PostHeaderIcon Berlin’s Digital Hall:“Bravi”

Last week, our own Chicago Symphony Orchestra ended a successful tour of six European cities, including stops in the music capitals of Salzburg, Paris and Vienna. The orchestra also paid first-time visits to Luxembourg and Dresden, Germany.

Besides the tumultuous receptions the musicians received in each city, the two-week tour achieved a prime business objective: building the CSO’s fan base among old and new audiences abroad. And, in pursuit of that goal, touring and recordings remain the main brand-building tools of the major international orchestras—with one exception.



The Berlin Philharmonic, after several years of intense planning, has mastered the technology and raised the necessary corporate funding (courtesy of Deutsche Bank) to place many past and nearly all its current concerts on its “Digital Concert Hall”, the only product of its kind in the music world.

With an on-site studio providing digital transmission, the orchestra  broadcasts 30 live concerts a season from its home, The Philharmonie, to audiences around the world. This impressive global reach gives the Berliners and their leader, Sir Simon Rattle, a commanding new tool in branding toolbox.

Sir Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle

I had the pleasure of watching the orchestra’s season-opening concert on August 26. Rattle and the orchestra gave a dynamic, driving performance of Gustav Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. The video transmission on my Apple computer was flawless and the all-important sound quality didn’t disappoint.

While nothing can replace the special thrill of being part of a live audience in the hall, watching a highly-charged performance, from the comfort of one’s living room, minus all the costs of a night on the town is appealing.

The orchestra’s next live performance is this Sunday, September 18th, when they perform Mahler’s Eighth Symphony (appropriate during the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death), the “Symphony of a Thousand”. The work requires an augmented orchestra and several hundred choral forces. The financial and technical demands such a mammoth production presents are why it has been performed by Berlin only four times since World War II.

With its concert hall innovation, the Philharmonic has blazed a new musical path and offered music lovers an attractively-priced way to attend concerts. Especially attractive for students, elderly music lovers. those on limited incomes and listeners outside Germany.

Digital concert hall subscription options:You can buy a 48-hour ticket to one live concert with access to the orchestra’s archives (120 concerts featuring the world’s top conductors and soloists) for just $13 (which won’t even get you a seat in Orchestra Hall’s upper Gallery). The best introductory option is the 30-day pass for approximately $40 which provides access to the archives and 4 live concerts. A yearly subscription for 30 live concerts and archive access is $200.

Digital Concert Hall

Digital Concert Hall

My sole reservation with the season-opener was the absence of any introduction to the Mahler such as is provided to concertgoers by Program Notes at the hall. The Seventh is not a widely-known work in the Mahler canon and has gained a place in the orchestral repertoire only recently.

It would have been most useful to feature a welcoming host who could have provided neophytes and even knowledgeable listeners with a 4 or 5 minute overview of the symphony’s themes and their development in the score. Mahler was a contemporary composer whose shifting moods and melancholia often appeared in his works.

I urge serious music lovers and new fans alike to access and explore the Philharmonic’s website at I think you will echo my sentiments completely. I say, “Bravi” to Berlin!

POSTSCRIPT: Just announced, new 48-hour subscription that allows usage for a whole weekend: Subscription and 48-hour ticket.

Leave a Reply