IN: News & Features

Live from Tanglewood, It’s Saturday Night!


RKOlogoSerious BSO listeners and classical lovers always have the fine live WCRB broadcasts, plus CRB’s superb Concert Channel archives, to get their Tanglewood or Symphony Hall fix. But we live in visual times, and shorter-attention times, in case you hadn’t noticed. And to that end, Saturday nights at 9:05 the BSO has been live-video-streaming a selected 15 minutes of the Tanglewood performance via We’re halfway through, so for the next three weeks, be there or be square.

The time constraint is due (of course) to American Federation of Musician union regulations for orchestra promos. There is no connection with the simultaneous CRB broadcasts, and while audio quality is unknown at press time, we request that BMInt readers who caught the first three weeks already past, report (15 minutes from the Saint-Saëns Violin Concerto, Mozart 39, and Sibelius 5).

This Saturday sees, or rather hears, the first movement of Beethoven 7 under the orchestra’s music director, and anyone who heard Andris Nelsons’s indoors rendition last winter knows the power and excitement likely to be in store. The August 5th video stream is Brahms Serenade 2 IV and V under Giancarlo Guerrero, and the 12th’s is La Mer II and III under Dutoit.

It may not be the Evening at Symphony of yore, and excerpting movements may not be haute enough for many of us, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Per the BSO, it’s “a pilot test project to assess the level of interest in this kind of access.” We wish all involved every success!



5 Comments [leave a civil comment (others will be removed) and please disclose relevant affiliations]

  1. We have heard from BSO staff and musicians. Many in the organization are determined to use new media in new ways to expose new people to the BSO and to Tanglewood. Carmina Burana on the first Saturday night was streamed live and complete to Symphony Hall, where free tickets were available. But as noted, there is no video-streaming complete concerts without substantial payment.

    The choice by WCRB to delay the Sunday Tanglewood broadcasts to evening has pros and cons. For increase in listening audience, it also means that any artist who refuses permission for delayed broadcasts (as Seth MacFarlane and Bernadette Peters have done in their Pops appearances) won’t be heard on Boston radio at all. Some publishers refuse to permit delayed or demand broadcast of specific works, which is why Carmina Burana was heard only live (the publisher had wanted thousands for the right to repeat the broadcast, and it is unavailable on demand as well). WCRB did not broadcast the Tanglewood Great American Songbook Pops concert with MacFarlane (although WFCR did); the MacFarlane-less first half will be available from the BSO website.

    Regardless, the streaming system encodes audio and video at different target bitrates in order to be playable by the largest number of devices, and the best bitrates are high-quality indeed: video is what’s screened at Shed rear, and all audio is AAC. The detailed specs are at

    Comment by david moran — July 29, 2016 at 5:59 pm

  2. I tuned in tonight to watch and listen to the opening of Beethoven 7, starting after 9:30, I believe. I heard nothing too untoward sonically, but to my mind it was not a success just from many dropouts and stalls (Fios, Boston suburb), plus the video is not good-quality on motion.

    Audio when steady was very fine.

    Camerawork on casual watching was also fine, better or at least less pointed, more unobtrusive, than the Jordan Whitelaw days. I would say that everyone does this now, yet on cable you still see some pretty musically klutzy focusing and cutting and editing.

    The stream ended before the movement did, marginally, alas.

    I do not see that this is going to have significant appeal or market / audience effect in such small bites. Let us hope so.

    A musically sophisticated concertgoer watching pointed out that Nelsons in tonight’s Tanglewood summer white duds looks rather like a chocolatier, the step up from pastry chef, especially the sleeves.

    Comment by david moran — July 31, 2016 at 1:20 am

  3. Home PC, 720p setting.

    Comment by david moran — July 31, 2016 at 1:21 am

  4. The streaming system encodes audio and video at 3 different target bit-rates in order to be playable by the largest number of devices. In this mode the system encodes an HD, Medium and Mobile version listed here:

    HD 720p — 1280×720; 2,000kbps; AUDIO: 48k 320kbps AAC
    Medium — 768×432; 550kbps; AUDIO: 44k 128kbps AAC
    Mobile — 480×270; 150kbps; AUDIO: 22k 48kbps AAC

    Comment by Lee Eiseman — July 31, 2016 at 6:05 pm

  5. A couple of notes: Although one of these brief streams was on a Saturday night (July 30, with the first movement of Beethoven 7 under Andris Nelsons), all the rest are/were on Friday nights.

    The August 5 stream started at the beginning of the concert at around 8pm, with the pre-concert comments by Jamie Somerville (this was an “underscore” evening), and the musical portion, which was the first few movements of the Dvorak Wind Serenade, lasted about 25 minutes rather than the promised 15. The August 12 one is scheduled to begin around 9:15 with the latter two sections of La Mer under Charles Dutoit. It pays to check on the website in advance, and to open that web page early in case the program starts early or late (timing can be unpredictable, especially when picking up mid-way through the concert).

    I have seen the most recent three of these streams, and can report that—at least in the “HD” version—they look and sound fine. No audio or video dropouts here. To those in the shed, the remote-controlled cameras are completely unobtrusive, and the absence of “nostril cams” is not a problem because there’s plenty of detail in more distant shots of entire sections, which are tastefully chosen. I haven’t done a serious comparison of audio quality with the radio broadcasts (likely to be more dynamically compressed) or the on-demand streams (likely to sound about the same as the live video streams).

    Comment by Stephen H. Owades — August 9, 2016 at 1:24 am

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