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String Quartets On the Web? 228 228

rueger writes "Lots of people love iTunes. I'm partial to emusic.com. Ubuntu comes pre-equipped for Jamendo and Magnatune. These are great for those of us hunting popular music — but where do lovers of classical music go to find new artists and albums, download music, and generally keep informed, up to date, and satisfied? As my girlfriend put it, 'I used to go to the big classical record stores downtown, but they're gone.' Where do people go to find the newest Ligeti String Quartet recording?"
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String Quartets On the Web?

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  • iTunes doesn't suck (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Monday August 02, 2010 @11:35PM (#33119382)
    iTunes carries a pretty good classical catalog for a casual listener as myself. If you can't find what you want online maybe you could contact the artists/label directly? I can only imagine the website sells the cds if they aren't selling digitally through another outlet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @11:47PM (#33119454)

    Try eMusic. They have tons of classical, and it's probably a bit cheaper than Amazon in some cases. Although there is one annoyance - if a track is longer than a certain length, you might have to download the whole album to get it, which sucks if you already have different versions of the rest.

    ie You find an album with a symphony and a overture piece, but you have the symphony already (perhaps a different group, or same group just different album). If the overture is over some length (I don't remember how much, something like 7 mins or so), you'd have to get the symphony anyway, burning 12 credits rather than just one. Before that, you could get some long symphonies (Bruckner...) for just 1 credit per movement.

    You can also try ClassicalArchives.com . I used to be a member, but I let it lapse. That was before the new site though, and I've considered going back. (Before, they only had public domain performances, stuff put up by the groups themselves, etc, and a crapload of MIDI)

  • ArkivMusic or Naxos (Score:5, Informative)

    by Rhuragh (215240) on Monday August 02, 2010 @11:59PM (#33119558)
    First off, mp3 is simply not good enough for Classical. If you must buy digital, go for 320 kbps or lame alt-preset-extreme equivalent. As a giant Classical snob (I listen to Classical exclusively), the only way I buy music is physical CDs, and then rip to FLAC once it arrives.

    For purchasing physical media, I enthusiastically recommend ArkivMusic [arkivmusic.com]. They have a pretty damn good selection, and a really good sorting method where you can browse by composer, conductor, orchestra, soloist, et al., in a very granular fashion. I too checked the local brick-n-mortar stores in Atlanta when the recent re-release of Golijov's Passion of St. Mark hit the shelves only to find no one carrying it. I ended up ordering it from ArkivMusic.

    Naxos [naxos.com] also has a pretty decent online presence. You can buy from their comprehensive catalog on their site, as well as pay a subscription fee for unlimited mp3/radio quality streaming off their site from their entire collection. While the performers on Naxos aren't always the highest quality, I'd be willing to bet that Naxos has the most comprehensive Classical catalog of any publisher on the planet. Considering the breadth of their collection, if you just want to try new music, the streaming subscription is a pretty damn good deal, poor to middling quality or not.
  • Just a thought... (Score:3, Informative)

    by online46 (1133363) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:01AM (#33119570)
    Interested in unknown, but accomplished classical musicians? Check out wedding musicians. My wife manages a string quartet. They play mostly weddings and events. These women all have post graduate degrees and they are excellent classical musicians. I suggest if you search wedding musicians in your area and check out their websites, you may discover some excellent classical musicians right in your backyard and they may even perform in public as themselves or as part of other groups. Almost all of them will have recordings on their websites or otherwise available.
  • CBC radio 2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maglos (667167) <cb.webcb@ca> on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:03AM (#33119584) Homepage
    CBC radio has a bunch of fantastic classical options, especially for those who don't know what they want and its free(unless your Canadian, in which case its tax dollars well spent).
  • Deutsche Grammophon (Score:5, Informative)

    by malzfreund (1729864) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:24AM (#33119688)
    Obviously one of *the* labels for classical music. The awesome thing about their web store is that, in addition to 320kbps MP3s, you can buy FLACs. Very appropriate for fans of classical music which are often crazy about sound quality.
  • And not emusic? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jmitchel!jmitchel.co (254506) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:29AM (#33119722)
    I don't follow classical regularly, but emusic seemed to be well stocked. Their supply of obscure free jazz impressed.
  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:43AM (#33119796) Homepage

    Same here, except for KQAC [allclassical.org] streaming 24-7 from beautiful Portland, Oregon. And these two aren't the only ones. There are a whole bunch [classicalwebcast.com] of live streams that one can listen to while connected. In many ways, streaming has brought back classical, jazz, and other musical formats that, a few years ago, were in danger of being lost when public radio was transitioning wholesale to news. HD allowed alternate streams to be played over the air and streaming them to the internet connected them to a whole bunch of listeners who (although remote) also turned into financial supporters of these stations and their streams. It's been a really good thing for these stations and this kind of music.

  • Re: Be Careful (Score:5, Informative)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @12:47AM (#33119822)

    I'm kind of partial to Baroque and Renaissance music

    kmfa.org is a non-commercial Classical station that favors the early stuff more than any other that I've come across.

    They're not NPR, so they play music around the clock, but they do have the regular NPR-style begathons to keep donations coming in.

    I introduced myself to Beethoven in high school, and my interests have kept creeping earlier and earlier. I'm a big fan of Renaissance music now. Presumably Medieval is next...

  • by jandersen (462034) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:09AM (#33119930)

    Certainly if by "Classical" you mean "the usual suspects" or the "popular tunes" (a concept that is certain to make the real connoisseur shudder - not that I am one). Personally, I am a big fan of renaissance lute music, and for a specialised area as that, you have to attend the fora that exist for that sort of things; people there will know where to go and find what you want. Probably.

  • Passionato (Score:5, Informative)

    by NeverWorker1 (1686452) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:19AM (#33119988)
    http://www.passionato.com/ [passionato.com] It's an online classical music store offering a nice catalog in both mp3 and flac. Lots of 25% off sales. But seriously, what.cd ftw.
  • by rnturn (11092) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:29AM (#33120028)

    "First off, mp3 is simply not good enough for Classical. If you must buy digital, go for 320 kbps or lame alt-preset-extreme equivalent."

    Agreed. I find 192Kbps fine for folk/pop/rock but classical definitely needs as high a bit rate as you can manage. I don't hold myself to be any sort of "golden ear" but I was able to hear the difference between 192 and 320 Kbps in an MP3 I made of a Glenn Gould recording; especially when listing with headphones or earbuds and the outside noise is minimized. When listening in the car (Hey! Why not?!) I'm sure you could get by with the lower bit rate MP3. (I first thought some of the additional distortion in the 192Kbps version might have been some of Gould's humming that I'd missed hearing before.)

    BTW, as another classical listener disappointed by the lack of good brick-n-mortar music stores, I'd like to pass along a word of thanks for the link to ArkivMusic. (I'm still bummed from the time when Rose Records stopped stocking their music by label and catalog number and hung Schaums catalogs around the store for customers to refer to. Then Tower bought them and we all know what's happened since then.) If you are looking for another place to hear classical, you might try (Chicago based) WFMT's web site. They live stream their daily shows and the schedule on their web site includes the label/catalog number of what's played so you can look for recordings. While my personal opinion is that the quality of their programming declined a bit when their only classical competitor in town changed formats at least they're still around. Otherwise it'd be very difficult to hear anything other than classical "greatest hits". If that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:51AM (#33120080)

    Naxos is indeed an excellent label, with a wide and adventurous repertoire. And whilst their artists are not stars (though some of them become stars), all the recordings I've heard are at least professional, and probably better than the composers of the eighteenth and earlier nineteenth century ever heard of their own work. Exception: avoid Tonus Peregrinus, who are a stupid and gimmicky vocal group who ruin the early music they purport to perform. They can sing OK, but they bugger things up conceptually.

    Chandos Records and the Tallis Scholars have their own sites, also.

    But as for >>First off, mp3 is simply not good enough for Classical.

    Wrong. Wrong. And wrong. Harpsichord is challenging for mp3, but with that exception Classical is, by and large, less challenging for lossy encoding than electronica or metal. For most listeners, most of the time, mp3 encoded with a good encoder (LAME, obviously, but apparently the other modern encoders are catching up) is indistinguishable from CD at 192 kbps, and often at lower bit rates. And 'most listeners' means 'most critical listeners who participate in hydrogen audio listening tests.'

  • by Nautical Insanity (1190003) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:54AM (#33120088)

    As a student studying classical music at a conservatory I can testify to the OP's plight. You may be able to find tons of recordings on iTunes of Beethoven's 5th symphony, but you may not be able to find a recording of the Tomasi Bassoon Concerto. Also, classical musicians and listeners often don't just want any recording of a given work. A lot of the recordings you find on iTunes are done by 2nd-tier European radio symphonies. Often people look for recordings done by specific orchestras or even specific historic recordings. My teacher has collected 33 different recordings of the opening to the Rite of Spring, 17 of them conducted by Stravinsky, 2 of them are rehearsals featuring Stravinsky singing the opening bassoon solo.

    If you're lucky enough to be a student at a university with a good music school, you can get access to a huge selection of lesser-marketed recordings. I'm not a copyright lawyer so I can't say if ripping them is exercising fair use under the guise of education or not. If you're in a major city, your public library is also likely to have a large selection.

    If that fails and you're looking for recordings that feature some sort of instrumental solo work, a Google search for the piece may turn up a performer who's recorded it but may not be actively marketing their album. Most likely, they'd be happy to get an e-mail from someone interested in listening to their music. Some may even mail it to you for free, just excited to have some publicity. Also, most instruments have their own societies with mailing lists. For example, bassoonists are part of the International Double Reed Society. A question to the society about where to find a recording may yield positive results. Also if you're having trouble finding something, there's a good chance other members of the society are too.

    If you're looking for works by an obscure living composer, e-mailing the composer can be an option. Casually asking William Bolcom or John Williams for their music is an exercise in futility, but a lot of composers are struggling to get recognition. If their piece doesn't have a studio recording, chances are they made a recording of one of the performances for their records and would be happy to send it your way.

    A last resort would be the Naxos Music Library. A lot of universities have subscriptions to the online database. It can be hard to find the portal on the university's website to connect to it however. If you're not a student, then it's only available with a subscription fee for streaming classical music. They have an incredible selection, however.

    Finally, if you've ascertained with complete certainty that there exists no recording at all of the piece and it means that much to you...COMMISSION ONE! I'm dead serious. As a music student I can testify that there are oodles of young, talented classical musicians out there who'd love to take on a project such as that. If you live near a good music school, that's where I'd start. Faculty are a good place to ask about putting together a project as they can help with recruiting. Generally they'll pass on your offer to their students and other relevant faculty, provided you make your case well why this given piece should be recorded. Students may do this for free, but you're more likely to get the creme of the school if you offer to pay them. Music students will play on the (relative) cheap. Figure a bare minimum of $15-20 a service per musician plus $5 for every hour that service lasts past the first hour. You can reduce that with the promise of food.

    In summary, finding classical music isn't necessarily easy, particularly if you want to be particular about it. However, it is possible provided you're willing to be outgoing and connect with the community.

  • by Netssansfrontieres (214626) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @01:59AM (#33120108) Journal

    IMHO: iTunes is (or at least was ... I stopped looking last year) pretty pathetic. Here's why. Suppose you want to listen to Bach suites for solo cello. Sure, they've got a version or two, but I want a version played by a master on a great instrument. Casals? Check, but old. Rostropovich? Nope, sorry.

    Or, I want to listen to something (a lot) more current: Kronos Quartet? Some. Alarm will sound? ok. Bang on a Can? Nope, sorry.

    It *does* seem to have both Glenn Gould recordings of Goldberg, which is an improvement (and, yes, they're very different).

    This, especially the latter observation is surely connected to the recent /. discussion about use of computer-controlled instruments. It seems to have taken iTunes a very long time indeed to understand that two recordings of the same piece, by different ensembles or performers, using different instruments, under different circumstances, reveal the piece in entirely different ways. They're not the same thing.

  • by Vintermann (400722) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @02:19AM (#33120188) Homepage

    Magnatune has a pretty OK selection of that sort of thing (renaissance lute music). There are rather many performers of early music compared to listeners, forcing some to try new avenues like Magnatune.

  • Re:Amazon? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rpopescu (1563191) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @04:10AM (#33120648)
    Don't be ignorant - ipods support Apple Lossless.
  • Qobuz (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @04:23AM (#33120714)

    http://www.qobuz.com/ also offers a pretty good (not only) clasical catalog in mp3, wma lossless and apple lossless.

  • by poptones (653660) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @05:56AM (#33121066) Journal

    DG did an early digital (Philips) recording of Tchaikovsky's 4,5 and 6th as performed by the Berliner Philharmoniker and conducted (of course) by Von Karajan. This was, for me, "the" recording ever since I was a teen and first heard it. Anyway, you can buy even those recordings on their site. It's not as if they just have new stuff, or just have giant classics (although that recording was important in many ways) - they've been moving toward having EVERYTHING in their catalog online. And once you buy it, it's yours - I've had two oops events and all it took to regain them was to log back into the site and add them to my download queue. They also have been known to give out freebies on certain holidays.

    Oh yeah - and there's usenet. You may find it hard to believe, but there's quite a lot being shared there.

  • by arose (644256) on Tuesday August 03, 2010 @10:23AM (#33123124)
    Please consider supporting Musopen [musopen.com].

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