument does

not follow the normal overtone

series, and the organic nature

of the instrument makes them

nearly impossible to tune, which is

‘it is quite

likely that

many of

these supposedly



will witness

a resurgence’

perhaps the reason the Shofar is

traditionally played solo. Nowadays

it can regularly be found in Israeli

pop music and is even called for in

the score of Edward Elgar’s “The

Apostles,” although a flugelhorn is

often substituted for reasons of



Despite its comical name and

bizarre construction, the hurdygurdy

is a surprisingly versatile

instrument. Although it is technically

a string instrument, the mechanics

of playing are truly unique. The

performer’s right hand turns a wheel

that rubs against the strings, while

the left hand changes the pitch

through a series of wooden keys,

resulting in a bizarre cross between

a bowed instrument and a keyboard

instrument, powered by a hand

crank. A series of drone strings gives

the instrument a bagpipe-like quality

and a characteristic buzzing sound.

Used in folk music throughout most

of Europe, the hurdy-gurdy has

also enjoyed periods of popularity

with the upper classes, although it



never truly caught on with classical

composers. It has often been

imitated in classical music, most

famously in Der Leiermann (The

Hurdy-Gurdy Man) in Schubert’s



The didgeridoo is an ancient

instrument that has been played by

indigenous Australians for at least

1,500 years. Ranging between 1

and 3 metres in length, the sound

of these massive aerophones is

instantly recognizable by its deep

droning quality and pulsating

overtones. The technique to play

it often requires the performer

to employ circular breathing, and

accomplished players such as Mark

Atkins have been known to play

for nearly an hour without taking

a breath. Although the didgeridoo

is a traditional instrument, more

recently it has found its way into

classical music, particularly through

Australian composers such as Peter

Sculthorpe, Sean O’Boyle and

William Barton.

the triple concerto for banjo, double

bass and tabla “The Melody of

Rhythm”, along with Béla Fleck and

Edgar Meyer.

With the advent of digital music and

synthesizers, there are even more

obscure and uncommon instruments

in existence today than ever

before. When these are combined

with the vast number of traditional

and folk instruments from around

the world, it is clear that the standard

Western orchestral instruments

represent only a tiny fraction

of the possible range of sounds

available. As the boundaries between

genres continue to dissolve

and composers continue to search

for new tonal possibilities it is quite

likely that many of these supposedly

obsolete instruments will witness a

resurgence, both inside and outside

of the concert hall.


The tabla is the most recognizable

and widespread instrument used

in Hindustani Classical music,

centered in present-day Northern

India. The tabla consists of two small

drums of different size and pitch

that are played with the fingers

and heel of each hand, the latter

being used to apply pressure and

change the pitch. Outside of India

the most prominent tabla player is

undoubtedly Zakir Hussain, who has

made serious inroads into Western

music through collaborations with

musicians from John McLaughlin to

Charles Lloyd. Hussain also found

his way into American concert halls

as a performer and co-composer of


instruments playlist

Zakir Hussain: Overture


Peter Sculthorpe: String Quartet No. 12,

“From Ubirr” (Earth Cry)

Sono Luminus

Schubert: Winterreise D. 911 - XXIV.

Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man)

harmonia mundi

Camille Saint-Saëns: The Carnival of

the Animals – VII Aquarium


Edgard Varèse: Amériques

Seattle Symphony Media

Olivier Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie







what the critics say














Some commentators can be bizarrely mean about

Dvořák, regarding him as somehow the best of the second-rate

composers. He’s not quite Brahms – nobody

else could ever be Brahms, let’s face it

– and indeed, championed by the German

composer, he perhaps spent too

long in his shadow. Still, there’s a quality

to him that is unique – call it, perhaps, a

purity of soul, and a deeply Czech one,

too. It can be elusive, and what it needs

to do, most of all, is to make you smile,

dance and cry at the same time.

The Symphony No. 8 in G minor is concise

and concentrated, with a strong

core of classical form, which is perhaps why it packs the

punch it does. Unlike his concertos, in which Dvořák

sometimes had a slight tendency to sprawl, here he presents

never a note too many. This is distilled Dvořák, the

Czech rhythms unmistakable in the lilting third movement,

the passion for nature rebounding softly through

the opening allegro con brio’s second subject – recalling

birdsong, perhaps, on the flute – and the twist in the

pit of the stomach deep inside the cello-rich opening

theme’s harmonies.

This account of the symphony was recorded live at

Munich’s Gasteig last year, and despite the hall’s slightly

difficult acoustic it proves that Mariss Jansons has at his

disposal one of the most luxurious orchestral

sounds in the world. The Bavarian

Radio Symphony Orchestra shines

with high polish and a generous heart,

and Jansons balances its elements to

near-ideal calibration. The strings match

the brass and wind for lustre and they

respond to Jansons’ mix of seriousness

and gentle wit, of thrill and lilt, with

alacrity and unanimity. The rhythmic approach

is rigorous, extremely disciplined

there is no hint of self-indulgence in

the up-tempo allegros – but Jansons never loses sight of

the softer side of Dvořák’s soul, handling rubato with a

light, deft touch, and letting string portamenti offer just

the right amount of sensuality.



But if you think the Dvořák is drop-dead gorgeous, just

listen to the Josef Suk Serenade for Strings. Suk, Dvořák’s

pupil and also his son-in-law, likewise suffers from

overshadow syndrome. His Serenade, though, is easily as

fine as Dvořák’s; dating from 1893-4, it finds the composer

matching chamber-like interaction with richness

of sonority, and capturing to a tee that Bohemian ache

of mingled beauty and sorrow. The playing flows with

apparent effortlessness, yet one has the feeling every

note is being cherished.

The recorded sound is excellent: the Gasteig acoustic

seems relatively unproblematic in the Dvořák, and the

Suk, a studio recording, is warm and clear, beautifully

enhancing the satiny strings.

– Jessica Duchen






The Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra has obtained

a prestigious reputation worldwide for their excellent

interpretations, especially of Romantic and late Romantic

music. They are considered one of the top Mahler and

Bruckner orchestras.

The relationship between PENTATONE and the Frankfurt

Radio Symphony extends more than ten years back

with the release of a remastered

SACD version of Rachmaninov’s Piano

Concerto No. 2 and the Rhapsody

on a Theme of Paganini with soloist

Werner Haas and conductor Eliahu

Inbal. Following this release came two

more albums with the highly esteemed

conductor Eliahu Inbal, namely Saint-

Saëns’s Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 and an

album of works for flute and oboe by

Bellini, Molique, Moscheles, Rietz and


Half a decade later, the orchestra returned for a

recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and The

Firebird with PENTATONE, this time under the baton

of the much sought-after conductor Andrés Orozco-

Estrada. This album, released in early 2016, received

much praise. Audio Review was impressed by the

“ruthless dynamic intervals” and the “rich tonal palette”

while Gramophone complimented the orchestra’s

responsiveness and the ability of Orozco-Estrada as he

“unearths an astonishing amount of detail”. PENTATONE

also received a great deal of praise for their “awesomely

precise recording”.

With a history of successful recordings with

PENTATONE, it comes as no surprise that their newest

album, containing Strauss’s tone poems Ein Heldenleben

and Macbeth, are also impressive.

The orchestra performs Ein Heldenleben flawlessly; at

times a bit tentative, perhaps afraid to crack notes or

distort the sound at some of the most intense moments

in the opening sections. The backstage trumpet fanfare

lacks clarity, certainly due to the positioning of the

players; their intonation is excellent

and they exude an enormous amount

of energy, invigorating the orchestra.

The dynamics of the orchestra are

surprisingly extreme, from barely a

whisper in the wind to a (well-balanced)

storm. Not only is the violin solo

splendidly performed, the trumpet

and horn solos are heroically executed

with the support of the bombastic

string playing. The orchestra builds to

an incredible climax together, with the

trumpets and trombones leading the way.

Strauss’s first infrequently heard tone poem, Macbeth,

is also featured on this album. It is certainly interesting

to hear Strauss’s final tone poem followed by his first.

The style is quite different, and sometimes this first

tone poem is referred to as a transitional work, though

Strauss was not affected by such criticism. Macbeth uses

a smaller setting than Ein Heldenleben, but the sense

of drama between two ‘heroes’– Lady Macbeth and



Macbeth – is still evident, as characterized by woodwinds

and low instruments respectively. This drama is much

more subtle than Ein Heldenleben.

The recording quality is excellent, allowing the listener

to experience the music with the depth and special

awareness of a live concert. Combined with the

orchestra’s “outstanding wind section, its rich string

sound and its culture of dynamic performances”, it

creates an unforgettable listening experience.

The accompanying booklet is in a convenient interactive

and colourful pdf format full of interesting tidbits about

the music, in both English and German.

– Melanie Garrett





Widely recognized as one of the most prominent musical

figures of the 20th century, Philip Glass, the self-proclaimed

“bad boy of modern music” is credited with

being one of the founders of the American minimalist

movement along with Steve Reich, La

Monte Young and Terry Riley. The Sony

Classical UK label’s recent release of

his 1982 album Glassworks also features

an enthralling interview with the composer,

providing context and insight

into his career and process.

As an exemplary student of the Julliard

School and recipient of various grants

and awards, Glass’s early accolades

evaporated after he radically redefined

his compositional approach while living in Paris.

He refers to his early work as music that he had merely

learned without representation of his own compositional

voice. In search of a more personal style, he decided to

abandon his academic approach, subsequently arriving

at a very reduced form of music which was based on

process and simple repetitive structures. Glass remarks

“I got rid of everything I had learned very systematically.”

His new approach was initially met with misunderstanding

and rejection until he formed his own ensemble

shortly after moving to New York in 1967. His distinctive

use of rhythm, tonality, arpeggios and repetitive structures

became central to the work that he is known for


Regarded as one of his most iconic compositions,

Glassworks was composed in 1981 for the Philip Glass

Ensemble to be recorded and released as a studio album

the following year. In an attempt to appeal to a wider audience,

the six-movement piece presented another new

direction in the composer’s development while maintaining

his trademark style. The codified glassisms are well

represented: motor rhythm, repetitive structures, chord

progressions, electro-acoustic voice doublings and a

constant stream of arpeggios. With

the addition of tuneful melodies and

shorter pieces, he managed to make

Glassworks more accessible to a larger

audience which greatly contributed to

his renown and recognition.

The order of movements is constructed

in a way that the slow, peaceful Islands

and Façades alternate between the frenetic

Floe and Rubric giving the album

a natural undulating shape. Opening,

performed entirely by solo piano, introduces the composition

with a simple triple over duple polyrhythmic drive

and repeated chord progressions that emanate a melancholic

mood. With regard to the choice of solo piano,

Glass states, “what I was trying to evoke in the opening

was a feeling of intimacy.” Using the same compositional

material, Closing returns to the intimacy of Opening by

gradually reducing the full ensemble orchestration until

the piano is left alone to conclude the album.

The instrumentation of flutes, saxophones, horns,

viola, cello and synthesizers combine to create peculiar

timbres and a decidedly amplified sound in Glassworks.

Because of his prominent emphasis on sound quality,

Glass worked closely with sound engineer Kurt Munkac-



si, treating him as an integral member of the ensemble

as well as making him co-producer of the album. Glass

found it imperative to keep sound engineering an “inhouse

operation” to achieve the ideal sound quality of his

amplified music ensemble as opposed to relying on hired

sound engineers of venues who would not be as familiar

with the music and ensemble sound.

As Philip Glass approaches his 80th birthday, this new

release of Glassworks paired with an engaging interview

with the composer informs a fresh perspective on the

seminal 1982 work.

– Tristan Renfrow








On 15 October 1960 in Chicago, Sviatoslav Richter gave

his eagerly awaited North American debut with a sensational

performance of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 2

in B-flat major with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

conducted by Erich Leinsdorf, the latter standing in

at short notice for Fritz Reiner who had been taken ill.

The concert created quite a stir, one critic writing that

Richter gave “the performance of a lifetime”. Two days

later, the work was recorded by RCA to

produce an instant classic that has never

been out of the catalogue, released

here in a remastered version.

Richter recorded the work nine times

between 1950 and 1969 but it is this

performance with the CSO/Leinsdorf

that is widely regarded as a landmark

and it earned a Grammy Award in 1961

for “Best Classical Performance - Concerto

or Instrumental Soloist”. However,

the ever fastidious Richter was dissatisfied with it, exclaiming

“one of my worst records, even though people

still praise it to the skies. I can’t bear it!”

Listening to this vibrant recording afresh, it’s hard to

agree with Richter as his performance is revelatory.

Incandescent without being imposing or mannered, he

tosses aside the phenomenal technical challenges with

alacrity – just listen to the sustained crescendo in the

opening cadenza, the startling pianissimo octave passages

in the second movement or the ease with which he

despatches massive chords and dramatic flourishes. It’s

matched with playing of great sensitivity in the mesmerising

slow movement with fine cantabile playing from the

orchestra throughout. All in all, a performance not to be


Following his debut in Chicago, Richter went on to give

a series of wildly successful recitals a few days later at

Carnegie Hall in New York. The first programme featured

five Beethoven Sonatas and concluded with a now legendary

performance of “the Appassionata Sonata”. Richter’s

recording of the work shortly after for RCA “raised

the bar for all of us” noted the pianist Malcolm Frager,

“…no one was able to play [it] without worrying that the

audience might have the sound of

Richter’s performance in their ears.”

It’s an astonishing and sustained performance,

played with searing intensity

and conviction by Richter and it’s a

rollercoaster of tension and drama. A

respite to the adrenalin rushes is given

in the tender slow movement which

has fine filigree finger passages. But it’s

in the final movement where Richter

really lets rip. While some pianists

match his demonic speed few can equal the almost visceral

intensity of his playing. Exhilarating and breathless,

it’s an unforgettable performance and a must-buy in this

remastered version.

– Kevin Painting



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Day by day primephonic takes you on an

historical journey through classical music








22 December 1808

Ludwig van Beethoven premiered a few of his most celebrated works in Vienna, in a concert that lasted

four hours. The performance at Theater an der Wien included his Fifth Symphony, Sixth Symphony, Piano

Concerto and Choral Fantasy, all conducted by Beethoven himself. It was the writer E.T.A. Hoffmann who

first noted down and published elements that established the principles of Romanticism in a review of

Beethoven’s 5th Symphony around 18 months later, declaring it one of the most important works of the time.

His terms were in contrast to the formality and restraint that were the defining features of classical forms.



13 January 1910

The first experimental broadcasts of live performances from the stage of the Metropolian Opera New

York took place. Radio pioneer Lee De Forest carried out an experimental live transmission from the

opera stage of Puccini’s Tosca. This was followed by another partial broadcast the following day, of

Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, starring the legendary Enrico Caruso.



10 February 1922

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra became the first orchestra ever to perform a full symphonic concert

live on air. The orchestra, with guest pianist Artur Schnabel, was conducted by Ossip Gabrilowitsch and

broadcast live on the American radio station WWJ.




7 September 1992

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Classic FM, the UK's first national commercial classical radio station, was launched. The first work to be

broadcast was Handel's anthem Zadok the Priest, a celebratory anthem that Handel had composed for the

coronation of King George II in 1727; it has been performed at every British coronation ever since, as well as

being used widely in film and television and as the anthem for the UEFA Champions League.



1 December 2006

The Met: Live in HD first appeared in December 2006 featuring live transmissions shown in high definition

in movie theatres around the world. The Met also developed a programme for US students to attend these

broadcasts for free at their schools.



1 May 2008

After filming and broadcasting the Verbier Festival in 2007, the medici.tv video platform was officially

launched on 1 May 2008 with 200 programmes available online.



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Also available as high-res downloads on

For complete catalogue please visit www.ondine.net

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