Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, much like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, may be one of the most hackneyed pieces in classical music history. But it has found a powerful context in a new app developed by Deutsche Grammophon together with TouchPress. The third in a series combining catalogue recordings with video, synchronized scores and informative commentary, the iPad app juxtaposes a classic take by the English Concert under Trevor Pinnock with a recomposed version by the German composer Max Richter.
While the edition in many ways follows the format of the label’s first such app, ‘Beethoven 9', which received an impressive one million downloads following its release last year, the inclusion of a contemporary work adds a welcome new dimension. Users may not be able to jump seamlessly between four historic recordings as they could in the first app, but there is plenty of material offering insight into both Vivaldi’s original work and Richter’s updated take.
Alongside a normal score that moves in time with the music, the ‘Beat Map’ – a graphic display of pulsing dots that map the orchestra’s different sections – has been updated to allow users to isolate the audio of a specific instrument group during Richter's Vivaldi Recomposed. In an informative platform for both newcomers and connoisseurs, the app juxtaposes select bars of the original work with Richter’s electronic remix while allowing the composer to explain his working process in short video clips.
Violinist Daniel Hope, who performs on the original 2012 recording and appears here in video, and mandolin player Avi Avital join to explain their personal affinity to the music. There is also biographical information about the 'Red Priest’ Antonio Lucci Vivaldi enhanced with video commentary by BBC broadcaster Susy Klein that, again, has the potential to reach both informed listeners and newcomers.
Deutsche Grammophon took a plunge into cold water when it began repackaging albums for the app market. But as the label’s New Media Manager Rupert Wagg points out, there is a whole generation of consumers constantly visiting the App Store to see what is new. And whether non-Apple users like it or not (the app is available exclusively on iPad), no platform has the same draw as iTunes.
As strong an indicator of the new medium’s staying power as the number of downloads in cyberspace is the engagement of the label’s artists. In conversation at Universal Music’s Berlin headquarters shortly before the app’s release, Hope expressed his belief that the classical industry had finally arrived at an ideal convergence of music and new technology. ‘It’s taken a long enough time to get there,’ he admitted, ‘but I think this offers such a cross-section of ideas. You can bring it to many people on so many different levels.’
And if we’re lucky, Deutsche Grammophon will be able to take even greater risks in the future: Barbara Hannigan in Duttileux’s Correspondances? Gesualdo Madrigals? The frontier is wide open.