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Just in: Berlin and Tokyo revive their old classical axis

A peculiar partnership has been announced between the corporate-minded Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the consumrer electronics division of Sony Corporation. You can read the details – but not many specifics – in the press release below.

The deal does not mean that Berlin will be making lots of records for Sony Classical. No-one does that any more.

What it seems to mean is that the orch will be used as a demo vehicle for Sony’s new toys.

Nothing wrong with that. But read the two statements by the Sony samurai Masashi Imamura and the music director, Sir Simon Rattle. They do not seem to be singing off the same sheet.

One harks back in fond nostalgia to a non-existent alliance with Herbert von Karajan (who died before any deal was consummated) while the other talks of harnessing Sony gizmos to help the orchestra communicate with the world – something it is finding increasingly hard to do since recording died.

This deal will be well worth watching to see who gets least out of whom. Karajan was far too canny to have signed it.

Berliner Philharmoniker announce partnership with Sony Corporation


Berlin (29 August 2012) – The Berliner Philharmoniker and Sony Corporation have announced their new partnership ahead of the International Consumer Electronics Fair in Berlin (IFA). This will enable audiences around the world to participate in the orchestra’s concerts in the best possible quality thanks to online audiovisual technology from Sony.


Direct access to the Digital Concert Hall of the Berliner Philharmoniker is preinstalled on Internet-enabled TVs, Blu-ray disc players and audio systems from Sony, enabling viewers to watch more than 30 live concert broadcasts per season and all archive recordings and bonus material from the Digital Concert Hall in brilliant high-definition and excellent sound quality. To ensure technical excellence in the transmission of concerts, the Sony Corporation has made advanced production equipment such as cameras, editing and encoding technology available to the Digital Concert Hall.


Another step in the joint commitment to constantly improve the audiovisual reproduction technology will be demonstrated at IFA: Sony will present Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries played by the Berliner Philharmoniker in a stunning new 4K2K resolution.


Olaf Maninger (Principal Cellist and Media Chairman of the Berliner Philharmoniker): “Sony is an ideal partner for the Berliner Philharmoniker. We both share the conviction that reproducing great performances of classical music needs outstanding audio-visual technology. This has also been our guiding principle in the development of our Digital Concert Hall. We very much look forward to continuing this path together now with Sony and to sharing the music of the Berliner Philharmoniker with a global audience using state-of-the-art technology.”


Masashi Imamura (President of Sony Corporation’s Home Entertainment & Sound Business Group): “The partnership with Sony and the Berliner Philharmoniker is deeply rooted in their passion for music dating back to when the late Herbert von Karajan and the late Norio Ohga together unveiled the CD to the world. The Berliner Philharmoniker have been fostering the ability to perform superior music in the grandest of fashion, while Sony has been cultivating innovation in sound and video. By combining and further developing these unique and professional strengths, we aim to work with the Berliner Philharmoniker to create entertainment experiences which move the hearts of people around the world.”


Sir Simon Rattle (Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker) “We are thrilled that the relationship with Sony goes forward and renews itself in that Sony are supporting us by not only giving us new equipment, bringing us up to the fastest speed and quality that is there, but also that our Digital Concert Hall will be present as an integral part of a lot of Sony’s equipment, and it will be able to bring our music quicker, in better definition to more and more people. Sony is helping us to communicate, which is our most important work and dream.”


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  1. It means you can watch the Digital Concert Hall on your TV instead of your computer if you have Sony equipment. Nothing wrong with that is there? Berlin can expand it’s subscriber base and Sony gets the prestige of the Berlin Phil brand.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Interesting. My Samsung “smart TV” automatically installed Digital Concert Hall six months ago during an Internet update of applications. There are a few free samples available and it appears that one can subscribe or pay on a per-concert basis. Sony is no longer the leader in this technology with both Samsung and LG in the driver’s seat. I agree that by adding Berlin Phil, Sony will gain in prestige. Let’s hope that some of the sagging USA orchs follow this trend which can only increase their audience base and support.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        Correction: per-concert is not offered. A “ticket” grants access to the live concerts (about 40 per year), the archives, and special programming.

        48-hour ticket: 9.90 euros (about $12.50)
        30-day ticket: 29 euros (about $36.50)
        12-month ticket: 149 euros (about $187); one month is 14.90 renewable or cancellable at any time as a subscription..

        There is a concert archive, and special programs (including historic videos). Video and sound quality is stunning. The above prices appear current and were copied from my TV screen.

  2. People do not want to watch the Digital Concert Hall on their computer, I doubt whether this will change on a TV set.
    The performances are filmed with remote cameras at fixed positions, if you have seen one you have seen “many of them” at once, they all follow one visual concept, it turns out to be quite boring. The “soul” is missing, this model does not work. As an information and PR vehicle this is a valid format, however it is no business model which leads to monetization for the orchestra. Anybody have official numbers of subscribers to the service ????
    Music lovers want the live experience, in order to recount this experience a good audio performance on CD is good enough. No contract whatsoever with SONY will substantially increase the subscriber base . By the way, Deutsche Bank is the financial sponsor of the project.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      When I am seated at a concert, I also tend to be in a fixed position. The robotic cameras, when controlled by a director with imagination, give a rather good variety of views even if they are not as exciting as traveling cameras on stage and around the Hall (but they are also less intrusive for the “live” audience). Because I am an older misanthropic curmugeonly music lover, I actually enjoy the TV concerts live from Berlin or almost anywhere. Are they as good as a live concert? It depends on my mood and how many people are coughing, sneezing, and talking nearby. Yes, Deutsche Bank is clearly but discreetly listed as the sponsor (bravo to them!) How many banks are supporting similar efforts in other countries. I would be curious to know. In the USA, that kind of backing (from a financial institution) is all but unknown today.

      • “In the USA, that kind of backing (from a financial institution) is all but unknown today.”

        Mr. Fitzpatrick, you are an inexhaustible dispenser of bad information.

        There is not a major bank in the country, regional or money center, that does not give significant sums to orchestras in its areas of operations. In fact, several orchestras bear subscription series named after their major bank donors.

        For example, PNC, by itself, is eating a significant portion of Baltimore’s annual losses, which are enormous. Even though PNC is headquartered in Pittsburgh, it is underwriting Baltimore because it acquired a Baltimore bank and believed, in doing so, that it also acquired Baltimore civic obligations.

        Fifth Third underwrites Cincinnati. Keycorp underwrites Cleveland. UBS underwrites the NYPO. Mellon, Bank Of American and US Bancorp underwrite too many orchestras to mention. I could go on and on.

        Deutsche Bank is insolvent. Germany, like France, Italy and Spain, is now a nation without a single solvent bank. If these institutions were subject to American accounting principles and banking rules, they would all be closed.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          OMG, thnx. I always wanted to be inexhaustible. Yeah for the banks. PNC, they’re perfect. I did say “all but”…a little credit please. The point is that those banks in the USA write off their support to orchs for tax purposes. The more they lose, the the more they write off. It’s perfect. Excuse me for being a total cynic on the US banking industry (and all the others world-wide, I might add). I’m happy to see that you support them and that you have put me in my place as a purveyor of misinformation. But, it won’t stop me…

          Oh, I forgot. what I really meant to say in my wine (French) soaked stupor is that many years ago, US banks actually paid for foreign tours and all kinds of goodies to benefit classical music in the US. OMG, I must stop now…

          • Yes, indeed, I would stop if I were you.

            When banks are losing money, they cannot take deductions for charitable contributions. Deductions may only be applied against profits—and charitable contributions, unlike losses, do not carry forward; they may only be used in the year in which they are made.

            Consequently, “the more they lose, the more they write off” is a ridiculous and vastly ignorant statement, representing the very opposite of reality.

            PNC gave several million dollars during loss years to the Baltimore Symphony. Bank Of American maintained its lavish support of American art museums during the years it was suffering massive losses. The same was true of countless other institutions, which continued to give, generously, while economic conditions were at their very worst.

            The one bank that significantly decreased the sums of money given to charitable organizations during the downtown was Birmingham-based Regions Financial, the only American institution yet to repay TARP funds. Regions Financial currently operates under a variety of federal restrictive orders, all of which effectively prevent the bank from making meaningful charitable contributions.

        • “Deutsche Bank is insolvent. Germany, like France, Italy and Spain, is now a nation without a single solvent bank. If these institutions were subject to American accounting principles and banking rules, they would all be closed.”

          You are kidding, right? Because that’s the silliest bunch of horse sh_t I have heard in a while.

          • There have only been about 1000—maybe 2000, perhaps even 3000—private and government research reports issued in Zurich, London, New York and Washington pointing out that, Switzerland aside, there no longer are any solvent private banks on the continent.

            This issue has been covered—endlessly, relentlessly, mercilessly, tediously—in the business press.

            Yet I am not surprised that this is news to you . . .

        • “Deutsche Bank is insolvent. Germany, like France, Italy and Spain, is now a nation without a single solvent bank.”
          Oh dear. Someone hasn’t done even the most basic research before shooting their mouth off, have they?
          Last time I looked, Deutsche Bank made a net profit of 661 million euros in the second quarter and a core Tier 1 ratio — a measure of a bank’s financial strength — of a healthy 10.1%, above Europe’s new stricter banking requirements.
          So I’d be very intrigued to know where you get your information from and how you define “solvency” and “insolvency”.
          Certainly not the way everyone else does, it seems.
          Get your facts right, please.

          • Excuse typo. Core Tier 1 ratio of 10.2%.

            If “1000—maybe 2000, perhaps even 3000—private and government research reports” have been issued on the subject, then it should be the easiest thing in the world for you provide to quote from them or a reference.

          • This has been covered, at dreary length, in the business press.

            Deutsche Bank is carrying billions and billions and billions of loans on the books at full value that are totally worthless. Not only are non-performing assets not being declared, they are also being carried at full value on the books. If generally-accepted accounting principles were being applied, the bank would have zero capital at present and zero value as an ongoing enterprise—which is why European banks are foreclosed from going to the world’s capital markets, and are now forced to deal exclusively with the lender of last resort, the ECB.

            It’s called Latin American accounting—a fiction accomplished with the full compliance of the ECB, which is desperately trying to keep the system afloat. In the entire European Union of today, only Switzerland and the U.K. have solvent banks.

            American banks with European holdings must now do widely-publicized “stress tests” every six months, a requirement of the Federal Reserve Board and The Comptroller Of The Currency. In the “stress tests”, they must assess the impact upon their operations of a collapse of the European banking system.

          • You claim there are 3,000 private and government research reports backing up your risible statements, but can’t provide a single reference to even just one of them.
            Then you cite the “business press” but can’t offer even a single named source.
            As someone who has been working as a financial journalist for the past 20 years and who writes about the debt crisis — with particular emphasis on the ECB — on a daily basis, I can assure you I am pretty up to date as to what my colleagues are writing about and I have come across NO article either in the European or US press that will back you up.
            Deutsche Bank isn’t insolvent, using either IFRS or GAAP, but from your comments I can only assume you have no knowledge or understanding of such issues anyway.
            You appear not to have even the most fundamental knowledge about Europe either. If you did, you wouldn’t count Switzerland as a member of the EU.

          • Read the 10-K. It is a public document.

            Switzerland is in the geographic EuroZone—and I am well aware that Switzerland is not a member of the EEU and maintains its own currency.

            A genuine European financial journalist would know, all too well, that all continental banks, Switzerland aside, are sitting on billions and billions of unrealized losses. The figures are unimaginable. Deferring, indefinitely, realization of those losses is what the current accounting shenanigans are all about.

          • The eurozone consists of the 17 countries that share the single currency.
            Switzerland is not one of them.
            If you are aware that Switzerland is not an EU member, why did you write:
            “In the entire European Union of today, only Switzerland and the U.K. have solvent banks.”
            I have read the 10-K. And there is no figure anywhere in it which indicates that Deutsche Bank is insolvent.

          • Drew, do you seriously think the US situation is any better when it comes to the mountains of foul debt and towers of paper money they are sitting on?
            Forget debt, it’s never going to be paid back.
            What matters are real assets and trade surpluses, read actual production of valuable goods and services, after the world monetary system collapses
            Looks bad for the US. All the US has going for them is the biggest gun and a money printing machine. But what of value does the US produce? And what kind of culture does it represent? Where are the assets? How well educated is the average population?
            I would predict Europe is quite self sustainable, while the US has lost the assets and knowledge how to be self sustainable. Instead the US prints itself out of its productive crisis and pays it’s economically usurped producers with that fiat money. That system will collapse, one day nobody wants paper dollars anymore, and then it is game over.

          • You are being contumacious.

            I wrote “geographic EuroZone” very specifically so that you would not be able to take something out of context, which you nevertheless did. My earlier remark was, I believe, quite clear in context as well, at least to a reasonable person, the only standard I am capable of observing.

          • Wanderer, I worry grievously. We are in a terrible, terrible situation.

            But Europe’s situation is far, far worse, and Europe sits on a demographic disaster which it is probably too late for Europe to address and attempt to correct.

            And, unlike Europe and Asia, we have not moved back into recession yet (although we very well could in the very near future).

            Sorry, but that’s the best answer I can give without going on and on and on . . .

          • I’m just taking you at your word. If you can’t express yourself clearly, that’s your problem, not mine.

            So let’s sum up the state of play, shall we.

            You claimed there were 3,000 or more private and government research reports that say Deutsche Bank is insolvent.
            When pressed, you couldn’t provide a reference. Not a single one from 3,000+.

            Then you claimed the “business press” has widely and extensively covered Deutsche Bank’s “insolvency”.
            But when pressed, you couldn’t come up with a single, quotable source. Not one.

            And now you say it’s all in Deutsche Bank’s own quarterly report.
            But guess what? Lo and behold, when pressed, you can’t provide a single line to back you up.

            I don’t think more needs to be said on the matter, do you?

          • You continue to be contumacious.

            And I express myself very clearly and very lucidly; even one such as yourself, with very limited English-language skills, should be able to comprehend my writing with ease.

            And a 10-K is not a quarterly report.

            Here is a suggested web search for you: “European Banking Crisis Deutsche Bank”.

            There are 3,900,000 search results for you to wade through at your leisure.

            And I do not mean to suggest that there are not countless other searches that will provide you with information on the topic.

            And you might want to add “47 Billion Euros” or “48 Billion Euros” to one of your web searches, because that is the best current estimate how much Deutsche Bank is on the hook.

          • Drew, forget that GDP benchmark you indirectly cite when it comes to benchmarks for a recession.
            GDP includes printed money. Much of the GDP of the US is simply hot air. Someone billing someone else for a virtual asset, a service rendered, a virtual booking of virtual money. That’s just Voodoo bookkeeping. And of the major economic powers of the world it seems the US is most affected by it.

            What matters at the end of the day when the fiat money hot air balloon collapses is how you can put food on the table, how much of real world assets, infrastructure, cultural life, production of goods for real world purposes etc. you have.

            And how well educated, ambitious, mentally and physically fit your population is.

            Imagine the US without all the paper dollars and without their worldwide gun wielding military and their banksters that control economic flows riding in the wake of this presence of brute power?
            What’s left?

          • It’s always a sign of intellectual bankruptcy and defeat when somebody resorts to insults and name-calling.
            In Europe, we tend to grow out of that level of discourse when we leave the school playground behind us.

            So just to be clear for someone of my obviously limited intelligence:
            you are being “lucid” and “clear” when, in using the terms the “European Union” and the “eurozone”, you don’t actually mean those entities of the same name that everyone else in the world understands and refers to.

            Finally, if you could provide — for a no-brain such as myself — a web search that would direct me to an article which says “Deutsche Bank is insolvent” as you initially claimed, I would be more than happy.

            But you can’t. Such an article doesn’t exist.
            Your statement above dated August 30 is factually wrong.

    • For me it’s a great product. I watch DCH occasionally on a big screen with a beamer and with a good audio system. Very enjoyable. It’s only a matter of time until internet and TV are happening on the same device for everybody, it has already started. If anything, DCH is a bit ahead of it’s time. But the future of media consumption is over the internet.
      As for the missing “soul”… that’s always missing in recordings and videos. I find their pictures adequate and totally sufficient to relay some information about space and people, both on stage and in the audience. Just like in a concert experience, even a bit better. The possibilities of picture are very limited in a concert recording anyway and the pictures are always boring. I don’t know any concert video I find exciting for the picture alone. Actually all theses directors who try to do something special with orange and blue lighting etc. often annoy me because I don’t care about a light show. I want to hear the music and have the visual sense give some guidance for the ear. Frequent edits, fast zooms and shifting perspectives just stress the musically oriented listener out.
      As far as profit is concerned, these formats probably will be successful, when they just brake even. I doubt it can be a money maker for the forseeable future. It’s value is in the live worldwide presence and audience the orchestra can achieve with that, which indirectly of course also creates monetary and idealistic value for them.

  3. The opening concert of the new BPO season was streamed live (free, sponsored by Deutsche Bank) and I watched it with great enjoyment on my 24-inch PC screen, not my big widescreen set. In fact, I was able to receive the high quality (720 and 1080) streams more reliably than the low-res streams. The camera work was, on the whole, good, but with too many tight closeups of the performers as is typical of shot composition when viewed on smaller studio monitor screens. The remote controlled cameras might be in fixed locations but they can be panned and zoomed like a human-controlled camera with less distraction to the audience and probably also to the performers. I watched with semi-horror some of the recent streams from the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall where a traveling camera moved across practically the whole width of the orchestra. I can’t imagine that this was not visible to the audience and probably distracting to those close to the stage.

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