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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra goes digital

May 28, 2007

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has taken its first giant steps into the digital domain. Hard on the heels of launching the orchestra’s new in-house CD label, CSO Resound, it has announced a partnership with digital distributor IODA that will make CSO Resound recordings available for download via iTunes, Yahoo! Music, Rhapsody, Napster, Verizon, Sprint, and other online retailers.

The CSO’s outreach initiative follows similar initiatives from the San Francisco Symphony and other US orchestras but extends even further. Following a six-year hiatus, the orchestra has resumed its radio broadcasts, and the weekly BP Chicago Symphony Orchestra Radio Broadcasts are now available on the air or Internet via the WFMT radio network and its subscription-based website. The orchestra has also begun to make its Beyond the Score series, replete with multimedia content designed to help people better understand masterworks of classical music.

The implications are vast for audiophiles and music lovers, many of whom are thankfully one and the same. The Chicago was the orchestra of Fritz Reiner, Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim, whose CSO recordings of the works of Strauss, Mahler, Bartók, Respighi, and other core composers are the stuff of sonic and interpretive legend. It is the orchestra that a number of other great present-day conductors, including Claudio Abbado and Pierre Boulez, have chosen for many of their key recording projects. And with the launch of CSO Resound and the initiation of 21st-century–style outreach, the organization has finally wrested control of its recording destiny from the hands of major-label marketers.

CSO Resound’s first live release—Mahler’s Symphony 3, with mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung (who sang this part on Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of the work with the San Francisco Symphony), the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and the Chicago Children’s Chorus—celebrates the beginning of Bernard Haitink’s tenure as Music Director of the orchestra. The performance was recorded in October 2006, shortly after the famed Mahler conductor began his first full season with the CSO.

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