When Virtual Reality meets the orchestra

Welcome to the digital society of the 21st century. A society where any time, any where, at your fingertips, is increasingly and faster than ever, becoming the standard across industries, products, geographies and people.

It is no longer about millennials only – it is about our contemporary society and our everyday life across the globe. It is about mobility and convenience, as well as the consolidation of the smartphone era.

This new normal challenges the status quo as a whole – and the orchestras are no exception. Standing still is no option at all, and the way to the very survival involves a fair deal of innovation, strategy, technology and customer-centric attitude. It involves reimagining the possibilities and embracing new ways to conveying a message, to engaging with the audiences, to providing relevant and fulfilling experiences with music.

Starting mid 2000’s, a fair number of orchestras around the word have already debuted with live concerts, and have been increasingly broadcasting a selection of concerts via internet. Podcasts, media-rich websites, a great variety of mobile apps – all part of this effort to offer differentiated customer experiences. London Symphony Orchestra (2005), Berliner Philharmoniker (2009), Sao Paulo Orchestra (2011) are among the orchestras already broadcasting some of their gigs online.

Virtual Reality is apparently the next natural step for them. 2016 have seen a number of experiments with VR by orchestras around the globe. The Berliner Philharmoniker started with Mahler’s Third Symphony, conducted by Iván Fischer, recorded back in Jan 2016.

The Philharmonia Orchestra showcased their digital offer with a brilliant takeover of the Royal Festival Hall back in Sep 2016. It was the first major VR production from a UK symphony orchestra – a great achievement indeed!

The Brazilian OSESP (Sao Paulo Orchestra) offered its first VR concert last month (Feb 2017), broadcasting from its home room in São Paulo, Brazil. They had the conductor Isaac Karabtchevsky leading the Symphony Nr2, by the Brazilian composer Villa-Lobos.

The VR offer is, no doubt, still to be shaped to meet a great deal of expectations around customer experience – its current format is still not enough to surpass the experience of a live concert. But it is already very exciting to learn about the feedbacks and new engaging possibilities being explored. And very reassuring from an accessibility perspective too! More to come.

 

 

 

Nice to meet you, Herr Menahem Pressler!

Mr. Pressler at his debut with the Berliner
Philharmoniker on Jan 11th, 2014.
Credits: Berliner Phil.

The other day I was about to attend one of the concerts of the Season 2013/2014 of the Berliner Philharmoniker when I first read about a German pianist named Menahem Pressler. I felt particularly pleased with the Mozart’s Piano Concerto Mr. Pressler had chosen to his debut with the BPhil: Nr 17, in G major, KV 453. I am very found of this piece and to me it is like Mozart’s “ode to joy” since in all 3 movements one can listen to nothing but cheerful and happy notes. But my sequence of happy revelations was only beginning…

Semyon Bychkov was the conductor for the night. For the second part of the concert, Mr. Bychkov conducted a brilliant execution of the celebrated (Dimitri) Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony in G minor.

During the interval, both Mr. Pressler and Mr. Bychkov were separately interviewed. I learnt big time from Mr. Pressler’s stories… This was his debut with the BPhil, at the age 90. And at this very age, he is still as active as I could not imagine from someone else. He teaches in the US, plays and records with his Beaux Arts Trio, and above all, plays as soloist in the most prestigious temples of classical music: St Petersburg, Amsterdan, Paris, Berlin, among them.

In his interview he explained his “religious approach” when comes to “sacred” music written by the ones he consider “Gods” or at least “semi-Gods” – Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy. And the theory goes on: he feels himself like a Priest whose religion is Music and whose readings are written in scores, which he reads and reads and keeps on trying to interpret and teach others. Brilliant!

Beaux Arts Trio in concert.

Googling in search of more background information about Mr. Pressler, another happy revelation arose: the cellist of the Beaux Arts Trio is no other than the Brazilian Antonio Menezes! How come I have never connected those two dots? Unbelievable!

One of my greatest frustrations in life is that I will never get a chance to attend a live performance of the Ukrainian pianist Mr. Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989). Mr. Horowitz is definitively among my top favourites, not only but especially when comes to Mozart. I felt particularly touched by their resemblance (look and feel). And I hope I can find my way to the audience of one of Mr. Pressler’s concerts soon!

The full concert is unfortunately only available for subscribers of the Digital Concert Hall but here you have a great glimpse of it direct from BPhil’s Youtube Channel. So, have a seat, find your best smile and enjoy it! 🙂

Alles gut zum Geburtstag, Herr Furtwängler!

And today we are celebrating the birthday of another acclaimed German conductor, Herr Wilhelm Furtwängler. Known as an unpredictable conductor, and mostly misinterpreted due to this artistic characteristic, in fact he used to take musical liberties as required by his free mind. He held positions in many important musical places – Leipzig’s Gewandhaus and Wien among them – but built himself fame as the chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker between 1922 and 1954.

I need to say that I particularly share his non-acceptance about the end of tonality. Ok, it may not be something to be proud of – and believe me, I am not – but I would not be 100% honest if I stated otherwise. I really appreciate the repertoire he developed.

If you want to know a bit more about his impact as a conductor, I encourage you to read Daniel Barenboim’s post Why Furtwängler still moves us today, originally published at the German’s newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.

And before closing, I give you 3 petit-cadeaus:

  • A special free track of Furtwängler’s 1951 Haydn recording with the Berliner Philharmoniker (you need to register at Deutsche Grammophon in order to get access to free tracks);
  • The 2014 documentary Furtwängler’s Love (free trailer and film available online at the Digital Concert Hall of the Beliner Philharmoniker);
  • Schumman’s 4th Symphony in D minor, Op. 120, in a studio recording made in Berlin 1953 conducted by Furtwängler (watch the video in youtube).
Elisabeth Furtwängler, wife of the former
Conductor, and central source in the
Documentary “Furtwängler’s Love”

That’s it for today. Happy birthday, Mr. Furtwängler! Or like the Germans would say it: Alles gut sum Geburtstag, Herr Futwängler! 🙂