Mahler in Maryland, and more…

August 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm (Music, Technology)

Much more, thanks to the magic of live streaming technology on the internet.

On Friday August 26, we had the privilege of attending a concert consisting of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and Mahler’s First. The Berlin Philharmonic was led by Sir Simon Rattle, and we were watching the performance live, as it streamed via the internet from Philharmonie Hall right into our family room here in Maryland. Ron had secured us a free pass to this concert; we were not about to miss it!*

The Berlin Philharmonic is currently the only symphony orchestra in the world offering live streaming video of its performances.

When I got on this site and clicked on the video segment, I was instantly overwhelmed by the glorious music pouring forth. It is Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. Here and see it for yourself.

The quality of the video and audio transmissions is quite simply superb.

A full year’s subscription to the Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall currently costs 149 euros, or about 190 U.S. dollars. But you can also gain access for a shorter term, at a reduced cost. Click here for more pricing information.

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France’s Medici TV also offers live and recorded music from various European venues. You must register to see an entire performance, but amazingly, there is no charge. This past July, we watched a live broadcast of Don Giovanni from Glyndebourne.

Glyndebourne is a unique, and uniquely British, music festival. Opera is performed in a hall that is part of  a country estate in East Sussex. People arrive dressed in formal wear. They bring picnics (or obtain picnic baskets on site, from a caterer) and eat on the grounds  – sometimes literally on the ground – prior to the performance. Sheep can be seen grazing in an adjoining field.

(I attended an opera – La Cenerentola by Rossini – at Glyndebourne in 1985. At the time, I’d never heard of the place. I was the guest of friends of my parents. Due to several extraneous factors, I was not fully able to appreciate the experience. I recall thinking that the juxtaposition of high culture and pastoral surroundings was bizarre. Now, I look back indulgently at my insufficiently-enlightened pre-Anglophile self. I had much to learn in the coming years!)

Click here for a video history of Glyndebourne.

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Medici TV and Berlin’s Digital Concert Hall convinced Ron that it was time for us to set up a home theater PC.  You can certainly watch these concerts on your computer – but how much better to be able to see them on a larger screen (in our case, 32 inches) and listen to them with the benefit of a superior sound system (again, in our case, NHT Speakers). With guidance from the Audiovisual Science Forum, Ron began getting the system components in place.

To begin with, you need a television that is equipped with an HDMI input. Add to that, a dedicated computer with an HDMI output. After careful research, Ron selected an ASRock Core 100-HT BD, a small form factor desktop computer.

It is also essential to have a high speed internet connection of no less than six megabits per second. We have found that our Verizon FIOS connection is entirely equal to the task.

When all was in place and we fired up the system, we were thrilled with the results!

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Ron and I are overjoyed that this treasure trove of classical music continues to be loved and nurtured in Europe. We’re also  surprised that this tremendously exciting, cutting edge initiative, whose aim is to bring these riches to the rest of the world, has not garnered more media attention here. This post is my own small effort to rectify this omission.

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*With this type of data transmission, there is bound to be the occasional glitch. Friday’s concert did not launch until about one half hour into the program, due to high user demand. (It’s that magical word “free” working its mischief again!) Last night, Ron received an e-mail from the Berlin Philharmonic apologizing for the transmission problems. As part of the apology, they provided another  free pass for 24 hours of viewing on the  site, good through December 1. Friday’s concert will be available in the archives as of Tuesday, August 31.

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