We all know the refrain. Classical music is losing its audience. With shorter attention spans, the ascent of the iPod, a penchant for music (and spoken word masquerading as music) in the background, and the submergence of audio by home theater, fewer and fewer people in the United States are being exposed to art music of the past and present.
Naxos, possibly the world's largest classical music label, has taken a leap into the virtual universe of digital downloading. In an unprecedented collaboration—including Naxos of America, the country's largest independent distributor of classical music; eMusic, the world's second-largest digital music service; and bricks-and-mortar retailers such as Borders—Naxos has introduced MPkey, an exclusive series of downloadable classical music collections. Available for purchase only at bricks-and-mortar retailers (and exclusively at Borders stores through December 1), MPkey enables consumers to painlessly download pre-selected Naxos collections of classical music.
In a surprising move, the San Francisco Symphony has announced plans to release the next installment in its ongoing Mahler series, the beloved Symphony 5, in download format before issuing the recording on hybrid SACD/CD. The Fifth will first become available on iTunes on September 12, and in hard format three weeks later. Such an unprecedented release schedule, from one of the few symphony orchestras in the world to regularly record in the high-resolution SACD format, can be seen as part of a near-universal recognition among record labels of the importance of online sales.
On August 29, Nonesuch Records gave its first donation of $1 million to Habitat for Humanity International. The funds, raised in only eight months through sales of 150,000 copies of Nonesuch's superb benefit album Our New Orleans 2005, will be used to build homes for displaced musicians and others in the New Orleans Habitat Musicians' Village, whose centerpiece will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.
It seemed a bit like the game of Telephone: Someone at the head of a long line of people whispers a sentence or two into the ear of the next in line, who in turn passes it along. By the time the last person in line repeats aloud what they think they've heard, the message is often barely recognizable to the first person.
Just as the mythical Phoenix arose from its own ashes, the birds of the Talon Audio line have again taken flight, this time as Talon Loudspeakers. As of August 7, Rives Audio (www.rivesaudio.com) has acquired Talon Audio and plans to reintroduce many of the company's most successful models.
One of the great sopranos of the 20th century, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, died in her sleep at her home in Schruns, Austria, on August 3, at the age of 90. The myriad ways in which she employed her remarkably expressive, silvery soprano gave rise to as much admiration and respect as her penchant for incessant nuance, along with her Nazi past, generated controversy.
We have lost a great artist. Mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, 52, who had previously triumphed over breast cancer, died at her home in Santa Fe on July 3. While The New York Times obituary did not specify the cause of death, other reports suggest she died from cancer, leading to speculation that the claims of back trouble and gall bladder inflammation that led to a string of cancellations in the past few years were related to a recurrence of the disease.
Classical music in general, and audiophile label Telarc in particular, scored big in this year's annual Outmusic Awards. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici, whose music has recently found an ardent champion in conductor Robert Spano, won Outstanding New Recording: Instrumental for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Telarc recording of Paul Revere's Ride. Telarc veteran and Grammy Award-winning producer Thomas C. Moore, who assisted in the recording, received the Outstanding Producer award. In addition, soprano Melissa Fogarty received Outstanding New Recording: Debut Female for Handel: Scorned & Betrayed (Albany Records).