Sir Simon Rattle, principal conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, leads his orchestra in this image from a recent digital concert.
By Do Je-hae
The Berliner Philharmoniker, or the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO), is grabbing headlines worldwide for its 'Digital Concert Hall' project, designed to broadcast an entire season of its performances online. No other major orchestra in the world has taken such a bold step in reaching its audience through the Internet.
Pamela Rosenberg, the intendant of the BPO, was eager to speak with The Korea Times about the project, which was first inspired three years ago by the ``fascinating prospect of performing for an audience of theoretically unlimited size.’’
``It is our experience that there are many more people who would like to come to our
concert beyond seats available. This is the case with our performances in Berlin and even more so in our concert tours throughout the world. With the Digital Concert Hall, we want to create an additional, virtual venue, particularly for music lovers who otherwise have no opportunity to be here live at our home concert hall,’’ Rosenberg said during an interview with The Korea Times.
Featuring a performance of Brahms's First Symphony in C minor, the premiere concert on Jan.6 was broadcast online from the Philharmonie in Berlin, garnering huge public and media support. Around 2,500 tickets were sold for the debut, nearly as many seats as were available. ``That is a very good beginning when you consider that people are not used to paying for audiovisual content in the Internet,’’ said Rosenberg.
There are two options when exploring the digital concerts at http://dch.berliner-philharmoniker.de/. One can watch them via live stream Web cast or access them from the on-demand archive of past concerts. A single ticket costs 9.90 euros, while a season ticket, at 149 euros, provides visitors access to about 30 concerts throughout the 2008-2009 season.
The BPO's initial concern when implementing the project was obtaining optimal visual and sound quality. ``In order to achieve this, we are working with the most up-to-date audio technology, high resolution cameras, and with technicians and visual directors who really understand classical music,’’ explained Rosenberg. ``A particular challenge for us was to broadcast this quality over the Internet where you have to work with limited bandwidths. For this, we have installed an encoding technology which, while significantly compressing our signal, still transmits both sound and images in a quality that is rarely to be experienced in the Internet.’’
The digital concerts are especially relevant to the classical music community in Korea for two reasons. One is that Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, with much of the population having easy access to the internet. Secondly, there are many BPO fans who rarely have the chance to hear them in their own backyard, much less at an affordable price. For the BPO's latest Seoul concerts in November 2008, ticket prices ranged from 70,000 won to 450,000 won.
Founded in 1882, the BPO has maintained its indisputable status as one of the world's most respected orchestral institutions for its consummate performance level. Its most recent showing in Seoul was led by its artistic director Sir Simon Rattle of the U.K. in the form of two performances of Brahms' Four Symphonies. Its next visit to Asia, including Korea, is scheduled for 2011.
``For the time being, we are still working on the further development of the Digital Concert Hall, especially in terms of interactivity and communication with our visitors,’’ added Rosenberg. Its next live web cast, on Jan. 24, will include a program of Schumann symphonies and other works.
A native of California, Rosenberg, 64, is the first woman and first American to serve as intendant of the BPO. She has also served as general director of several renowned orchestras in the U.S. and Europe, including the San Francisco Opera, Deutsche Schauspielhaus and the Frankfurt Opera prior to her 2006 engagement in Berlin.