Streaming services haven’t done for western classical music what they have for other genres. Lovers of classical are typically purists and want no compromise in quality, including the drop in quality from using anything that involves compression as it means loss of important detail.
But like everything else, classical music is also available on streaming services. The problem is that it’s a big mess. As fans know very well, most formats for classical works such as symphonies, concertos and sonatas, are divided into multiple parts or movements. Listeners want to be able to hear a work with all its movements and that too, in the correct order. But that’s not necessarily how they’re served up when you search.
Classical music listeners are also particular about specific performances, conductors, orchestras, recordings and labels. When you want to listen to Beethoven’s 9th, you may want to hear the performance conducted by Herbert Von Karajan when the Berlin Wall came down. If you’re in the mood for Rachmaninov’s incredible Piano Concerto No 2, you may search for the performance by Vladimir Ashkenazy. With all parts intact and in sequence. This is the problem that Apple’s new Classical app tries to solve.
The company slipped in the Apple Music Classical app this March but it’s very much tied to the Apple Music app. You will need to be a subscriber to that, given which you can download and use the separate Classical app from the App Store. It’s not yet available for Android. The Classical app is free and has been introduced through the main Apple Music app.
Within the Classical app there is a familiar look as it sensibly tries to look like the main music app. There are the familiar Listen, Browse, Library and Search tabs. For those just beginning to be acquainted with classical music, can settle on the Home Screen of the app - the Listen tab — or the Browse section and click into all the curated and organised sections to go ahead and explore and discover. For instance, click into Composers to explore music by the names you’ve always heard about - or indeed, loved for years. Works are organised by popularity and include editors’ choice recommendations. You can also learn a little about each artist or composer by reading the small bios included for each. Beginners can start with “The Story of Classical audio guides” which blend expert commentary and selected works to introduce key composers, periods, instruments, and classical terminology. For devotees, there’s the chance to go behind the scenes of selected recordings as leading classical artists offer track-by-track audio commentary. Plus, every week, there are picks to choose from. For the initiated, there are hand-picked Hidden Gems highlighting a selection of lesser-known works, while Composer Undiscovered playlists bring a new perspective to famous names.
The app’s editors have so far created over 700 playlists to guide listeners through 800 years of music, and more will be added. The really interesting thing is how there are so many avenues or routes available for exploration - via playlists, composers, conductors, period, orchestras, sub-genres, and obviously also instruments such as the piano or cello.
What also enhances listening is the fact that hi-res and spatial audio is supported, provided your speakers or headphones are compatible. All in all if you’re a lover of Western classical or want to develop your knowledge and enjoyment of the genre, it’s now much easier to do.