On tour in Berlin, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra streams live back to Heinz Hall | Blogh

On tour in Berlin, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra streams live back to Heinz Hall

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Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra - PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL SAHAIDA
  • Photo courtesy of Michael Sahaida
  • Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

On Sunday, in the midst of a 14-date European tour, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will capitalize on today's advances in digital infrastructure with a live-streamed performance from Berlin, and their first ever public simulcast at Heinz Hall and online at pittsburghsymphony.org.

“[The Berlin Philharmonic has] an incredible technical set-up there which is equivalent to the Met broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera,” says Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra President Melia Tourangeau. “So what we’re doing is basically taking advantage of that system and doing a live feed of the concert back to Heinz Hall in real time. It will be as if you’re sitting in Berlin watching the Pittsburgh Symphony.”

The concept for the Digital Music Hall, the Berlin Philharmonic’s in-house online concert streaming wing, started about 10 years ago. As music consumption shifted away from television, radio and CDs to the internet, the Berlin Philharmonic needed a new way to reach new audiences, even if the technology wasn’t quite there yet.

“At the beginning, HD streaming on the Internet was a tough challenge,” Tobias Möller, Director of Marketing and Communications at Berlin Phil Media, wrote in an email to City Paper. “But we are very happy that nowadays it has become very usual to enjoy audiovisual content online. However, you need to invest continuosly [sic] in all kinds of platforms because customers expect you to present your content on all media, from mobile devices to streaming devices and SmartTV.”

Digital streaming has become an integral tool for orchestras worldwide to reach new audiences as attendance and budgets have continued to shrink. The Detroit Symphony notably introduced their digital streaming capabilities in 2011, the first in the U.S. to do so. While the PSO hasn’t yet released their own digital streaming service — Berlin’s Digital Music Hall is a hired producer. Sunday’s performance will not stream on their channel — Sunday’s performance marks their first foray into live digital streaming from abroad.

Under Music Director Manfred Honeck, PSO’s Berlin performance will include pieces by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, with Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov. Back in Pittsburgh, the simulcast at Heinz Hall will be emceed by WQED’s Jim Cunningham.

“When I first came here, there were a lot of questions in the community of ‘what’s the value of international touring for this orchestra and what does it mean and why do we do it?’ And that type of thing. It’s an expensive venture,” says Tourangeau. “The purpose of this broadcast back to Heinz Hall is to say, ‘come and see what the world is actually seeing while we’re out and about.’”

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