in: News & Features

October 3, 2011

Change is On The Air

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On September 29, BMInt Publisher Lee Eiseman interviewed Ben Roe, director of classical services for WGBH about the new Classical New England, and on the major changes to be made public today.

Eiseman: Ben, there’s going to be some big news on Monday. I gather we’re going to be hearing a lot less about WCRB, which will be but one of many stations carrying your content, and a lot more about a new brand.

Roe: As of Monday we become officially “Classical New England.” That is the name of our brand, really triggered by our partnership with the new Providence station [WJMF FM 88.7 in Smithfield, RI], and also because I’ve found that the website of 995allclassical-dot-org is a forgettable mouthful. We’re going to be classicalnewengland.org and Classical New England is going to be the name of our service wherever you find it or hear it. [Hereinafter CLNE]

We’re also going to be doing some major schedule changes.

Marc-André Hamelin at Performance Today session with old logo.

Laura Carlo is going to be on from 5 am to 10 am every morning. Alan McLellan will take over the midday shift from 10 to 2, and Cathy Fuller will be the new Afternoon Drive host, from 2 pm to 7pm. We’re putting “Performance Today” on Mondays through Fridays; this coming Monday will be the first, from 7 pm to 9 pm, and will contain a lot of concert performances from Boston. In fact, Fred Child, the host of the show, will be at the studio on Friday to host a special taping in our studio with Marc-André Hamelin playing an all Liszt recital, to be aired nationwide [October 22 at 6 PM with a repeat the next day] on the composer’s 200th birthday.  James David Jacobs will be on live from 9 pm to 1 am, except on Friday, when our bilingual program Concierto airs. So the American Public Media’s C-24 syndicated programming you hear on our station will now only run from 1 am to 5 am.

We’re adding a bunch of features as well, such as Cathy’s Drive Time Live – a “commuter concert” from Fraser [Recording Studio] every Friday at 4 pm. The first one will be with Sarah Chang. This is our way of leading into the weekend. Brian McCreath will take what he does on the web and become our arts scene “culture vulture.” He’s doing a story right now on NEC’s MahlerFest, which we recorded, by the way. We’re going to have a concert called Café Europa with Allan McLellan every weekday at noon, with live performances from England and Europe not available anywhere else. BSO on Record moves to Saturday nights, which will become “deep-dive BSO night.” From 7 pm to midnight it’s BSO, with the pregame show, the live broadcast and then The BSO on Record. The Sunday BSO rebroadcasts from 1 to 3 will be edited down to two hours. So there’ll be all of the music but less talk. Sunday from 3 to 5 will be our Sunday concert, but with a live Boston and regional focus. That’s where we’ll broadcast the NEC MahlerFest or the Handel and Haydn with Bezuidenhout or the Boston Phil. And we’re adding on Sunday nights at 10 the series from our friends at Chicago’s WFMT, the Thomas Hampson series, America in Song. Pipedreams and New England Summer Festivals, which have been doing very well, will also continue.

The story that originally prompted this interview, even before I also learned of the newsworthy announcement of Classical New England, was that the station would be repeating the Saturday night BSO broadcasts on Sunday afternoon and streaming them on CLNE for 14 days. This is really exciting and may represent a stronger relationship between WGBH and the BSO. Will you also have access to BSO archival content, and so on? Please fill us in.

Our first live broadcast of the BSO this season is going to be on Thursday, October 6. As you know, the BSO doesn’t usually present concerts on Thursday nights, but because of Yom Kippur, they have modified their schedule. So that means that this concert will be the exact 60th anniversary of when WGBH first went on the air — which was with a with a live BSO broadcast!

For me this is symbolic, because we are about to have the biggest, most transformative change in our broadcast of BSO concerts in 60 years — the very fact that we can repeat them. This is the outgrowth of the longest continuous relationship between a broadcaster and an orchestra in the country. It’s really stunning to remember how far back this goes. There’s Tanglewood, Pops, television broadcasts. But in all that time, we have been looking for ways that we can take advantage of our relationship that goes beyond the live event – which is over after it’s done. That was no longer competitive in the marketplace. The new arrangements with the BSO and their players give us much more latitude for re-use.

Three very important things are going to happen, with the potential for a fourth. Every Saturday night concert will be rebroadcast on Sunday afternoon. We also have the potential to offer it on the air one more time. My goal is that not a week should go by in any season in which you won’t hear a BSO concert on the air on both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This is pretty remarkable. It will start on October 9. Second, on-demand streaming of the BSO concerts will then be available on classicalnewengland.org for a minimum of 14 days. The BSO players will get compensation for these additional media rights, but the details of that are between the BSO and its players. But the real important point is that the BSO and its players and WGBH are looking for ways to attract new audiences.

Point three is that we will able be able to offer the broadcasts to any station within the six New England states as well as to the Capitol region of New York. Our plan right now, since this is all quite new, is that leading up to the Tanglewood season, we will be offering concert broadcasts to all these stations. We’re having active discussions with many in the region about doing just that and hope to announce more on that subject very soon.

Right now, the Boston Symphony broadcasts will be available on demand from both our and the BSO’s website for a limited time period; but part four, and what excites me the most, is that WGBH and the BSO are in the midst of discussions about ways that we might be able to go deeper than that and surface some of the great broadcasts of the past. After all, we have a 60-year broadcast legacy that I submit is unparalleled among American orchestras!

This sounds almost like Mitchell Hasting’s Concert Network of the 1950s — WBCN, WHCN, WNCN, et cetera, brought back.

That’s right, though it’s not quite to that extent. But this is the first time that we will be able to have the BSO available in the six New England States and in upstate New York.

Another exciting possibility: We are actively exploring with the BSO ways that both of us can unlock the 60-year archival content. How can we find a way and a model to pay for making all of this amazing material available to the public and to generate some revenue for the musicians? These are all things I am anxious to do. But WGBH and the BSO are giant institutions, and we’re at this rare moment of comity, going beyond the broadcast relationship to what kind of a business relationship can we enter.

The BSO is apparently going to be making an announcement soon about major improvements to their website with new content, and so forth. Do you have any insight into what functions will be duplicative with CLNE’s offerings?

I don’t know whether you’d call them duplicative. The BSO is a big organization with many moving parts, as is WGBH. We’re taking on a pretty thorough overhaul of our classical website as well as our classical brand. And I’m sure the BSO is having similar conversations. There’s a perfect storm of opportunity between us, but at the same time we each have different mandates.

The BSO is hardly going to give CLNE exclusive use of their content, and they already have the BSO Media Center on their website, which I gather is going to be substantially expanded. But so far, the BSO is not ready to make an announcement.

Well, if you hear something let me know!

Is this new undertaking to bring BSO performances to a larger radio and internet audience something like the rebirth of the Transcription Trust? On the one hand, the BSO hires John Newton [the subject of a related interview here] to archive to the highest possible fi, the concerts which the BSO thinks most worthy, while at the same time, WCRB is recording every Saturday night concert for re-broadcast and on-line streaming.

To put it most simply, we own the broadcast production, we don’t necessarily own the music they perform, so that’s where it has been from the start, a fifty-fifty relationship. And although the Transcription Trust made sense for that time, now we’re in a different time.

Back to Thursday, October 6, are you going to air Aaron Copland’s wonderful intermission speech?

At least a piece of it.

Are you going to suppress the section where he praises WGBH’s plans to broadcast Friday and Saturday concerts to give listeners the chance to hear a new work twice?

We will be giving people a chance to hear the same piece multiple times with our Sunday re-broadcast and our 14-day streaming on demand on our website. So yes, in a modern way we are fulfilling Aaron Copland’s vision.

What about getting WGBH to simulcast the October 6 60th anniversary event, since it’s really WGBH’s anniversary?

We haven’t discussed that, though I have to say that the simulcast that we did on the Jordan Hall Concert of Remembrance on September 11 was our first ever, and I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Well, that may not have been the first simulcast. Weren’t there various experiments, first in the pre-multiplex days with stereo where WCRB broadcast one channel and WGBH the other? And also I recall some four-channel broadcasts, in which one station broadcast the front two channels and the other, the two rear channels.

Well, Lee, if you want to geek out on me, at least the first category may have been a simulcast between WGBH FM and WCRB AM. I remember sitting in my grandparents’ home in Sudbury and hearing that effect.

My last question on the BSO — and I know the answer, but I’m constantly being asked to pose it to you again. Will broadcast of Friday afternoon concerts come back any time soon?

It’s not going to happen. The simple fact of the matter is that we had to pick one, and for any variety of reasons it makes a lot more sense to record and broadcast live on Saturday nights. And it’s also a function of cost. And I am much happier offering twice as much BSO content to when people are actually in a position to hear it. Sunday afternoon is a far better time to hear a Symphony concert [than Friday afternoon].

As the population ages there will be more people at leisure on Friday afternoons.

I’ve noticed that after having experimented with a fair number of Friday night concerts, the BSO has been slowly increasing its Friday afternoon concerts – retired people prefer to go out in the daytime. I suspect Friday night concerts are becoming more problematic

Now to some general questions: CLNE has done many of the things that the Intelligencer suggested — not necessarily because we suggested them — I’m not that crazy. You’re out there recording local concerts in great numbers again, you’re streaming recordings of live concerts on your excellent website, you have a tremendous amount of new production and new content, the Tanglewood broadcast season was a big success, there are some great new shows on the weekends and starting today, on weekdays too — I’m really liking what I hear. I am hearing that from other people, too. Now it’s your chance to congratulate yourself.

Everything I have done with the classical service right now has been blindingly obvious. It has not been particularly difficult to implement what I thought were some very straightforward changes. This is not to knock anything that happened before my arrival. The new WCRB combining the two staffs was a work in progress. This is true both of financial performance and of ratings. The older WCRB’s commercial  practices were wholly different from operating a non-commercial classical station. This had not happened in Boston in decades. Figuring out how to do that has taken us a while. I’m pleased with how it’s been going, but now it really will get interesting.

WCRB is certainly livelier since you’ve arrived.

Well, it’s not about what one person can do. It’s more about trying to create an atmosphere and an ethos both for what the staff does and how we spend our time. I don’t have a bigger budget; I don’t have more personnel.

You’re apparently making your entire staff work harder and many report being scared. Maybe that’s a way to get more out of people.

You can say some are slightly scared, but I think you could also say that we’re all pulling on the same oars.

But everyone realizes that if this doesn’t work that there aren’t going to be any jobs. So they are putting in longer hours — excited and exhausted at the same time.

One of the challenges I always have as a manager is to make what I believe are the right changes in a scalable and human way. It’s easy for us all to come up with one great show, but how do you do it again and again? This is something I learned first-hand producing a daily show for NPR for more than a decade. I’ve found that it’s psychologically difficult for some people in this business to hit a home run day after day. How do I create something that is sustainable? But, yes, I probably do call on people to use more of their time than they had in the past.

I can see how this might be scary, since you entered the scene after a relatively sustained period of relationship between talent and management. You’re the new guy and you were hired to shake things up. You have to evaluate everyone’s performance. You would not be a good manager if you didn’t.

There’s shared mission and there’s shared risk. I’ve been following the Boston scene long enough to know that there are some aspects of the place that are checkered. At the same time, I’m also here to tell you that one of the miracles is that the bureaucracy of WGBH  actually encourages me to achieve things. I have found tremendous support across the board to implement the changes that I have wanted to make.

The rating numbers for WCRB have not looked good since you arrived. For August the Arbitron share for WCRB should at 1.2. That’s a third of what it was before WGBH took over and half of what it was last summer. Is this a disappointment?

I wouldn’t use the word “disappointment.” And I don’t mean to sound Pollyanna-esque about this either, but there is a national trend that we were all discussing at a convention last week. Throughout the country, classical broadcasters have experienced significant ratings drops. I saw a rather alarming slide that showed a bar graph, but I can’t really believe that three million people across the country have stopped listening to classical music in a year. But the ratings drop is belied by the membership support WCRB has been enjoying. The May and August campaigns, the first two on my watch, have exceeded their goals. The last day of our August campaign produced one the largest pledge totals in WGBH history.

But I don’t want to just blame Arbitron as the messenger. In some ways, the changes I made on the weekends might have made things a bit worse before it makes them better. And we’ve been hampered by the fact that I have not had a regular afternoon announcer since the end of January. It’s a function of radio in general and classical radio in particular that audiences grow very attached to the familiar voice that their used to hearing. It was very difficult for us to lose Ray Brown in January, and I’m thrilled that he’s back for some fill in.

My final thought on the ratings is that September looks very encouraging.

I don’t have easy access to the hour-by-hour Arbitron ratings, so could you tell me if some of your new shows are gaining traction and what market share have some of the most successful achieved?

Well our highest share now is on weekends, where during certain times periods we’ve had close to a 3 share. But you have to be careful looking at rating snapshots, because there is volatility week by week or hour by hour. Longer term, my ratings trendline is not something I have been pleased with, but I fully expect that’s going to change.

Either ratings will change or you will be changed in the next year!

That’s right, and if I don’t fix that they’ll find somebody else to do it. It’s that simple — it’s the business of radio.

By the way, were still waiting to hear your plans for the improvement of reception in Boston.

All I can say is that we’re aware of the problem.

According to last year’s form 990 there was a $45-million operating deficit for the WGBH Foundation, of which WCRB is a small component. And I gather from what I heard during fundraising that there will be another deficit this year.

I can’t speak to the form 990 and our books for this fiscal year yet, but I can say that there’s no extra money. No one’s giving me a bigger budget.

That’s why when you do a new hire it must be a replacement for someone who left or was fired….

Let me stop you right there. I didn’t fire anybody. I have changed jobs and changed positions.

Well, I have to ask you, since many people have asked me about it. What happened to Alice Abrahams? Is there anything you can say about her departure?

Just as we have talked about the change between the Transcription Trust and where we are in the 21st century, one of my jobs is to balance resources with activity. Alice had a part-time position that we eliminated because it wasn’t consistent with the urgent priorities of what we need to do now. It’s really that simple.

Is Cheryl Willoughby in some ways Alice’s replacement?

Cheryl’s is an entirely new job with new responsibilities. She is the first music director we have ever had.

Why does CLNE need a music director for a production staff of six to eight people who all know a great deal about classical music programming?

Because one of the challenges that we have is that I really inherited three different stations. There were different sounds in the morning, a certain sound in the afternoon, and another sound from C24 [automated feed from American Public Media] in the evenings. So you say you are listening to 99.5 all-classical, but which one of the three do you hear?

The role of the music director is to help me create consistent programming across the board. For instance, if we do a great performance in Fraser, why can’t it air on Laura Carlo’s show? Then we might have a New England Festivals program on Saturday night excerpted on Monday morning. The station needs someone who can step back and see the whole week. It’s not that we want to program what every classical host plays on a daily basis. Cheryl’s job is to help me figure out an overall programming scheme, and that really comes down to how we think about the music that we play and what people are doing at the time we play it. There are lots of listeners with very different tastes, and I’ve got to find what we call “the secret sauce.” Every programmer has got the hubris to think his or hers is the best. But ultimately it’s the market that decides.

Are there rivalries among the announcers and producers based on whose shows have the best ratings?

People have a general idea about their ratings, but it’s as if you were to look at hit rates for your various writers, would you decide never to use someone again because of that?

A number of people, including a head of another radio station, have asked why you program your Sunday night opera program directly opposite WHRB’s.

I find this fascinating. I’m thrilled that WHRB has had its longstanding tradition of playing opera on Sunday night. I don’t program my station — which now reaches an audience of five New England states — based on what WHRB is doing. I program based on what I think satisfies my audience in five states. Particularly where I bristle a little is that in our opera programming we are producing and presenting from Glyndebourne, Vienna State Opera, Washington National Opera…  you know we just had Domingo! We’re not spinning discs! There’s great care and craft in our production. This is the best live music program in America around opera. And it’s also a forum for us to do Madame White Snake and many other local operas, and we hope to do more. It’s also my goal to record and air the local productions, and so we’re in negotiations with the opera companies. Look at what we did with the Opera Bash. For eleven years WGBH television has done it and it’s been virtually ignored on the radio, and this year we embraced it. We had Lisa Simeone, host of World of Opera, doing all of the continuity on television, and we broadcast two full-length operas on ‘CRB. We did Rameau’s Les Indes galantes and Lully’s Atys. And we did a whole weekend of “Opera Without Words,” we called it. This is not about a competition with WHRB. I think it’s terrific you have classical music choices in Boston. How many places do you have that?

It would be nice if one or both of the stations would stream the choices to offer determined individuals to hear both offerings.

Ours are already available on demand. Commercially recorded operas you can’t offer on demand because of copyright regulations. The other thing about this too, Lee, is, step back a moment. There’s a reason why we do opera on Sunday night, and probably a similar reason why WHRB does. On Saturday nights we have this thing called the Boston Symphony Orchestra. What do we do on Sunday afternoon? Well, now there’s the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and it’s also our time period to showcase Boston Philharmonic or Handel and Haydn. Who knows, perhaps Rhode Island Philharmonic, now that we have a partnership with Bryant College and a transmitter there? If I look at the weekend schedule, where is the logical place for me to put the opera show? If I put it on Saturday afternoon to compete with WHRB’s Met Opera broadcasts you’d have every right to scream.

Do you have any intention of trying to grab the Met Broadcasts?

I don’t think that’s an option, precisely because of what you say about on-demand and streaming rights. I think the Met needs to catch up in this area.

Might there be another area of streaming intended to offer something simpler — classical background music of the sort that WCRB once sent out as a sub carrier? Some excellent examples of this are out there now, such as DMX’s Sonic Tab, with endless streams of nicely programmed music in various categories and no talk. Jessica is a great programmer there. That stream is very effective at banishing teenagers from shopping malls. Will CLNE’s excellent website ever offer such channels?

You’ve noticed that we’ve recently added three online streams: The Boston Early Music Channel, a BSO Channel, a Kids Classical channel. I’d like to have three more by the end of the year. We certainly believe that online we offer a great resource, and we have great potential for reaching people across the world. We have significant numbers in Germany, the UK, and Japan already. So will it be free of talk? Possibly at some point…

Frankly I’m much more worried about the competition from Pandora and Spotify, not WBUR or WHRB. Seeing their share numbers rise, that’s what keeps me up at night. Although I think listeners will benefit from this competition, how do we compete with them in a public space where we’re not selling you anything? At the same time how do I remain relevant and in business?

48 Comments

  1. I just glanced at the ratings available thru Radio-info.com, and the cumulative audience has been edging UP all summer. I don’t believe it has been mentioned here, but WHRB-FM 95.3 will be improving its signal by a skosh over the Metro Boston area (that is by going OMNI-directional, but with a few watts less power; seems counter-intuitive but that’s the way it works sometimes). WGBH/WCRB has an application to put a repeater station on the air in Manchester, NH at 106.9; WMJX-FM 106.7 FM from Boston may still have some presence there as well as WERZ-FM 107.1 in the Seacoast Region of NH. These rebroadcasters are nothing like the old Concert Network because the’CN stations were full-power outlets from hilltops and office buildings. In fact, WXCN-FM 101.5 which was licensed to Providence started out with a transmitter atop Jerimoth Hill in Foster, RI which is MILES away from the core city. Eventually, it was moved to a hilltop in Johnston, RI just before it became a pop radio station, which it is now under different call letters.

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — October 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

  2. Well, as Lee let the proverbial cat out bag (pun intended) and informed that he will be interviewing Benjamin Roe I was waiting for this article but the content of the interview did exceed my expectation. As I commented before the WCRB got much better for the last 6 months and the changes that the station is about to endure shall take it even a notch further. I official nominate Benjamin Roe with a title “Ben the Saver”. Good luck to new WCRB and to all Ben’s plans.

    A few comments:

    1) I disagree with stigma that Ben allocated for Friday performances. Friday and Saturday performances ARE different, they always were and I do feel that Friday broadcast have own value – literally to preview what BSO will be doing on Saturday. Particularly nowadays, when we have each week a new a new conductor and new irregular BSO play I find that it well worth to be able to preview what is coming.

    2) American Public Media’s C-24 moved to deep night – wonderful! I do not mind if WCRB would not even broadcast from 1 am to 5 am…

    3) The Allan McLellan’s Café Europa is very promising and long due program. The selection of performances shall be critical. The WHRB for years broadcasts live-to-tape the Radio of Netherland programs and some of them are spectacular.

    4) The idea of having the BSO broadcasts as on-demand streaming with some revenue from downloads return back to the BSO musicians is absolutely right thing to do but in my view it has to be done properly. If WCRB charge money then the downloadable file shall not be flimsy MP3 files but uncompressed files with full “CD-quality” sound (no matter how retarded the CD-quality phase is). I would personally be very enthusiastic if for premium cost WCRB allow to download the 24bit master dubs of their broadcasts, the way how BSO did 2-3 years ago (it was 88K/24 bit)

    5) Talking about sound quality. WCRB need to fine some kind of reasonable equilibrium in Sound limiting and compression. It is getting sometime ridicules like this morning for instance. I do not listen any morning program as I am not thrilled with that host who inform me from radio the it will be 6 days rain, fog and hurricane and earthquake in Boston with the voice as she just won $1.000.000. Still, this morning I tuned in at my way to work and it was a nice bombastic Rossini overture with Mozart 23 symphony. It was absolutely no listenable and the compression was so high that it was impossible even to differentiate instruments. The point is that that for a classical station the sound itself is a commodity and the Culture of Sound need to be breeding by WCRB. The WFMT during 70-80s come my mind and the some WGBH events from even 90s.

    6) I do not think that WCRB need to take MET. WHRB doe juts fine but WCRB might do what WGBH did in past: to pick up the local opera productions as live broadcasts.

    7) BTW, the good change in air comes for WHRB. Living in western tip of Woburn I have no clear reception of WHRB despite that I have very strong signal. The problem is that there is that stupid station WSKX in Main that does the same 95.3MHz that interfere with WHRB. I use the phase-cancelation array to deal with it but it is finicky to deal with. The Nord-East Radio Watch just announced: “Listeners on the north shore of MASSACHUSETTS will soon get a clearer signal from the radio station affiliated with Harvard University. WHRB (95.3 Cambridge) has long suffered from short-spacing with other area signals, including Brown-affiliated WBRU (95.5) down in Providence and co-channel WSKX (95.3) up the coast in York Center, MAINE.Back in 1990, after the FCC revised spacing standards for class A stations such as WHRB, owner Harvard Radio Broadcasting reached an agreement with the Maine station (then WCQL-FM) that allowed both stations to increase power with the use of directional antennas. At WHRB’s end, that allowed the station to move its antenna from Harvard Square to a much higher perch atop downtown Boston’s One Financial Center – but at the expense of a directional notch that made the station hard to hear on the North Shore. In Maine, WCQL relocated to Mount Agamenticus in 1993, also using a directional antenna.Under a proposal approved last week by the FCC, WHRB and WSKX (now owned by Clear Channel) will drop their 1990 interference agreement, instead using the FCC’s own short-spacing rules to govern their relationship. Here’s how it will play out: in Boston, WHRB will replace its directional antenna with a non-directional antenna atop One Financial Center, dropping its ERP slightly from 1700 to 1450 watts but bringing an additional 79,000 North Shore listeners into its 60 dBu contour. In Maine, WSKX will slightly boost its power and modify its directional pattern to bring several communities to the west, including Rochester and Durham, NEW HAMPSHIRE, within its 60 dBu contour.”

    8) Now is the biggest fish to fry. WCRB, please, implement a civilized programming guide. This is absolutely mandatory and it is a HIGE inconvenience for us, the listeners, that you do not enumerate your forthcoming events. The WHRB prints programming guide with moths ahead. I understand that in your line of work the forthcoming programs are more spontaneous; still you can do it a week ahead, or at least a day ahead. Look what the Australian ABC does: they publish detailed list of the programs for next two day. If you feel that your programs are valuable then your listeners need to be informed about coming valuable programs. You do some pre-announcements from air but no one listen your radian all time and if the listing of upcoming events is be available in print or on-line then it would be great benefits for us.

    9) It is time to change your web site. The Playlist section is very cumbersome with frequently missing events. It is not the place to criticize your web site but as very frequent user of your site I might say that the site has a lot of room for improvement.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

  3. This is wonderful! I wish Ben Roe and all the staff at Classical New England great success.

    Just one comment on “The Clash of the Opera Broadcasts:” It would be nice not to have to choose between the two on Sunday evening, but if they put the BSO rebroadcast or the Sunday Concert in all or part of the 8:00 to midnight slot, it would also require making a choice.

    The “on demand” opportunities are something I need to train myself to take advantage of. They certainly should help when the broadcast schedule doesn’t fit my own.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm

  4. Since the subject of WHRB’s signal has been raised here, I’d like to chime in with a request that they do something about the channel imbalance in their output–whether broadcast or over the internet, one channel is always louder than the other, and while one can sometimes compensate with controls (on a radio this is easiest), it’s a royal pain in the pinfeathers, especially online, where most media programs don’t integrate a channel balance control into them.

    Comment by Vance Koven — October 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm

  5. Thanks for the fine interview, Lee. Now we have a deep background on the recent revamps… many of which are for the better. However:

    “For me this is symbolic, because we are about to have the biggest, most transformative change in our broadcast of BSO concerts in 60 years — the very fact that we can repeat them.”

    Beg to differ with the gentleman. That change would have been the elimination of Friday broadcasts. And even earlier, the elimination of Tuesdays’. (Yes, a long memory here.) I agree totally with Romy, that with the discombobulated conducting schedule we listeners could benefit even more from Friday broadcasts.

    Also it’s true that the website access to playlists is truly screwy.

    I hope this topic stays open, or at least remains ongoing somehow.

    Comment by clark johnsen — October 3, 2011 at 12:47 pm

  6. Since the subject of WHRB’s signal has been raised here, I’d like to chime in with a request that they do something about the channel imbalance ….

    Vance, when I complained about it to WHRB’s David then he advised me to move my butt to another side of sofa in order to balance sound. I am not kidding; it was latterly what he suggested. I guess if they transmit with reversed channels then I need to sit up-side down.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

  7. A heads up here: the latest Arbitron ratings for Boston are scheduled to appear at radio-info.com tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct 4, at about 5:00 pm EDT.

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — October 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  8. What also I find a bit slippery subject is the WCRB donations. I do not know what the financial relationship between GBH and CRB but I think if CRB would like to develop own brand, the Classical New England, then they need to accept donations specifically to benefit the Classical New England station. If I inspired by CRB programming and I would like to support or sponsor the program then I use my GBH membership and donate money to the big GBH. Do not take me wrong. I like GBH and I love all NPR and PBS stations, however my desire to make donations to Classical New England has nothing to do with my enjoyment of brothers Magliozzi, Garrison Keillor or Peter Sagal. So, I would like when GBH is accepting donations they make it clear that the funds are distributed to the WCRB needs and not deluded in the large blended soup of NPR cooking.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 3, 2011 at 8:50 pm

  9. When I started donating to “GBH we were told that the contributions would go to TV or radio as we designated. It has always been my understanding that that continues to be the case. If it’s not true, WGBH has an obligation to make that perfectly clear, or they are defrauding many contributors.

    How about a follow-up question, Lee?

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

  10. Ben Roe asked me to “please assure your listeners that indeed donations that are designated to a specific entity (bear in mind that the WGBH Foundation operates four television and three radio services) and are credited in full to that entity.”

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — October 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

  11. “As you know, the BSO doesn’t usually present concerts on Thursday nights…” Only 14 or 15 times a year.

    Comment by jemery36 — October 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

  12. “That’s right, though it’s not quite to that extent. But this is the first time that we will be able to have the BSO available in the six New England States and in upstate New York…” except for the 20-30 years when the Boston Symphony Transcription Trust made live broadcasts available throughout New England and upstate New York.

    Comment by jemery36 — October 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

  13. Ben Roe, director of classical services for WGBH, doesn’t know that the BSO’s weekly series of concerts always begins on Thursday nights?

    What planet is he on?

    Comment by Johnny — October 4, 2011 at 12:09 pm

  14. Actually, jemery, the BSO presents 23 subscription concerts on Thursdays, in four series of 7, 4, 7, and 5 concerts interspersed through the season. I’ve subscribed to all but the 4-concert series for a couple of years (having built up from one 7-concert series).

    I hope Ben was trying to say that the BSO doesn’t regularly make Thursday concerts available for broadcast.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 4, 2011 at 12:35 pm

  15. BTW, thanks for the reassurance, Lee and Ben.

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 4, 2011 at 12:36 pm

  16. Another aspect I would like to rise. I would like to see higher rate of WCRB and BMI integration.

    Take a look a setting…. BMI published “reviews” and analyses from various institutionalized semi-snobs and commentaries about musical event in New England. WCRB plays classical concerts from New England. However, who said that a definition of a “concert event” necessary includes your putting yourself in a suite that you still can fit and having another parking ticket. A concert event is a performance event and WCRB deliver more or it then you will hear in Symphony Hole for a while. So, why BMI contributors do not “review” the “WCRB concert events” and use the very same attention to it as it was a piano recital of Kirgizstan music in some kind Waltham church with 19 attendants? The point is that if the “WCRB concert events” get a good review and WCRB offer own programming as paid download then WCRB could even make some money on this, not to mention to cultivate better programming, while BMI writers might act as some kind of guidance for the people who need it.

    A case to point. Last night WCRB broadcast(ed) Chopin First Concerto with a polish orchestra and some kind of conductor (knock-knock, WCRB, your playlist does not even list the event. Bad, bad, bad people…). Martha Argerich ran the show and the concert was spectacular. How many years one shell wait at box office to hear Chopin First like this? I think what Argerich showed off last night (even over the FM) was much more deserve attention of the BMI scholars then the 2347 cacophonies of some kind Evgeny Kissin and Co…

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 4, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  17. As advertised, here are the latest 6+ (do they really give 6-year-olds PPM devices?)Arbitron PPM ratings for Boston:

    http://www.radio-info.com/markets/boston

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — October 4, 2011 at 5:15 pm

  18. I just heard the Tchaikovsky First Symphony on their webstream, with Abbado and the CSO. I heard it with the pauses between each movement trimmed to almost nothing, as if it were one long, continuous work. Did anyone else notice this? This trick, of keeping the music at a constant stream, has been used by WMHT-FM/Schenectady, also, in recent years. It’s so friggin’ annoying.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 5, 2011 at 12:11 pm

  19. I’m now listening to the Schumann Rhenish on a program called “Cafe Europa”, which I assume is live stuff from Europe. On the webstream I hear limiting very clearly. You think they’d stream from a point before their Optimod, not after. Why peak-limit for the web?

    dd

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

  20. Here’s an oddity: the ratings for Kansas City MO&KS/Independence, MO have just been published and a PAIR of HD2s are on the list. So far, WGBH-FM’s HD2 classical format has never appeared in the Boston ratings, even with its strong signal (albeit WGBH-FM HD2 isn’t 100K). No other HD2 of a Boston station appears in the ratings either. Here’s the KC data: http://www.radio-info.com/markets/kansas-city

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — October 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

  21. So, folks, how did the Thursday night broadcast go? I just checked the WGBH website and see nothing on the classical page about where to hear the stream now, on a Friday morning. Or did I miss something?

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 7, 2011 at 10:22 am

  22. To Vance Koven: Not having myself heard the alleged WHRB channel imbalance, I called and spoke to engineering staff who swear up and down, that over their monitors and meters there is no imbalance except for whatever may be present in program material, which no station attempts to adjust.

    Comment by clark johnsen — October 8, 2011 at 5:40 pm

  23. Don Drewecki, I couldn’t find the Thursday concert on Friday either. But I just went back to the interview and noticed what Ben Roe said about streaming: “My goal is that not a week should go by in any season in which you won’t hear a BSO concert on the air on both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This is pretty remarkable. It will start on October 9. Second, on-demand streaming of the BSO concerts will then be available on classicalnewengland.org for a minimum of 14 days.” Parsing it very carefully, he only said the concerts would be available on demand <b>after</b> the Sunday rebroadcast.

    And, sure enough, last Thursday’s concert is there now, at http://www.wgbh.org/programs/The-Boston-Symphony-Orchestra-in-Concert-1641/episodes/Bavouzet-Plays-Prokofiev-32109 .

    From the home page http://www.wgbh.org/995/ you have to select “The BSO Tanglewood Channel,” which brings you to http://www.wgbh.org/995/bso.cfm and there, like magic, in the center column is the link to the concert.

    Don’t go to “Boston Symphony Orchestra,” which is the line above “The BSO Tanglewood Channel” because if you do, it takes you to http://www.wgbh.org/topics/Boston-Symphony-Orchestra-217 and then you have to choose “60 Years of the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Classical New England,” in order to arrive at http://www.wgbh.org/995/bso.cfm where you find the link to the concert.

    IOW, the CLNE/WGBH/WCRB/995allclassical — call it what you will — website is not the easiest to navigate that I have ever seen, but one way or another you can get there. 

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 10, 2011 at 11:05 am

  24. Their playlists aren’t too smooth to access either.

    Comment by clark johnsen — October 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm

  25. Note to Joe:
     
    Thanks!  I found that webstream.  Terrific!
     
    dd

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 10, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  26. Clark Johnsen,
    Since Romy confirmed my observation about WHRB channel imbalance, and he’s much more technically proficient than I, my conclusion is that there’s an issue at the station that tech staff isn’t seeing. Since the imbalance occurs both on broadcast and streaming outputs, and whether I’m listening on speakers at home or in the car, or with headphones, and since it only occurs with WHRB and not other stations, I don’t think I’m just dreaming.
    Maybe HRB should shake off Harvard’s “not invented here” syndrome and call in some MIT folks to help.

    Comment by Vance Koven — October 11, 2011 at 10:05 am

  27. CJ writes: “Since Romy confirmed my observation about WHRB channel imbalance…”
     
    Is it possible to aircheck a long portion of WHRB’s signal and then do a screen-grab of average levels as seen by some sound recording software program?  That should be easy enough to do, and then forward that screen grab to the Chief Engineer of WHRB.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 11, 2011 at 11:05 am

  28. Vance,

    WHRB did have channel imbalance, and sometimes very severe, including MET, but I observe it I would say 1.5-2 years ago. Recently I did nit observe the problem. Furthermore a few days back I spoke (on the different subject) with the David who run WHRB and he was surprised that someone complain about channel imbalance as to the best of his knowledge this problem was long gone.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

  29. I am curious about the significantly decreased amount of air time available for Brian McCreath and Ray Brown, who have the best voices on WCRB.  My impression is that McCreath is far more knowledgable about music than most of the others.  Alan McLellan may be a terrific musicologist and producer, but it seems difficult for him to read a paragraph, or sometimes a sentence, without stumbling.  I heard him do this with his own name today.

    Drive time interviews are lost on drivers.  Today’s program featuring Sarah Chang just seemed annoying to me, especially in traffic.  Most of Laura Carlo’s music is a carryover from the old WCRB, although I must admit that “Finlandia” is played less often.

    I am sad to admit that I see less in the way of improvement than I had expected.  I think classical music in Chicago, and even in San Francisco, is handled in a much more satisfying, and professional,  manner than is the case thus far with WCRB.

    Comment by Joe Barrie — October 14, 2011 at 9:19 pm

  30. ***  Today’s program featuring Sarah Chang just seemed annoying to me, especially in traffic. 
    Today Sarah Chang concert was butchered by WCRB. It looks like the last few days WCRB begin to employ some kind of new ether compression algorithms or compression level and as the result the whole musical range now sits between -1dB and -7dB of modulation. 6dB of dynamic range for classical station! That is ridicules, particularly for live broadcasts. Even the Laura Carlo voice sounded like somebody clipped her nose. I would not even talk about music, it was absolutely vandalized. If it is the face and sound of the new New England classical station then who the hell need this station?

    Comment by Romy the Cat — October 14, 2011 at 11:56 pm

  31. I don’t know know why everyone ‘disses’ American Public Media’s C-24 offerings.  I think it’s rather pleasant listening.  The hosts are pleasant, and I enjoy the selection.
    The way I look at it is….do I care if someone is sitting in Brighton playing the music…or in Minnesota.  
    Personally, I like the overnight APM C-24 programming.
     
     

    Comment by Lou — October 15, 2011 at 4:06 pm

  32. Although i personally applaud Ben Roe’s improvements to classical broadcasting in Boston, it’s fair to note that the 50,000 people (on an average day) who have opted out of WCRB since the WGBH acquisition seemingly agree with Lou.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — October 15, 2011 at 4:36 pm

  33. Well, it is interesting development as it looks like a week after anointments of the “Classical New England” venture the station went berserk and as far as I can see they are now in the mission of self-murdering, converting them to McDonalds equivalent.  It looks like a few days back the sound of WCRB was change and now they run so hard compression that it is beyond any cretinism. Do they ever listen what they output out there? Now they are playing NE chamber festivals, live-top-tape recording and oboe with flutes clip the station modulations. It is not even clipping but the compression run some kind of positive feedback with ending of echo note auditable disordered. The cellos sound like belching Godzilla, the announcers sound like they just woke up and have clips on their noises. There is no tonal, dynamic or articulation difference between the notes of any kind.  I am not kindling, it is mechanically distorted and in fact I am afraid the it might damage my loudspeakers.
    I think somebody in WCRB business office need their head examined. I wonder if the advise to screw up own Sound came from the same WGBH MBA Moron-consultant who advised 2 years back that the way to boost rating is to cancel Friday broadcasts? If the WCRB will demonstrate no elementary sonic hygiene then they are as good as having no classical station at all.  Now, I fell my initial enthusiasm was premature and it feels like John Voci with his “bag of potatoes for sale” is back….  Anyhow, can the WCRB people to LISTEN what they sending over the air?

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 15, 2011 at 7:01 pm

  34. I sent email to Cathy Fuller asking her if she know that her Sarah Chang program was disaster. She was much surpassed as she thought that it went wonderful. My presumption is that no one at WCRB does any sound check and they have no idea what they are sending out.

    I would like the WCRB listeners to educate themselves on the subject and to understand that when the WCRB “consultants” equate loudness with higher rating then they commit the unfortunate stupidity that the whole industry went over many years back.  I pulled from web very basic information that might help uninformed people to get the idea:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_war

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122114058

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Gmex_4hreQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do1FJ5BcqSY

    The sound that we are having for the last week from WCRB, including right now, is orders of magnitude worse than the worst CD they example above. I hope that there are some forces out there that can reverse the barbaric direction that WCRB just went. 

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 16, 2011 at 11:20 am

  35. Romy-

    Is it just possible that there’s something wrong with your equipment? I can’t believe that Classical New England would go to the trouble of presenting a live interview of Sarah Chang without a proper air check.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — October 16, 2011 at 7:22 pm

  36. For a reality test I just listened to WCRB (99.5) presenting an opera on the air, the online version of the Sarah Chang interview, and the Yo Yo Ma Dvorak performance. I measured dynamic ranges of between 30 and 35 db using a microphone in a quiet room. That’s certainly not CD quality, but its more than adequate to represent the music and generous for a recording of speech.
    Then one might also ask how much dynamic range Romy wants in an interview. The spoken word on the radio is always going to be more intelligible with a bit of compression. A 30db range is plenty.

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — October 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

  37. Lee, the online versions ARE IRRELEVANT as they did not go to air and were not exposed to the limiting and compression that air programs do. The same with HD, is it not being compressed so aggressively, I mean the dynamic compression, not digital compression that is unfortunate and terminal reality for HD. If you listen what WCRB output in air then you will hear not only huge compression (the worst that I heard for 15 year I live in Boston) but also very auditable DISTORTIONS OF SIGNAL around -2 and -3dB. The last that I was trying to listen today was Bruckner 4 from Chicago at 3PM but it was so PHYSICALLY DISTORTED (I do not even mention compression by LOUD DISTORTIONS) that I was forced to turn off radio. Each woodwind instrument sounded like somebody scratch dry newspaper with nails. Listen even the voices of the hosts and the commercials – they all sound like people have cold for a few days. I hope it is some kind of unfortunate accident and they have some kind of faulty piece of equipment in the signal path. I hope that a classical music station would not do it to itself voluntary.

    Comment by Romy the Cat — October 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm

  38. Well, like anything else in life as one door is looks like getting closed another is opening. As the WCRB performed with their recent sound the unfortunate act of self-mutilation, rending itself into a worthless AM radio station the Harvard WHRB went up. I live at the very western tip of Woburn, on the border with Lexington and Winchester and at my location I was not able to get WHRB clean, even using high-end receiving techniques. A few days back WHRB installed a new non-directional antenna and the close-spaced at the same frequency WSKX from Maine got converted to be directional. We, who live at northern part of Boston, got wonderful clarity WHRB signal with no more interference at 95.3MHz. Welcome back the David’s Monday programs, the Tuesday and Thursday live-to-tape broadcasts from San Francisco and Netherlands and a lot of more…. Halleluiah!


    http://www.whrb.org/programs/current.pdf

     

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

  39. While In find it interestring that WCRB will be “improving” on their BSO broadcasts by repeating them on Sunday instead of giving us a second interpretation on Friday, I find the signal in southern New Hampshire on the seacoast to be miserable. The limiting, while improved over last year, still is less than satisfactory for a live orchestral performance. Pl;us the spot mikes on the woodwinds and trombones are far too loud while the horns sound as if they’re in the bleechers at Fenway.

    I have recently become a subscriber to the BSO’s download program “mydigitalmusicservices” not relaizing that they haven’t added anything to the offerings for qwuite a while, and have downloaded everything from their mp3 live performances to their Levine 5.1 24/88 recordings. Even the mp3’s sound better than what WCRB is putting out, including their so-called HD digital signal, and their high definition downloads are possibly superior to the SACD’s I have of the same recordings.

    So here’s a suggestion. Since the BSO will probably not be putting out any new recordings in the near future due to the loss  of Levine and the long replacement time, thus removing any reason for more individuals to plunk down their cash to join “mydigitalmusicservices”, why couldn’t the BSO record their live programs at high bit rate stereo and surround and either allow downloads of them after a week or two from thei present software site, or start a second site where one could purchase them for a nominal cost. This would open up the symphony to the world, and give the BSO needed funds. The income could be split between the soloists, the orchestra pension fund and the orchestra trust, and I would think might bring in as much money as ticket sales.

    Another possibility would be to offer for sale high bit rate downloads of all of those great performances locked away in their tapes of years past. I’ve heard several copies of off the air recordings from the 60’s  owned by fellow audiophiles and  they blow away what I can get now from WCRB using my Magnum Dynalab FM tuner. 

    Thanks for the information on the WHRB antenna change and will look forward to hearing that station for the first time in New Hampshire.

    Bill Gaw         

    Comment by Bill Gaw — October 18, 2011 at 9:11 am

  40. *** This would open up the symphony to the world

    A guy that I know told me that one of the major rules of preservation is proliferation. BSO has a wealth of recordings in their archives that never seen light of public distribution. I perfectly understand and appreciate all copyright considerations and that BSO does not want to release something that has some possible “faults” or “slips”, any live music does. However, the rule of preservation is proliferation. Sometimes, in many years, some clerk will push wrong button on climate control setting, or flooding, or fire, or some idiotic terrorist event, of some new moron-manager would decide that it all has no value, or got know what will happen and the entire possessions will be wiped out. No matter how unlikely it is but unfortunately it happened with recordings more frequently then people publicly aware of. I have seen a few times what collectors with truly priceless possessions were overlay protected with their collections and in the end of a day, after they went to better worlds the entire content of the collections was moved by people who come after them to garbage. Sure, it very unlikely happens with BSO recording legacy but it is only a matter of time in future and the matter of BSO ego today. Preservation is proliferation. Let people to have what belongs to people not belong to dusty shelves and archival rats.

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

  41. I think it’s highly unlikely that a person living in New Hampshire would get the quality of signal from WHRB-FM 95.3 for extended listening to classical music. Yes, they may be utilizing a NON-directional antenna now, but the Effective Radiated Power has decreased as well, albeit only slightly.  WSKX in Maine is switching to a slightly MORE directional antenna (it was implied previously that they were ADOPTING the use of a directional antenna for the first time), but it is still emitting some signal towards the Portsmouth/Exeter, NH/Kittery, ME market.  So there will be some ambient noise from their transmissions.  I’m getting a little noise of that nature in Methuen, MA.  Friday, I’m attending a performance by Opera Boston at the Emerson (not so) Majestic Theater.  I’ll be scoping the antenna at One Financial before sunset!

    Comment by Laurence Glavin — October 19, 2011 at 2:21 pm

  42. Laurence, it is an interesting subject: how far north the “new” WHRB will be able to reach with new setting. I noted – the WHRB signal got lover at my meter but now without the second yagi phased off the WSKX I have very clean signal, and I am not in direct line but with one diffractive bend off some kind Winchester hill. I can only guess that south of NH with good directional antenna and narrow IF window might be able to get WHRB very clean. Bill, who posted above, own a lend size in NH that perfectly might accommodate not only a flimsy FM tower but air-defense phased-array radar.  If you in Methuen still pick up interference from WSKX   then you might harrow the back sensitively of your antenna. The good part is that WSKX and WHRB are in different directions and it might be taken advantage of…

    Comment by Romy The Cat — October 19, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  43. I sometimes feel that the appropriate name should be “Classical Talk Radio”, given what I have heard recently.

    Comment by Jack Little — October 19, 2011 at 10:21 pm

  44. How quickly we forget how fortunate we are to have a classical radio station, much less one run by intelligent, gifted people who aren’t afraid to take risks in what seems to me to be an ardent quest to present us with a thoughtful, thorough, high-quality service.

    Comment by Annie — October 21, 2011 at 10:17 am

  45. Jack writes: “I sometimes feel that the appropriate name should be ‘Classical Talk Radio’, given what I have heard recently.”
     
    That’s so true of the Classical 24 service out of Minnesota.  Here in the Albany/Schenectady/Troy area, WMHT-FM plays this service from 10 AM to 6 AM the following day, with some breaks for a daily baroque show (on top of all the baroque heard on C24), plus “Performance Today.”
     
    The morning C24 host, Jeff Esworthy sounds like a castoff from the 1960s who toked it up the night before, and is unable to utter a complete sentence withotu resorting to “uhhs” and “ummms” to sound casual.  The afternoon host, Julie Amacher, endlessly laughs at her own jokes and what she thinks are amusing stories.  Weekend/fill-in hosts Mindy Rattner and Lynne Warfel talk endlessly — Warfel talks so much that she even upcuts music she goes into, and you hear her fade up the music after all her talk, in progress, so you don’t even get a clean start at the top of a piece of music.  Ward Jacobsen, the overnight guy, steadfastly refuses to identify conductors — which is also true of the others mentioned.  Only Bob Christiansen and Valerie Kahler sound like they had normal upbringings and no psychological baggage to translate into rotten, background Klassikal Muzak.
     
    Classical 24 is pure torture.
     
    Save your money, buy CDs, and don’t give it to any station carrying this service, except in limited stretches of time.

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 22, 2011 at 11:15 am

  46. Don Drewecki,

    I hope you noted in the interview that ben Roe said, as part of his answer to the first question, “So the American Public Media’s C-24 syndicated programming you hear on our station will now only run from 1 am to 5 am.”

    Would you agree with me that four hours in the middle of the night qualifies as “limited stretches of time,” so that contributions to CLNE are acceptable?

    Comment by Joe Whipple — October 22, 2011 at 2:37 pm

  47. Jow writes: “I hope you noted in the interview that ben Roe said, as part of his answer to the first question, “So the American Public Media’s C-24 syndicated programming you hear on our station will now only run from 1 am to 5 am.”
     
    Good, except that when you hear Ward Jacobsen, and his relentless refusal to identify conductors, you may be tempted to throw your radio at the wall — at 3 AM.
     
    dd

    Comment by Don Drewecki — October 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  48. What had happed yesterday did really happen?

    Yesterday I left my local grocery store, sat in a car, tuned to WCRB and discovered that they were playing the opining of the Mahler 3rd. I got instantly hypnotized how beautiful it was. It was slow enough and it was incredibly smart. It was expressive, it was meaningful, it was elegant and it was like never before. It had some second underlying super-meaning, so seldom happening with performance of Mahler 3rd. It had almost that Stanislavsky super-task feeling and I was immediately taken with the play.

    I quickly dove home which was just a mile away. The playback system was up and running and I spent next hour truly enjoying the performance. They never collapsed neither orchestra nor the conductor. The discipline of musicians was phenomenal but it was not constrained but superbly natural. It was like the orchestra was breathing with Sound.  All six movements flew like a dream and it was absolutely gorgeous.  It was the best Mahler 3rd I heard and I eagerly was waiting the host to announce who it was.  It turned out that it was Semyon Bychkov leading the WDR Symphony Orchestra from 2002 with Marjana Lipovšek signing along with Köln Cathedral Choir.  It turned out that the performance is available on CD: Avie AV0019, not in US but this is kind of expected.

    The event took place during the WCRB program by James David Jacobs, I have no idea how he dug it out. This morning I woke up and was still thinking about yesterday’s Mahler Third! It was FM at it’s absolutely the best. Thanks James!

    The Cat

    Comment by Romy the Cat — December 29, 2011 at 8:40 am

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