What a terrifying time we find ourselves living in. My family is finishing our fourth week of quarantine, and it’s been challenging for all three of us. Here in the heart of Texas, it’s been like a giant thunderstorm constantly looming in the distance, lumbering this way, ever so painfully slowly. After four weeks, we are still two weeks away from peak. I’ve struggled with words to put here; in the end all I can say is that these are trying times, affecting every human on earth in profound ways.
So how do we deal with the stress and anxiety in this spiritually challenging situation? I think Iván Fischer of the Budapest Festival Orchestra says it well: “While you are at home, you need music.” I imagine everyone’s social feeds have been as full of random this livestream here and that video over there. I find the chaos of the feed rather ungrounding and wanted to put some order to it. Perhaps this post will do that for myself and others too, and be a reference and save time when looking for…. some classical music as inspiration…or calm. Or perhaps one day when you’re having a hard time just doing simple things, a quick and easy launching place.
I didn’t realize when I started compiling just how much is available. Perhaps because to us musicians, it is par for the course that music is the language that transcends words. And we know that what the world needs more than ever right now is access to that spiritual place, so that’s why it is being given so freely. After a week of compiling, I have realized that there is enough out there to watch for years, perhaps a lifetime.
May this guide help you more quickly dial in on that thing that you need to see faster. Go ahead, be picky. Or perhaps you may just discover something you would have never sought out that ends up taking your breath away.
Here ‘s my curated look at the world of free classical music currently available, along with instructions of how to get these off your computer and into your TV. Please contact me with recommendations or questions and I will try to respond.
Teatro la Fenice
I will start with a YouTube channel that has become my own favorite from before the lockdown, because my daughter & I love watching: the Theater of Venice, Teatro La Fenice. This performance of the Overture of William Tell, with the legendary French conductor Georges Prêtre is no less than a 12 minute masterclass in what an orchestra can do. The quality of the performances from Venice is astounding. Watch Francesca Dotto spellbind. Since being hit with quarantine, the channel has been live-streaming entire operas, and the Quartetto Dafne has been active, first in an empty theater, then creating performances from their living rooms.
Austin Chamber Music Center
Our very own Austin Chamber Music Center is setting the bar locally with their virtual chamber music series, Chamber Connect, which is already three concerts in. The first featured the Ahn Trio, the second the Miró Quartet, and the third features the monumental Ida Kavafian and Peter Serkin. We are fortunate to have an organization that gives so much to our community, thank you ACMC for sharing these brilliant performances!
KMFA – Classical 89.5
KMFA invites you to join them for a brand-new experience called Sound Ideas. Each week an expert from the Austin arts community will provide a short, interactive lesson on sound, creativity, and the imagination. Students of all ages will enjoy these lessons, which are also TEKS aligned, allowing for integration into Texas K-12 Fine Arts and STEAM curriculum. Join in every Thursday at 1:00 p.m. beginning April 16 via Facebook Live, and ask the artists questions! Episodes will also be archived for future viewing online at kmfa.org. Thank you KMFA for this rich contribution to our city!
Austin Opera has been busy creating free content with their Live from Indy Terrace series, new episodes every Friday. So far there are four features with Elena Villalón, Mela Dailey, Claudia Chapa and Will Liverman.
Austin Opera also has a full resource kit for educators, including 11 Operas.
The Metropolitan Opera is streaming operas every night. Check out this handy guide for this week’s showings, and if you are an educator or just want to learn about what you’re watching, they have put out this guide for educators. The illustrated synopsis are brilliant!
New York Phil
The New York Philharmonic follows suit with NY Phil Plays On, video and radio on demand. At the moment: Mahler 5 and Act I of Die Walküre. 150 hours radio broadcasts on Soundcloud. For kids, this New World Symphony Young People’s Concert. To further enrich the audience, the archivists of the NYP are posting a #dailydocument for those who would like to dive deeper into the Digital Archives collections. You can browse at the website, or subscribe on their Facebook page.
The Houston Symphony has created Listen at Home, an archive of radio broadcasts, podcasts, and live recordings. While concerts and community activities are on hold, they write, you can still find ways to enjoy and support your Symphony. You can listen to the past three or four broadcasts on the Listen at Home page itself, or using Soundcloud listen to 9 hours of their in-house produced podcast On the Music.
Budapest Festival Orchestra
BFO has a daily stream of live chamber performances, Quarantine Soirées, and archived performances. All at 12:45PM CST. The Quarantine Soirées schedule is here, along with links. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony and the chamber Cocoa Concerts are all happening in the next 7 days.
The Pittsburgh Symphony has made their radio broadcast available online on demand, as well as podcasts.
The Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra has launched Your Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra, saying: We know that now, more than ever, music is an incredibly powerful force for good, for inspiration, and for healing. We’ve created the Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra to bring music, in video and audio forms, as well as interactive education and enrichment, directly to you. Thank you for that, Philadelphia Orchestra! Every Thursday night at 8 PM ET, they are sharing a past or previously unreleased performance, and it looks like there is live-streaming every Friday and Saturday night at 8PM, including masterclasses and discussions. Here is the schedule.
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Boston has a comprehensive online media presence, with video of performances and educational programming. Audio only content is made available every day at 10AM. Also, you can look behind the scenes. This includes Tanglewood. BSO has really outdone themselves with this presentation. Additionally, there is a media center, a performance history database, a BSO encores stream (nightly live-streams at 8PM EST), and a Concert for Our City stream.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Chicago Symphony has an incredible audio repository. It appears that you have to build a playlist on the website, and listen from there. It is definitely worth figuring out how to get this to your good speakers. Please reach out if you have any tips, or want to ask me to explore this option.
San Fransisco Symphony
The San Fransisco Symphony has quite a lot of content available at the moment in their program Music Connects. They say that although their concerts are on pause for now, that their music and stories can still connect us all, encouraging the audience to explore hours of free content, including Keeping Score documentaries concert films, broadcasts, recordings, podcasts, and more!
The Keeping Score programs include a 90 minute documentary produced by Michael Tilson Thomas and a complete performance. I am deep into Copland currently, so this one called Copland and the American Sound is high on my list to watch. Other titles include Mahler – Origins and Legacy, Berlioz – Symphony Fantastique, Shostakovich – 5th Symphony, Tchaikovsky- Symphony #4 and Beethoven – Eroica (premieres April 11th).
There are over 40 podcasts to listen to here. These are all about 15 minutes or less in length. These seven fascinating podcasts discuss the history of the orchestra, with insight from the American Orchestra Forum, and also about 15 minutes or less.
Finally, they have a twelve part series of podcasts on the history of the San Francisco Orchestra, ranging from 15-50 minutes long. These feature rare performances from the archive and this looks like a fascinating series.
LA Philharmonic has comprehensive content available for classical music lovers, just about everything you can think of short of full performance videos. Five live broadcasts a week from Gustavo Dudamel – listen online – Tuesday-Friday at 4PM CST, and in Spanish on Sundays. Past broadcast available on demand from the link above. Here on the video page you can find many short video vignettes. On the music page, Spotify playlists. Over on Soundcloud, they have playlists for their LA Upbeat Live audio program, which go back to the 2017 season. There is also an earlier production with 11 tracks called Inside the Music. Quite an offering.
Interviews and articles appear to have a lot of interesting content, including probably the most apropos ZOOM virtual backgrounds of the Walt Disney Hall and Hollywood Bowl, since we’re practically living on zoom these days. In the recordings, links to all of their albums for sale. A full broadcast list is available here, simply type Classical KUSC in the search bar of TuneIn app, mark your calendar/reminders, and tune in when the concert starts (Sundays at 5PM CST).
Lastly, some short video vignettes with the players in the LA Phil at Home series.
Music can ease anxiety and light us with joy. Take a moment to feel the power of music.
This is the message from Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra. Like many American orchestras, they offer a multitude of short preview clips, but they also have two complete performances. The first one is the Minnesota Public Radio 50th Anniversary Concert, which was live-streamed on Facebook in November 2017. This is a fun watch. The second is American Nomad, a concerto for trumpet and orchestra by Steve Heitzeg, featuring Charles Lazarus and the Minnesota Orchestra, recorded at Orchestra Hall in January 2019.
As far as other offerings, there is this audience-less performance from March 13th of this year, similar to some other recent streams and performances in Germany and Italy. MO Spotify playlists are available here. An instrument by instrument guide to the orchestra is fantastic. They also have a series of self made videos from lockdown, called Minnesota at Home, something we’re seeing a lot of everywhere! This Musician’s Favorite Passages is pretty fun.
Perfect Square, a ten minute animation for children with some really cool music written by Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus.
I imagine many readers already know about the incredible Digital Concerthall program from Berliner Philharmoniker. It is a subscription service, usually about $150/year, complete with mobile apps and even a Roku app. Access is currently FREE and the archive is nothing short of amazing. Earlier this week we watched some films from the 70s including Rostroprovich and a young Karajan performing Don Quixote, filmed cinematically on film.
The performances on the highest caliber, and the production value of the current and recent performances is absolutely terrific.
Another program with an incredible amount of content available for free during this time under the moniker ASO Virtual Stage.
On demand concerts at the time of writing feature Mahler 1 with Pinchas Zukerman and Yoel Levi, Joshua Bell performing Wieniawski, and a Mozart concert with Lang Lang. ASO also has the stories series, meet the musicians, a series of pre-concert chamber recitals on Facebook.
There is an entire education page that is worth exploring, a collaboration with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). This includes a live, virtual exploration of the symphony, a 360 view of the Atlanta Symphony performing John Williams’ “Imperial March” viewable using a cardboard headset viewer, and a young people’s concert. There are also teacher resources K-12.
Baltimore Symphony has a short list of performances available, notably some short videos of different orchestra sections in Mahler Symphony 3, including a silly presentation, yet great performance of the Posthorn solo, the bass section playing a quartet transcription of the trombone solo, a passionate History of Tango by harpist Sarah Fuller and violinist Ivan Stefanovic. A very nicely recorded home video of BSO principle Dariusz Skoraczewski performs Penderecki’s Violoncello totale.
Notable is BSO percussionist Brian Prechtl’s setting of Whitman’s iconic I Sing the Body Electric, a poem for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion and narrators. In this poem, Walt Whitman paints a vivid picture of the human body in all its amazing form and function. It was recorded as part of a celebration of the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth.
One full symphonic performance is available, their 1994 performance of Rachmaninoff Symphony #2 live in Tokyo, David Zinman conducting.
Gewandhaus zu Leipzig
The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra doesn’t have any livestreams, but oddly has 3 performances of Beethoven 9 on YouTube, so that’s pretty amazing. There are sniper ads on this one: beware of sudden volume.
St Petersburg Philharmonic
A huge repository of performances available on the website. These scroll down forever, and the production quality is fantastic. Unfortunately, my russian is non-existent, but you can understand and want to suggest some highlights, please do! Even though these videos are locked on a website, you can still watch on your living room TV with your good sound system, keep reading for tips and instructions how to do this.
Russian National Orchestra
“Classical music has the singular power to transform, unite and liberate. There is perhaps no orchestra in the world that personifies those ideals like the RNO.” – Palm Beach Illustrated
It would take weeks to explore the RNO YouTube channel. Here you go!
Ballet Austin doesn’t have music offerings, but I am including them because they have BE WELL. Be well, indeed, with many videos to help you stay active, creative, curious, generous, and happy during this time. Illustrated exercises to keep you healthy, as well as story times and other videos to engage creativity, curiosity, generosity and happiness. Thank you Ballet Austin for this generous gift!
Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra
Rated as one of the world’s top 20 orchestras, this organization can be traced back to 1783. I find the presentation hard to navigate, but it boils down to a web based live-stream page here and a YouTube channel here. If you can speak or read russian, this is going to be a delight for you!
London Symphony Orchestra
Each Sunday and Thursday (from 22 March) we will be streaming a concert from our archive on our YouTube channel. We will provide digital programme notes and we hope that you will be able to sit down and watch at the same time as friends and family, wherever they are. – LSO
Valery Gergiev conducts the London Symphony Orchestra performing the complete version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This short clip of Dance of the Knights is compelling. Recorded in November 2008. This recording won Best Orchestral Performance and Disc of the Year at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2011.
Opera de Paris
The Opera partnered with Google to create a virtual tour of the Palais Garnier (1875) and the Opéra Bastille (1989). Easily see details and perspectives difficult in real life.
In this behind the scenes YouTube channel find short, fantastic vignettes like this one about the concertmaster and section violinist. This is called Octave Magazine.
The German soprano sings the role of Goneril in the production of Lear, currently at the Palais Garnier. Interview with soprano Evelyn Herlitzius.
La 3e Scene from Paris Opera has short art films that can be a lot of fun. Here is the website and here is the YouTube playlist.
Free videos streamed live every day at 1PM CST from concert halls across Europe. The livestreams and archived concert footage that is available right now is immense, and can be found here. Later in this post we’ll help you get this to your TV and stereo.
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
SINFONIEORCHESTER DES BAYERISCHEN RUNDFUNKS
Again, a wealth of high production value concerts available on the website. It is possible to cast this to your TV/stereo, read further.
Frankfurt Radio Symphony
I’ve been watching this YouTube channel as of late, but like everyone else, they are now live-streaming daily with their new program called Stage@Seven. The streams start daily at 1PM CST (this is 7PM Frankfurt time). Here you can go straight to their YouTube channel. Tremendous performances and superb production quality.
Over a dozen full length concerts available from Hamburg with high production value on the YouTube Elbphilharmonie LIVE playlist, but like all the big orchestras there are also behind the scenes, shorter session and all kinds of content to explore. Visit the blog for a better experience. Also using this facility is the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester. You can learn about all of the groups here.
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
I think Detroit Symphony Orchestra‘s Live From Orchestra Hall live-streams were the first ones I ever saw. DSO Replay includes all of their archives, usually a donation based access model, but is currently FREE. Dive in to see what DSO has in store. Here are six Classroom Edition streams complete with teaching materials.
The Site that Started it All
It all started with a really good website my wife texted to me a month ago, called Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise. This is from the New Yorker, and it continues to be updated with a nicely curated list of live-streams. But the real inspiration for this post came when I accidentally discovered the NYTimes article The Coronavirus Hasn’t Slowed Classical Music. I wanted to share the things that stood out to me, but as I started compiling, my path changed.
I will pick include a couple. I greatly enjoyed watching Tower: Red Maple for Bassoon, Two Violins, Viola, and Cello from the Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, and there is a wealth of content available from them yet to explore.
Featured in the NYTimes article, this performance brought me solace. Inon Barnatan: Franz Schubert Piano sonata D 960 Bflat-major
Another one of my favorites is this 5 hour playlist Coronavirus quarantine 5-hour playlist #1. A 5-hour playlist of tracks from recent CD releases on Another Timbre. For everyone, but especially for those who are self-isolating or in quarantine because of the coronavirus pandemic. Which ends out with a 90 minute piece from Morton Feldman.
I’m not sure if this is comforting, or just a display of virtuosity, but it is a fun 1 minute and 54 seconds from a father/daughter duo. #songsofcomfort
Engineer Boris Alekseev posted in a classical music production forum these behind the scenes pictures from this live-stream from Maxim Vengerov, violin, Boris Andrianov, cello and Peter Laul – piano. A very intense performance worth watching!
River Oaks Chamber Orchestra
From just over in Houston comes a series of livestreams with ROCO, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. These keep coming.
How to get webcasts to your TV
Since I’m home and spending much more time with my 1 year old in the living room, browsing on a laptop or computer has pretty much lost all of its appeal (and is basically impossible). I have a ROKU smart TV, and often put music videos up there during the day. When I compiled this post, I was befuddled when some of these orchestras only have video on their website. Well, there is a way you can watch it on your TV and good speakers anyway! And this is how you do it.
It’s called screencasting. You can do it from your smart phone using an app is called Video and TV Cast. I went ahead and paid the few dollars for full functionality.
There are versions for all the brands illustrated above. Once installed, simply copy the webpage address that has the video, then paste it in the app browser. From there you start to play the video of your choice, and then click on the bottom of the screen, and VOILA, it starts playing in full resolution on the big screen! Yes, it will do Facebook Live videos too, so you can get out of the feed and enjoy some music.
If you have a favorite you’d like to be included on this page, please send me a note and let me know! Happy listening!