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Apple has launched a classical music app

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For years, classical music fans have been left behind in the streaming revolution. Finding particular works and recordings has been kind of hit or miss on the major platforms, which were basically built to search for an artist's name and a song title. But NPR culture correspondent Anastasia Tsioulcas reports that Apple is the latest streaming service to take a serious swing at Bach, Beethoven and Bartok.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Say I want to find a great recording of Beethoven's grand and glorious "Symphony No. 9." On any streaming platform, I get back hundreds and sometimes thousands of results. Some of them are right on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SYMPHONY NO. 9 IN D MINOR, OP. 125 "CHORAL": IV. (B) PRESTO - RECITATIVO - ALLEGRO ASSAI")

ROYAL LIVERPOOL PHILHARMONIC CHOIR: (Singing in German).

TSIOULCAS: And some are, well, not exactly what I'm looking for. The first match YouTube pulls up for me, for example, is not a symphony. It's not even music by Beethoven. Instead, it's solo piano music written by Chopin.

(SOUNDBITE OF VADIM CHAIMOVICH PERFORMANCE OF CHOPIN'S "NOCTURNE IN E-FLAT MAJOR, OP. 9, NO. 2")

TSIOULCAS: And if you just can't find a particular recording or piece of music, well, it functionally ceases to exist in the marketplace. Frustrated classical fans were driven to specialty apps and platforms, but they did not reach most consumers. Two years ago, Apple bought a company called Primephonic and built their new service on Primephonic's bones.

JONATHAN GRUBER: Fundamentally, the thing about this app is it is trying to do something that has not been done adequately before and do it really well, which is deliver an excellent customer experience, listening experience for classical music lovers. It's made for classical music lovers by classical music lovers.

TSIOULCAS: That's Jonathan Gruber, who heads classical for Apple Music. He says that as of launch, his company has more classical music available than any other streaming service.

GRUBER: We have a database which has 20,000 composers, more than 100,000 unique works, 300,000 movements, 5 million tracks, 50 million data points in order to make this happen.

TSIOULCAS: We reached out repeatedly to Spotify, the biggest platform in music streaming, to ask for their comparable stats but did not receive any response. Apple Classical isn't perfect. If you use an Android phone, you're still out of luck, at least for now. The much-vaunted metadata listing soloists and other performers is sometimes missing. Apple's curated playlists tilt much more classical 101 than deep dive delights. And it's a standalone experience disconnected from the rest of Apple Music, so it's hard for fans who generally listen to other genres to fall down any classical rabbit holes. In the meantime, though, several prominent venues and ensembles seem to be betting on Apple. The service features exclusive content from Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra, among others.

(SOUNDBITE OF BERLINER PHILHARMONIKER PERFORMANCE OF RAVEL'S "DAPHNIS ET CHLOE, M. 57 / TROISIEME PARTIE - LEVER DU JOUR")

TSIOULCAS: Can Apple succeed with classical music fans when so many other services have failed? That's an open question. But at least one of the biggest players in streaming is finally paying attention. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE OF BEETHOVEN'S "SYMPHONY NO. 5 IN C MINOR, OP. 67: I. ALLEGRO CON BRIO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.