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Positive Feedback ISSUE 43
may/june 2009


BSO's Digital Music subscription program, the bargain of the century!
by Teresa Goodwin



The Boston Symphony Orchestra is offering what I feel is the best bargain of the century through their website:

BSO's digital music subscription provides music lovers complete access to their entire digital music catalog. Subscriptions are available for two time durations: 3-month for $30 and 12-month for $50. This is the most cost-effective way to access the complete BSO Digital Music catalog. As new music is released, current digital music subscribers will be automatically able to download that content at no additional cost!

I recommend the 12-month subscription for $50, for that you get the current six concerts recorded in high resolution 24 Bit 88.2kHz PCM, all music files on their website and all that will be released in the next 12 months. From what James Levine said that should be at least eight more high resolution downloads. Plus you also get 16 additional older concerts as 320kbps MP3s.

The high resolution music files are available in 24 Bit 88.2kHz PCM AIFF for MAC in Stereo, and 24 Bit 88.2kHz PCM WMA for PC, in both Stereo and Multichannel. All include detailed program notes and back and front cover art as a PDF file. If you don't get the subscription you can pay for each concert individually, at the best prices for high resolution music files I've ever seen: $8.99 to 9.99 for 2 channel 24/88.2 and $11.99-$12.99 for multichannel 24/88.2.  Three of the recordings: Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé; Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem and Mozart's Chamber Music for Winds and Strings are also available on SACD.

The six high resolution 24 Bit 88.2kHz downloads released so far, first price is Stereo, second price is Multichannel. There are also MP3 Stereo versions available for $1 less.


The Red Sox™ Album (Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops) Stereo only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

The Star-Spangled Banner, "The National Game" March, Casey at the Bat, Suite from The Natural, God Bless America, Sweet Caroline, Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I'm Shipping Up to Boston, and The Stars and Stripes Forever.

On those soft summer nights when the excited and the expectant gather in the Cathedral that is Fenway Park the roar of the crowd often floats above the old ball yard and carries across the neighborhood toward Symphony Hall where a tradition as rich as baseball plays themes of memory. Music is in the air.  I enjoyed this one a lot and am looking forward to many more Keith Lockhart high resolution music recordings!


Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé (James Levine, Boston Symphony Orchestra) $9.99/$12.99 or Free with subscription.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra continues its long tradition of producing excellent recordings of French repertoire with this new live recording of Daphnis et Chloé under James Levine, the first on the BSO’s independent label—BSO Classics. This new recording joins several other now legendary recordings by the BSO of this mythical tale of love, set to gorgeous, intricate music by Maurice Ravel, the most famous of which is the classic RCA Living Stereo recording with Charles Munch. This is a very beautiful and enjoyable reading, and the sound quality is superb. Also available as a MC/Stereo SACD.


 Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), Op. 45) (James Levine, Boston Symphony Orchestra) $9.99/$12.99 or Free with subscription.

This stunning new live recording features Christine Schäfer (soprano), Michael Volle (baritone), James David Christie (organ), and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. I downloaded this one as well and found the sound excellent, I cannot comment on the performance as I am not a fan of choral music and had never heard this work before. I decided to download it because of all the positive comments of the SACD version on the Hi-Rez highway and it was included free with my subscription. Also available as a MC/Stereo SACD.


 Mahler: Symphony No. 6 (James Levine, Boston Symphony Orchestra) $9.99/$12.99 or Free with subscription.

James Levine is known for having a strong command and awareness of the overlying architecture of large musical works while retaining all of the shimmer and subtlety of the details, and he does just that in this live recording of Mahler’s tragic Sixth Symphony. The live performances of this work from which this recording is drawn, along with Levine’s other Mahler performances with the BSO, are widely considered some of the most exciting performances by the orchestra in recent years. I am a big fan of Mahler's Sixth and this is the most exciting version yet, overtaking my Zander SACD on Telarc, most highly recommended. 


 Bolcom: Lyric Concerto; Symphony No. 8 for chorus and orchestra (James Levine, Boston Symphony Orchestra) $8.99/$11.99 or Free with subscription.

The BSO has a long tradition of premiering important musical works, and James Levine has deepened that affiliation with a string of high profile and successful commissions during his tenure in Boston. Based on texts from William Blake’s Prophetic Books, William Bolcom’s Symphony No. 8 for orchestra and chorus, is an expressive, passionate, and progressive piece. Bolcom’s Lyric Concerto featuring James Galway rounds out this satisfying album. Both of these works by Bolcom are very approachable and mostly melodic, I enjoyed them very much and the sound quality is superb.


 Mozart: Chamber Music for Winds and Strings (Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) $9.99/$12.99 or Free with subscription.

MOZART - Quintet in A for clarinet, two violins, viola, and cello, K.581, Quintet in E-Flat for horn, violin, two violas, and cello, K.407, Quartet in F for oboe, violin, viola, and cello, K. 370 (368b), Quartet in A for flute, violin, viola, and cello, K.298 

BSO principle players bring their skill and musicianship as individual performers together for this masterful set of Mozart chamber music. Rich sonorous strings and clear full winds fill this recording with expressive weight and gorgeous sound. This is passionate and intelligent playing by some of the world's best. Principal Second Violinist Haldan Martinson plays second violin in the Clarinet Quintet, and Assistant Principal Violist Cathy Basrak plays second viola in the Horn Quintet.  I wasn't going to download this one as I don't care for Mozart or chamber music but I did anyway because it was included with my subscription and I can always delete it later. The sound is superb, I will give it a few more listeners before I decide if it will earn a permanent position in my music collection. I do like the melodies better than the one's Mozart uses in his symphonies and concertos but it does still sounds very much like Mozart, which of course it should. So if you like Mozart and chamber music this would be an excellent choice for you. Also available as a MC/Stereo SACD.

Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra: Live Performances 2006 - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 4 in B-flat, Opus 60 / RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2 / SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 10 in E minor, Opus 93

The fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center are truly the future of classical music and their performances are not only brimming with passion, energy, and devotion but extremely technically sound and musically sensitive playing. On this recording, the TMC Orchestra performs works by Beethoven, Ravel, and Shostakovich from 2006, and exemplifies why their concerts remain highlights of every summer season.  I downloaded the Beethoven 4th and the Shostakovich 10th from this recording even though I recently deleted all of my MP3 music files.  The sound at 320kbps was actually quite good with no hint of digitalis, I still don't recommend digital formats or music files with resolution lower than 88.2kHz PCM for serious listening. However I found BSO's 320kbps music files to sound quite good and enjoyable. I can recommend them if you decide on the BSO subscription as they are available to you at no extra cost. As as our editor said in my last article, only listening to high resolution recordings would severely limit one's music.

Oscar and Tony: Award-Winning Music From the Stage and Screen (Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops) 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

Main Title from "My Fair Lady", Overture to "Lawrence of Arabia", All that Jazz from "Chicago", Overture to "Around the World in 80 Days", Immolation from "Schindler's List", Main Title, Fountain Theme, and Chez Maxim Waltz from "Gigi", Overture to "The Producers", My Heart Will Go On from "Titanic", Prelude to "Ben-Hur", Overture to "The Phantom of the Opera", A Storm is Coming from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", Chim-Chim-Cheree from "Mary Poppins", Overture to "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", Main Title from "The Sound of Music", Love Theme from "Out of Africa", 42nd Street from "42nd Street"

Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops released Oscar and Tony, the orchestra's third self-produced and distributed recording. Oscar and Tony includes some of the best-loved music to come out of Hollywood and Broadway in the last half-century. Another every enjoyable recording even at 320kbps!

Sleigh Ride - Christmas Favorites (Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops) 320kbps MP3 only $6.99 or Free with subscription.

Joy to the World - A Fanfare for Christmas Day, Sleigh Ride, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, Hallelujah Chorus from "The Messiah", The Adoration of the Magi, from "Three Botticelli Pictures", Songs from the Hill Folk (Medley), Do You Hear What I Hear?, Kije Takes a Ride, Winter Weather Medley (Medley), O Holy Night, Joy!, Happy Holidays (Medley)

There is no time of the year like the holidays, and no other celebration is so centered around and dependent on the ongoing gift of music. "Sleigh Ride" marks Keith Lockhart's ninth recording with the Boston Pops. I enjoyed this recording very much, it is an excellent selection of traditional and not so traditional christmas music. 

America - (Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops) 320kbps MP3 only $4.99 or Free with subscription.

The Pledge of Allegiance, The Star Spangled Banner, Liberty Fanfare, America, This is My Country, City of New Orleans, Doodletown Fifers, God Bless America, Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy, This Land is Your Land, The Gettysburg Address, America, We're Proud To Serve (Medley), America the Beautiful, 1812 Overture, The Stars and Stripes Forever

The recordings and July Fourth television shows have made the Boston Pops the musical instrument on which all Americans play the tunes that make them ponder and celebrate our land and our freedom, reminding us what we hold dear in our lives, most of which is embodied in one word, "America".  Another enjoyable Boston Pops recording even at 320kbps.

Plus 12 programs from "From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000" previously released as a 12 CD set called the "BSO Centennial Collection". I downloaded most of the musical compositions from the stereo concerts that I didn't already have a version of in a high resolution format.  The sound quality ranges for fair to excellent.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Serge Koussevitzky - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

BARTÓK - Concerto for Orchestra / LIADOV - From the Apocalypse, Symphonic Picture, Opus 66 / BERNSTEIN - Symphony No. 2 The Age of Anxiety, for piano and orchestra

This volume celebrates the work of the legendary BSO maestro Serge Koussevitsky. One of these classic works is Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, performed here by the Boston Symphony in a recording that was never commercially released. Performances of Leonard Bernstein's Age of Anxiety, with the composer at the piano, and Liadov's From the Apocalypse complete the collection.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Charles Munch - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

FRANCK - Le Chasseur maudit, Symphonic Poem / FAURÉ - Prelude to Pénélope / ROUSSEL - Suite in F, Opus 33 / DEBUSSY - La Mer, Three Symphonic Sketches / RAVEL - La Valse, Choreographic Poem

This volume devoted to Charles Munch, BSO music director from 1949 to 1962, features him in the French repertoire he was famous for, including the Prelude to Fauré’s Pénélope; ravishing performances of Debussy’s La Mer and Ravel’s La Valse from his valedictory season as music director; and Franck’s symphonic poem, Le Chasseur maudit (“The Accursed Huntsman”).

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Pierre Monteux - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

STRAUSS - Don Quixote, Fantastic variations on a theme of knightly character, Opus 35 / STRAUSS - Suite from Der Rosenkavalier / VAUGHAN WILLIAMS - Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis 

In this volume, music director and guest conductor Pierre Monteux conducts a collection of Romantic classics by Richard Strauss and Ralph Vaughn Williams. Monteux was familiar, not just with Strauss's music, but with Strauss himself, and it shows in the depth of understanding that he displays in this music.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Erich Leinsdorf - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

JANÁCEK - Suite from The Cunning Little Vixen / SHOSTAKOVICH - Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Opus 10 / WAGNER - Siegfried Idyll / SMETANA - The Moldau ("Vltava"), Symphonic Poem

Many who played under Vienna-born Erich Leinsdorf—the BSO’s music director from 1962 to 1969— recall his special sympathy and affinity for the Slavic repertoire, memories borne out on this disc by his performances of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1 and the Suite from Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - William Steinberg - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

BRUCKNER - Symphony No. 8 in C minor

William Steinberg was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 1973, and renowned for his performances of Bruckner. The conductor is represented here by a single large work—the composer’s monumental Symphony No. 8, this recording of which is notable for its majesty, wisdom, warmth, and skill, in stunningly rich sound deriving from the original quadraphonic source. Here’s is our chance to hear this great maestro’s interpretation.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Director and Principal Guest Conductors - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS - Symphony No. 4 in F minor / SCHUBERT - Symphony No. 3 in D, D.200 / PROKOFIEV - Scythian Suite, "Ala and Lolli," Opus 20

This volume features the only three conductors ever to hold the title principal guest conductor” with the BSO. The esteemed British conductor Colin Davis is heard in a blazing performance of Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4, the young Michael Tilson Thomas in his 1972 broadcast of the young Prokofiev's startlingly brash and extroverted Scythian Suite, and the Dutch maestro Bernard Haitink in a beautifully shaped 1992 account of Schubert's youthful Symphony No. 3. This was my favorite volume of this set and this performance of Prokofiev's "Scythian Suite" is extremely exciting with just the right pace, it is a wild and savage ride and amazingly most of the sonics seem to be intact even at 320kbps 44.1kHz! An absolutely amazing performance I would put ahead of Antal Dorati's on Mercury Living Presence. The Vaughan Williams Fourth Symphony was exciting and a superb performance as well. After downloading the high resolution music files I would try this one next.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Seiji Ozawa: Part 1 - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

BARTÓK - Duke Bluebeard's Castle,Opus 11 / STRAUSS - Duet-Concertino for Clarinet and Bassoon with String Orchestra and Harp

Seiji Ozawa was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for twenty-nine years, from 1973 to 2002, longer than any other music director in its history. Seiji himself chose the repertoire on this volume not only to highlight the orchestra’s brilliant playing but also to recognize composers or works long associated with the BSO. Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and Strauss' Duet Concertino are featured here.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Music Directors - Seiji Ozawa: Part 2 - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

MESSIAEN - Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence divine / MARTIN - Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra / STRAVINSKY - Symphony of Psalms

Seiji himself chose the repertoire on this volume not only to highlight the orchestra’s brilliant playing but also to recognize composers or works long associated with the BSO. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, joins Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence divine.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Guest Conductors: Part 1 - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

VERDI - Overture to La forza del destino / TCHAIKOVSKY - Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture after Shakespeare / RESPIGHI - Pines of Rome, Symphonic Poem / HINDEMITH - Symphony Mathis der Maler

This volume of guest conductors includes a theatrically forward-pressing 1961 broadcast under American conductor Thomas Schippers of Verdi's overture to La Forza del destino, an intense and thrillingly virtuosic Romeo and Juliet by Tchaikovsky led by Kiev-born Igor Markevitch in his American debut; a vivid and exciting recording of Respighi's Pines of Rome with Toscanini-protégé Guido Cantelli.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Guest Conductors: Part 2 - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

MOZART- Overture to Don Giovanni, K.527 / MARTINU - Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani / TCHAIKOVSKY - Hamlet, Fantasy-Overture after Shakespeare, Opus 67a / GOULD - Spirituals for String Choir and Orchestra / BRAHMS - Academic Festival Overture, Opus 80

In this second volume of BSO guests Leopold Stokowski conducts two works, the Overture to Don Giovanni and a Tchaikovsky's Hamlet (with cuts), while Rafael Kubelik brings a pioneering recording of Martinů's powerful Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano, and Timpani featuring pianist Charles Wilson and renowned BSO timpanist Everett Firth.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Great Conductors - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

HAYDN - Symphony No. 92 in G, Oxford / STRAVINSKY - Divertimento from Le Baiser de la fée / COPLAND - Music for a Great City

On this third volume devoted to BSO guest conductors, Berlin-born Bruno Walter, always so authoritative in Haydn, leads a sparkling performance of the composer's lively and engaging Symphony No. 92, Richard Burgin, who became the longtime BSO concertmaster for Koussevitzky and Munch, leads the colorful Divertimento from Stravinsky's Fairy's Kiss ballet. Aaron Copland conducts his own musical evocation of New York, the atmospheric Music for a Great City.

From the Broadcast Archives: 1943-2000; Encores/Rehearsals - 320kbps MP3 only $8.99 or Free with subscription.

BERLIOZ - Roman Carnival Overture / BERLIOZ - Royal Hunt and Storm from Les Troyens / GLINKA - Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila /  LANNER - Die Mozartisten, Waltzes, Opus 196 / AUBER - Overture to La Muette de Portici / FAURÉ - Fileuse and Sicilienne from Pelléas et Mélisande / HOLST - Jupiter from The Planets / PROKOFIEV - Scherzo and March from Love for Three Oranges / VAUGHAN WILLIAMS - Symphony No. 6 in E minor (Rehearsal) / MESSIAEN - Turangalîla-symphonie (Rehearsal)

This final volume from the “Symphony Hall Centennial Celebration” of archival broadcasts gives us Berlioz from Seiji Ozawa and Colin Davis, some familiar Prokofiev from Charles Munch; some Holst from Bernard Haitink; music by Fauré personally chosen by Joseph Silverstein, another longtime BSO concertmaster; and a rehearsal excerpt with Leonard Bernstein preparing the BSO for the world premiere of Messiaen's Turangalîla-symphonie.

As you can see there are 22 live programs with over 100 musical compositions so far that you get for your $50 plus all the digital music files added to BSO's website in the next year. If your computer is connected to your stereo or multichannel sound system and you love Classical music don't pass this up! The Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of America's finest orchestras, and James Levine has turned in some wonderful performances as has Keith Lockhart and his Boston Pops plus the sound quality of the 24 Bit 88.2kHz music files is among the best I've heard, only surpassed by the finest SACD!