No recording, audio or video, can really substitute for being there at a live performance. As things stand now, though, “socially distant” – and chronologically distant – videos are the best alternative we’ve got to attending live concerts and music-theater performances.
Starting today, I’ll be offering virtual programs, a selection of live performances posted on YouTube and the websites of performing ensembles and presenters.
I’ve enlisted a circle of knowledgeable friends to help mine for music-video gold. You’re welcome to join that circle. If you discover a performance worth sharing, please e-mail your suggestion(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org
My/our criteria for selecting performances are primarily artistry, followed closely by the sonic and visual quality of productions, and then by ease of accessibility for streamed videos.
You’ll notice a preponderance of selections from Western European countries and from Japan; that’s because their state broadcasters and arts-video services regularly record and broadcast live classical-music performances. Ensembles and presenters in the US are comparatively late to the game.
How well these videos play depends on the capacity of your home electronica. If your computer or device is connected to quality desktop speakers or a freestanding audio-component system, naturally the sound will be better. If you’re limited to the speakers of a laptop or phone, you’ll probably get better sound by using headphones; most laptops have a headphone jack. Take care with headphone volume to prevent damage to your hearing.
To launch this series, I’ve chosen excellent performances six of the most widely appealing symphonic works. Chamber and choral works, opera and dance selections will follow in later installments.
Dvořák: Symphony No. 7 in D minor
Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert Blomstedt conducting
(recorded Sept. 23, 2018 at the Musikvereinsaal, Vienna)
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Vaughan Williams: “Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis”
BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis conducting
(recorded in Gloucester Cathedral, site of the work’s premiere in 1910)
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Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491
Lucas Debargue, piano
Moscow Chamber Orchestra, Alexey Utkin conducting
(recorded June 24, 2015 at the Tchaikovsky Competition, Moscow)
* * *
Elgar: Cello Concerto in E minor
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducting
(recorded Aug. 22, 2019 at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London)
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Stravinsky: “Le sacre du printemps”
London Symphony Orchestra, Simon Rattle conducting
(recorded Sept. 24, 2017 at the Barbican Center, London)
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor (“Choral’)
Lauren Fagan, soprano
Hanna Hipp, mezzo soprano
Tuomas Katajala, tenor
Oslo Philharmonic Choir
Oslo Philharmonic, Klaus Mäkelä conducting
(recorded Jan. 4, 2019 at the Oslo Concert Hall)