EMI Classics, in collaboration with LiveHereNow, is to produce its first ‘instant CDs’ of two concerts at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. Berlioz’s Requiem, a work written for huge orchestral and choral forces, will be performed on 14 and 15 October by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, plus their combined choirs, under the baton of Valery Gergiev. At the end of each concert, the CDs will be burned apparently within minutes of the final chord, with audiences able to walk away with a copy of the concert they will have experienced only moments before.
This isn’t the first time that instant CDs have been produced, however. In October 2005, Markus Stenz and the Cologne-based Gürzenich Orchestra launched GO live!, a scheme that allowed audiences to take home recordings of their concerts. And in February 2006, John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists’ performance of Mozart symphonies were made available shortly afterwards, although they were produced during the interval and the second half of the concert. EMI’s disc will be, one assumes, produced considerably quicker.
That EMI is the first major classical music recording company to embark on such a venture demonstrates how the record industry is looking to revitalise its fortunes. Falling CD sales in recent years have meant that money is no longer available – in the quantities it used to be – for studio recordings of large operas and oratorios; record companies have been forced into an increasing number of cheaper ‘live’ recordings, many of which are taken from a number of performances and subsequently patched together.
It’s presumably hoped that the immediate nature of the recording will appeal to audience members who may still be in thrall to the power of the concert itself.