First, came a meeting with Pierre Schwob, the founder and owner of Classicalarchives.com. A website that has been up in some form since 1994, Schwob’s numbers look like this: 620,000 recorded tracks, representing 7,800 composers, 27,000 artists from 110 plus record labels. The deal is $9.95 a month or $99.50 a year. For that you get unlimited streaming for free, and a ten percent discount on anything you download.
So how is this different from any of the other classical websites? In actuality it isn’t that much different. The individual records are cross-referenced extensively and the navigational tools seem a bit more advanced than other sites. But just a bit. The website does have a lot of proprietary content (I’m only repeating what I’ve been told, no vouching here for legality), made up of live/unreleased recordings of solo artists and orchestras, that has been obtained from sources in Eastern Europe and Russia. It’s what Schwob refers to as “the Russian stuff.”
While Archivmusic.com is more about selling actual CDs and Classicstoday.com is the best editorial/review site, Classicalarchive.com is easy to use, well-organized and very intentionally non-threatening for novices to boot up and use. In my opinion there can never be enough non-threatening outlets for classical music on the web. The site is also heavily info intensive but then so is Amazon.com. Schwob showed me some of the great tools the site has incorporated including one that searches the site and brings up all the comparison versions of a certain piece. In other words if you’re listening to a version of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, you can bring up all the other version on the site of the same piece. As an aside, Schwob assured me that if I wanted “to get laid” then listening to Sibelius’ Violin Concerto was the way to go. In a less intimate vein he says he has content from all the major classical labels on board with the exception of Warner Music. From my searching, I do not see anything from Harmonia Mundi, which has to be considered the most successful, both in terms of business and musical standards, classical label out there today. One large downside for audiophiles, at least at the moment, is that there are no hi res lossless downloads available on the site.
After my encounter with Classicalarchive.com, I trundled across the southern reaches of Central Park to Sloan Kettering’s Digital Imaging Center where I underwent an MRI. Quite an experience. I don’t have claustrophobia, however after an hour in the very tight quarters of the MRI tube, I was beginning to contract a pretty raging case of GET ME OUT OF HERE. These amazing, non-invasive machines are a boon to medical science I’m sure, however, all the banging and buzzing they go through is mildly alarming, at least initially. Fortunately, a friend told me that he listened to music during his MRI, so as soon as I laid down on the tray, I asked for music. What they had made me smile and realize that if there is a cosmic force active in the world, it has a wry sense of humor. The only music available was the local Classic Rock station. So I whiled away my hour in the tube listening to Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” ZZ Top’s, “Legs,” Aerosmith’s, “Dream On” and mercifully, because its nine minute running time gave me a way to track how long I’d been under the magnet as it were, Don McLean’s “American Pie.” I had to smile a number of times at the rather strange conundrum I found myself in: listening to Steven Tyler shrieking whilst being told to lay absolutely still. In the case of ZZ Top, I could also see the video to “Legs” playing in my head; those little white ankle socks, the pink high heels and yes, the fuzzy white guitars that spin around. Life is all about the small mercies, so thanks a lot Q104.