Saturday, July 30, 2011

35 Complete Sets of Beethoven Symphonies on Spotify

Recordings are sorted chronologically, click links below for reviews:

Weingartner 1927-38, Furtwangler 1942-44,  Furtwangler 1948-54,  Scherchen 1951-54, Karajan 1951-1955, Toscanini 1950s,  Jochum 1950s, Krips late 1950s, Szell 1957-67,  Walter 1958-63, Karajan 1963, Bernstein 1960s, Jochum, 1967-69, Solti, early 1970s, Bernstein 1970s, Karajan, 1975-77, Ferencsik 1970s, Hogwood, 1980s,  Wand 1985-88, Muti 1980-1992, Karajan mid-1980s, Abbado 1986, Solti 1986-89, Masur late 1980s - early 1990s Harnoncourt 1991, Gardiner 1994, Haitink 1990s, Davis 1990s, Barenboim 1999, Abbado 2000, Abbado 2001, Hickox, 2004, Nelson 2006, Pletnev 2007, Tremblay 2010, Krivine 2011.

Spotify is silently making huge progress on converting their library to 320 kbps, 27 of the 34 sets (one is not available in the UK)  are already available in HQ. See log file here.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Beethoven Symphonies Box-sets (35 tracks, total time: 9 hours). It features the opening movement of the Eroica symphony from every set. Use Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse.

I left out some low-budget, outdated recordings, there's no point to spend time on them when you can get most of the other "full price" recordings on Spotify. There's also numerous individual recordings of outstanding Beethoven symphony performances on Spotify, like Kleiber's 7th and Casals' 8th, but we cannot include them here in this index for complete sets.

For American users, only 17 sets are currently available in your place, please uncheck "Hide unplayable tracks" in preferences if you want to browse the full list.

Lastly, a great free ebook: On the performance of Beethoven's symphonies (1900) by Weingartner.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norwegian Composers On Spotify

"The greatest of all the accomplishments of 20th century science has been the discovery of human ignorance" — Lewis Thomas

The tragedy in Norway this week once again reminds us that ignorance is still the greatest enemy of humanity. All I can hope is, we may reach a better understanding of each other through the power of music.

This playlist features 20 Norwegian composers: Ole Bull (1810-1880), Johan Svendsen (1840-1911), Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864-1925), Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935), Fartein Valen (1887-1952), Harald Sæverud (1897-1992), Eivind Groven (1901-1977), Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981), Edvard Hagerup Bull (1922-), Finn Mortensen (1922-1983), Edvard Fliflet Bræin (1924-1976), Arne Nordheim (1931-2010), Alfred Janson (1937-), Ketil Hvoslef (1939-), Lasse Thoresen (1949-), Rolf Wallin (1957-), Ståle Kleiberg (1958-), Dagfinn Koch (1964-), Asbjørn Blokkum Flø (1973-).

Here's the Spotify playlist:  Norwegian Composers (20 tracks, total time: 2 hours) Tracks are arranged by composers chronologically, as listed above. This playlist is inspired by Alex Ross's tweet. Further listening: Fartein Valen: The Four Symphonies.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Search For Classical Music On Spotify

After the US launch, I've seen more than a few complaints about Spotify's metadata and search function from classical fans that are new to this service. Yes it is not perfect, and a bit tricky to figure out how to use it for classical music in a short time all by yourself. I've been using Spotify for two years and I hope this tutorial will be helpful for you to get the most out of Spotify.

First, let us be fair, Spotify is not responsible for the metadata problem. They got contents from dozens of classical labels, each of them tag their albums differently. It would be nice if they could re-tag all contents using a uniform standard, like Naxos did for all the contents on Naxos Music Library (that's why all Naxos related contents are tagged properly on Spotify too), but as a start-up I don't think at this moment it's worth the time and money for Spotify to correct it just for a few classical fans like us, I mean, market-wise.

Secondly, I think Spotify's metadata is not that bad. If you know what you are specifically looking for, most of the time you can find it right away. Just like their instant playback, there's almost no response time in search either (unlike in iTunes Store you have to wait for a page to load).

Let's get started: You can find the official introduction to search on the Spotify page. Here I'll try to elaborate a little bit for classical music fans specially. All links in examples are click-able and are linked to the search results in Spotify. First example: If you are looking for Harnoncourt's Beethoven Symphony No. 8, simply search for Harnoncourt Beethoven Symphony No8 and the next second you are already listening to it.

Search tips:

1, Less is more. Note that in the above example, you don't need to add Symphony into the search query, because Harnoncourt didn't record Beethoven's piano sonata No.8 or string quartet No.8, and some labels might tag it as Symphonie.

2, Precision is import too. If you are looking for Mozart's Piano Concerto No.20, you'd better search for Mozart Concerto No20, even though some label might tag it as concerti. If you just use Mozart No20  the results would also include symphony no.20 etc.

3, Label search: many excellent classical labels are already on Spotify, you can find them by search for label:name. Like: EMI, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, Harmonia Mundi, CPO, Mode and many more. Try it for yourself, note that for two-word label names, you need to add a dash, like label:harmonia-mundi. Or use quotes, like label:"deutsche grammophon"

4, Year. Want to know who many new Liszt recordings are released in his bicentenary year? Search for: Year:2011 Liszt. You can also choose time frame, like year:2009-2011 Bruckner.

5, Artist. You can search for artist:Szell Beethoven, to get all Beethoven conducted by George Szell, but I suggest you to just use Szell Beethoven. Because in some cases, the artists tags don't include the conductor or soloist's name, like this album.

6, Album. This one is very useful, if you want to see a series of album covers and titles in search results, instead of a long list of tracks, you can try like this: szell album:beethoven. Note that you should use Beethoven for album title search, not Szell. Because most albums names are tagged with composer names, but not always include the performer's.

7, Genre. This may work well for other genres like Math Rock, but it simply doesn't work for classical so far. It seems that the labels don't even bother to tag the classical albums as classical. Just did a search for Year:2011 Genre:Classical on Spotify US and the result is empty. There are already 700 new recordings in my 2011 new classical releases playlist (not including re-issues).

8, Combinations. Some labels are not exclusively focused on classical music, like Nonesuch, or Sony/BMG. If you want to find all Beethoven recordings on Nonesuch (including the piano sonatas by Richard Goode), simply add Beethoven to the label search, like: label:nonesuch beethoven.

More examples, the Great Conductors series on EMI: label:emi great conductors (see playlist here).

All DG Karajan reissues from the past ten years: label:deutsche-grammophon year:2001-2011 Karajan

All Bach cantata recordings on Harmonia Mundi: label:harmonia-mundi bach cantatas.

9, Plurality makes a difference: Here's one thing you should note, Cantatas and Cantata may give you different results. Because there might be a recording of one cantata or an aria in a recital album or compilation, so search for cantata might give you more results. But if you only want to see albums that features Bach cantatas alone, search for cantatas instead.

10, An advanced trick. If you search for Mahler's 2nd symphony, it takes a lot of time to scroll down and browse the full list because there are dozens of recordings on Spotify. Here, you can search for Mahler track:Urlicht instead. Urlicht (Primeval Light) is the title of the fourth movement, so the results give you a easy-to-browse list of albums of Mahler 2nd and only one track per album. Another example: Mozart Requiem track:Confutatis or simply, Mozart Requiem Confutatis.

11, This fan-made search page also makes searching for albums easier: Searchify.

12, Use this site Spotify Classical Playlists as a reference. Even though many recordings available on Spotify UK are not on Spotify USA yet, you can still browse my playlists to get an idea of how extensive Spotify's classical catalog is. And I believe Spotify is doing their best to offer their US customers the same catalog as in Europe.

That's what I can come up with for now. Enjoy the listening. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or want to teach me a trick or two, please leave a comment, thanks.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Naxos 18th Century Classics On Spotify

Most Naxos albums are available on Spotify USA in their entirety, so I share this as the first playlist after the US launch. Quote from Naxos:

"Together with music publishing house Artaria, Naxos brings to you its 18th Century Classics series aimed at the rediscovery of music by Haydn's lesser known and sometimes forgotten contemporaries.

The series' two cycles focus on the symphony and concerto in the 18th century. Thanks to this innovative project, recorded works of composers such as Beck, Dussek, Kraus, Hofmann and Vanhal are now made accessible to a wider audience worldwide."

I arranged the albums by composer names alphabetically, according to the Naxos page, where you can find reviews and album booklets like this. A sampler disk, The World of 18th Century Classics was placed at the beginning, to offer an overview.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Naxos 18th Century Classics (483 tracks, total time: 1 day) It looks better in Album view.

Spotify Bitrategate, The Story So Far (Update: Problem Solved)

Important Update (23/09/2011): Spotify's Official Statement: "All music streamed through Spotify is of high quality (no less than 96 kbps for mobile and 160 kbps for desktop). We have a catalog of more than 15 million tracks and more than 99.9% are available in high bitrate (320 kbps) for our Premium users. Our catalog adds an average of 10,000 new tracks daily and we add the newly added tracks as quickly as possible."


“Premium members deserve premium sound quality.”

“I guess premium members also deserve to be ignored…” A customer on GetSatisfaction

Spotify introduced 320 kbps streaming back in June 2009. Since then, no official statement on the conversion progress has been made. The closest I can find is on their support forum, GetSatisfaction, a Spotify employee Andres said about 60% of their music were available in 320 kbps. That was from one year ago.

So, as a premium user, what would you expect now? 80%, 90% or all Spotify music is available in 320 kbps streaming?

I did a simple test: After restarting my Macbook, I used a freeware, Magican Paster Lite to monitor the internet traffic. I saved the tracks one by one to an offline playlist, and the downloaded data shows the file size of the tracks.

I tested five tracks each from Spotify’s new singles/albums, and currently most popular singles/albums, taken from the official playlists and Top Lists in Spotify's desktop client. The results are very disappointing. The majority (13 out of 20 tracks) of the newest and most popular stuff are only available in 160 kbps, even the latest high profile release, Beyoncé’s 4, which was a Spotify Premium exclusive pre-release, is not in HQ.

I raised this question through Quora, GetSatisfaction and Spotify’s contact forum, and got two emails from custom service:

“We aim to have all the world’s music available at Spotify in HQ. We are still in the process of acquiring licenses to all music in the world (!), therefore it is possible that you won’t be able to find some of your favorite artists or tracks in HQ right now. We are signing new labels and adding a great amount of new tracks every week. Hopefully your favorite music will be up and running in 320 kbps soon.”

After I asked him why they needed a different license for HQ streaming, he then replied:

"I am sorry I was unclear, the quality issue has not that much to do with actual licenses, but rather which copies the labels hand us with. The goal for us is to obtain ALL music in HQ, but at the moment not every record is available in multiple qualities."

I find this answer rather vague. A friend in the licensing business, who has licensed their contents to Spotify, told me that: all streaming services, including Spotify, get music from content providers in lossless format. He said what he did with Spotify is uploading their contents in Flac to a FTP, with a xml file for metadata. I believe that’s the way Spotify got most, if not all their content. Otherwise, they will have to ask the content providers for 96 kbps (for mobile low-quality streaming), 160 kbps, and 320 kbps ogg files, and 320 kbps MP3 files for Spotify’s download service. Besides, Spotify’s ogg files are encrypted, how can  the content providers do that?

I did another test on July 6th. I used, and Spotibot each to generate 40 random tracks. The first one seems to be randomly selected from a rather mainstream catalog, and the Spotibot one looks really random. I then switched to my other PC, with Spotify freshly installed (to make sure no cache interferes the test), and saved the tracks one by one into a offline playlist. I used a freeware Net Meter to monitor the size of downloaded data.

Since the file size difference between 160 and 320 kbps ogg files are obvious, a 4 minutes song in 160 kbps is about 5 MB and and normally more than 10 MB in 320 kbps, I believe my results are accurate.

See the statistical results of my investigations in this spreadsheet on Google Docs:

Only 35 of the 115 tested tracks are in high quality.

It is worth noting that, more than 100 of the 115 tracks are already available for purchase as 320 kbps MP3s on Spotify. I don’t know how much time Spotify spent on launching the MP3 store, but it seems obtaining their catalog in 320 kbps is not something they cannot get done in two years.  I can give you a rough estimate: an ordinary dual-core computer can convert an 10-track, 40-minute album from Flac to q9 ogg (320 kbps) in two minutes (at most). That is 12 seconds for one track.


So it only takes 3 home computers to convert Spotify’s whole 15-million tracks catalog into 320 kbps ogg files in two years time. Or, I guess, one 8-core workstation will suffice?

So why Spotify hasn’t done this yet? Honestly I have no idea. The only explanation I can imagine is to save bandwidth, but that seems to be too trivial a reason for not delivering goods to paid customers who took it for granted since 2009. Remember we are talking about a company who aims at getting 50 millions US users in first year. Since last week I asked many Spotify directors on Twitter, but no direct answer. CEO Daniel Ek said, to my big surprise, “Don’t know the answer but I’ll look it up for you!” Nothing came up so far, except for those two email quoted above. To me their reactions to this issue are like this:

I hope Spotify pay enough attention to this problem, it’s not a feature request, but giving Premium users what they are paying for. In another word, It might not be an exaggeration to say that Spotify is in danger of being accused of false advertising here.

I believe the majority of Spotify premium users are under the impression that most of Spotify’s catalog is already available in 320 kbps. Because after they announced the news of high bit rate in June 2009, most media press and online sources just refer to the Premium sound quality as 320 kbps, without noting that not all tracks are currently available in HQ.

A few examples:

Spotify Blog:

“Initially, not all tracks will be available at the higher bit rate. We’ve begun converting the most popular tracks first and over the next few of weeks and months we’ll be adding more and more high quality tracks until the entire catalogue is available in hi-fi.”


“…or optional q9 (approx ~320kbit/s) for Premium subscribers, the highest streaming rate for any online service.”


“Initially the most popular tracks will be available at the higher bit rate, with the entire catalogue converted to 320 kb/s over the next few weeks.”

and this quote from an interview:

“Currently we offer the option of listening at 320kbps on Spotify Premium and we use the Ogg Vorbis codec, which is considered to be very good amongst audiophiles,” defended Söderström.

Yes on their official site: Spotify do declare that “not all tracks are currently available in high bitrate”. But from a consequentialist’s point of view, it still looks like de facto false advertising. How many Premium users would expect that after two years, even the majority of new and Premium exclusive contents are only in 160 kbps?

If you are a premium user and also angry about this, please do something to persuade Spotify to speed up the long overdue conversion to 320 kbps streaming. Please ask questions on GetSatisfaction, Twitter, Facebook, Quora or contact their customer services, let’s hope our effort would make Spotify more transparent to users. Thanks.

Lastly, dear Spotify, I want to emphasize that: you are perfectly OK not giving users essential features like gapless playback or iPad app, at most you lose some customers, anyway you cannot please them all with scarce resources. But this is different: it could get into a lawsuit and you might even have to refund premium users if the case went wild. I really don’t want to see that happens, I still think that you are the best music service (though you lost the crown of the highest streaming rate to MOG for now) and hope you become even more awesome. Yours.

Ulysses Shi
A loyal Spotify user and supporter

Update (11/07/2011): After my constant inquires, Spotify costumer services sent me an new email this morning, it reads:

“Thank you for your message and your interest in clearing things out! You and the community posts you referred to, are correct in most cases. But I will however tell you a couple of things I just learned that will work as kind of an official response in the matter.

As you stated, all music we get is in lossless format. All music is intended to be converted to all three qualities. We get thousands of songs each day, and the converting process is always chewing new data. Surely we might need to upgrade and enhance our methods and equipment to make this go faster, but for the time being, I can tell you we're doing all we can to provide the users with 320 k ogg vorbis on every song!

Hope this answer was sufficient enough for you!”

It only confirms my speculation about how they get music from content provides, but the lacking of time and equipment is far from a satisfying, or even reasonable answer (see my calculation above). What Spotify promised in June 2009 is they would convert the whole catalog “over the next few of weeks and months”, now more than 100 weeks have past. Something else went wrong, but it is definitely not that Spotify (with $100m new funding) could not find enough computers to do this job, which by all means should be a high priority.

Update 2(12/07/2011): After I replied with my estimation that a couple of home computers can finish the job in two years, CS sent me another reply:

“Thank you for the further investigation. I am not however obligated to tell you exactly what our equipment is doing all the time, but I will forward this issue to the dev and content-departments to see what they have to say. I cannot promise you an answer or any further explanation but if I do learn such a thing, I will contact you again! “

Do you see the pattern here in all four replies? Whether deliberately or not, he always gave me a false answer, until I proved it wrong. I guess he also sent the previous answers to other people who asked the same question, but I might be one of the few who got this far. I will keep on digging, and please help to spread the news until Spotify cannot ignore this crucial problem anymore. Thanks.

Update 3 (18/07/2011): I wrote this article about ten days ago, and had to postpone the publication due to various reasons, one of them being Spotify told me, through a 3rd party, that an official reply to my query on GetSatisfation would be made shortly. Nothing happened except for the customer service John, whose emails I quoted above, repeated his answer that "we are doing all we can".

You see, this is why I am angry about this. I am perfectly happy to pay a tenner for Premium even without 320 kbps streaming, but the "ambiguity, dearth of information, and poor responsiveness" (to quote another customer) is what I don't want to see from a company that I greatly admire.

The U.S. market is a swim-or-sink place, and this problem is already hurting Spotify from the beginning. Techcrunch wrote in their comparison of Spotify and Rido:
"Spotify Bitrate Quality: 160 kbps with some tracks at 320 kbps for premium users."

That's about a more accurate description of the fact. Even if more than half of Spotify's catalog is in 320 kbps, it still doesn't mean a thing if you don't tell the users the exact proportion, and don't even let them see the bitrate of currently playing track. In my opinion Spotify's way of handling this problem so far devalued themselves and that makes me sad. I still believe they are the best thing ever happened to music since p2p file sharing, and I sincerely hope they will fix the problem in time, with dignity.

Note: Complete correspondences with CS can be found on this Google Doc. All 115 tested tracks are in this playlist: 320K Test.

Important Update (16/08/2011): Spotify converted a great number of recordings to 320 kbps in the past few weeks. See new comments here and in GetSatisfaction for more details.

Important Update (23/09/2011): Spotify's Official Statement: "All music streamed through Spotify is of high quality (no less than 96 kbps for mobile and 160 kbps for desktop). We have a catalog of more than 15 million tracks and more than 99.9% are available in high bitrate (320 kbps) for our Premium users. Our catalog adds an average of 10,000 new tracks daily and we add the newly added tracks as quickly as possible."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Hello New Visitors From The U.S.

I just noticed that within the first 24 hours after Spotify launched in the US, the traffic of my site went tripled. Most new visitors came in through googling different variations of Spotify and classical music.

I'd like to say hello to new visitors of this blog in the U.S. Spotify is amazing for classical music: decent sound quality (comparing to most other streaming services), comprehensive catalog (which other service has six complete sets of Bach Cantatas?), great user interface and super fast too. Try it for yourself, it even has a free version. If you are still looking for an invite, we have over a dozen here, thanks to Sven. It would be much appreciated if you can leave a comment in that post after taking an invite, so others will know which one is already used.

If you are already amazed by what you saw on Spotify so far, lo and behold, the best is yet to come. I have tried a Spotify US account yesterday, and based on what I saw, Spotify is still adding many contents into their US library. In some of my playlists, up to two thirds of the tracks are currently not available in the US. Like: New Yorker: Songs of the Years 1925-2010. See what it looks like in a US account in this picture. However, I think there's no need to get frustrated too soon. Spotify may need a bit more time to sync all contents to their US servers. You can still subscribe to the playlists that you are interested, and see if more tracks will become available in the future.

I have published more than one hundred playlists on this blog so far, below are some of my favorite ones that I want to recommend to new visitors:

Classical Music Used In Stanley Kubrick Films

Classical Music Inspired By The Sea

Deutsche Grammophon and Decca Series and Editions

Complete Chronological Catalogue of Mozart and Beethoven

An Index for 2011 New Classical Releases (nearly 700 recordings and growing)

NPR Classical 50 and 50 Great Voices

A Brief History of Post-World War II Music

Pop Songs Based On Classical Works

And all closing credit songs from HBO's The Sopranos (yes I occasionally cover pop and other good music as well)

Happy exploring and listening. If you have any problem regarding using Spotify for classical music, feel free to drop me a line. I hope Spotify will make good music easier to access for more and more people.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Complete Works of J.S. Bach - Hänssler Edition on Spotify

"When the angels play for God they play Bach; to each other, they play Mozart." - Isaiah Berlin

"Now there is finally music from which a man can learn something." - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, upon hearing a Bach motet in Leipzig.

What's in this playlist: The complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach, recorded under the artistic direction of Helmuth Rilling, released by Hänssler Classic, first as 140 individual volumes, then as a 172 CDs box-set in 2000, the 250th anniversary of Bach's death.

The albums in this playlist are arranged by volume numbers, from Vol.1 to 140, and grouped by genres as listed below. The volumes themselves are arranged, though not strictly, by BWV numbers.

Vol. 01-60 Church cantatas
Vol. 61-68 Secular cantatas
Vol. 69 Motets
Vol. 70-73 Masses, single mass movements, Magnificat
Vol. 74-77 Passions & Oratorios
Vol. 78-85 Four part chorales, hymns and arias
Vol. 86-101 Organ works
Vol. 102-117 Clavier works (harpsichord)
Vol. 118-124 Chamber music (Including works for lute)
Vol. 125-132 Orchestral works
Vol. 133-134 Canons, Musical Offering, The Art of the Fugue
Vol. 135-140 Other works

139 of the 140 volumes, or 169 of the this 171-CD (the 172nd CD is a CD-ROM) edition is available on Spotify. The missing ones are the Goldberg Variations, Six Sonatas and Paritas For Solo Violin and the Brandenburg Concertos. I used other Hänssler recordings of the first two works and Jordi Savall's Brandenburg to fill in the blanks.

How to use this playlist: 1, Set your Spotify to Shuffle Mode, and double click this playlist. Radio Bach is on the air. Since the playlist contains over 175 hours of music, you are not very likely to encounter the same piece twice in a day, even if you play all day long. 2, If you have a particular works in mind, say BWV 1007 the first Cello Suite, go to this playlist, press ctrl (CMD) + F to bring out the filter bar, input 1007 or cello suite, find the work and play. You will hear the music within a couple of seconds after the piece comes to your mind, much faster and more convenient than going through the physical box-set, and your don’t have to spend at least 30 GB of your hard-drive to store the digital files either. The beauty of Spotify and the cloud.

When I first put the completed playlist on shuffle, it played the 6-voice ricercar from Musical Offering. I guess it's like leafing through a Bible and the first thing you see is the Lord' s Prayer.

Here' s the Spotify playlist: Bach: Complete Works - Hänssler Edition (3526 tracks, total time: 1 week). It works better in Album view.

For those who are looking for an introduction to Bach, check out this excellent Naxos Audiobook on Spotify: Life And Works: Johann Sebastian Bach. Click here for a larger photo of Bach taken with Mr. Spotify.

And Hänssler, if you are reading this, please make the 5000 pages text material and two books accompanying this edition available for purchase or as free PDFs. You know that makes sense. Thank you.

2012 Update: I compiled a new playlist for complete work of Bach, using non-Hänssler recordings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

American Recordings: Covers And Originals

Another playlist to celebrate Spotify's expansion to the US, here are the songs Johnny Cash, one of the most distinctive voices of American music, covered on the American Recordings series he made with Rick Rubin, both the cover version and the originals.

It contains songs from all six volumes of the American Recordings release so far, and the Unearthed box-set. I put the Cash covers right after originals, including the songs that he covered himself, like Delia's Gone (though the first Cash recording of this song, which dates from 1962, is not yet on Spotify, the other early version in the compilation Legend sounds different enough to me to be included). For traditional songs like I'll Fly Away, I tried to use the earliest recorded versions available. In the case of Wichita Lineman, though it's first and most famously recorded by Glen Campbell, I think it's more interesting to use the author Jimmy Webb's own recording as the original. I also chose to use Cash's early recordings of Hank Williams songs as the "originals" here, if possible - I assume people who are interested in this playlist already know Hank Williams well enough.

I only kept the songs that I the originals could be found on Spotify, because the aim of this playlist is making it easier to compare the difference between interpretations, if you want to fully appreciate Cash's album on its own, click the album title and listen to it in its entirety. I highly recommend you to do that as well: A Singer of Songs from Unearthed, one of the most moving performance from the Man In Black, is not in this playlist (I don't even know if an original recording exists, is this a song written for Cash?).

Here's the Spotify playlist: Johnny Cash: American Recordings & The Originals (194 tracks, total time: 10 hours) If you find other original songs become available or want to recommend a more suitable version than the one I chose as original recording, please leave a comment. Thanks.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hello America

To celebrate Spotify's entrance into the biggest music market in the world, today let's listen to EMI's American Classics.

Here's the Spotify playlist: EMI: American Classics (612 tracks, total time 1 day) It may work better in Album view. Check out this Presto page for discography and introduction to this series,  and my previous post for the even more comprehensive Naxos American Classics.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Classical Radio and Games on Spotify

Does the absence of a classical tag in Spotify's radio page ever bother you? Well, I don't think that will change soon. Classical music is often in multiple movements, playing random movements from different works just doesn't make too much sense. Besides, the current radio interface, which categories recordings according to recorded date such as 80s/90s/00s, doesn't make sense for classical music either. Spotify will need to tag their classical catalog in different periods like: Early Music/Baroque/Classical/Romantic/20th-Century/Modern. Obviously they haven't done that yet. Thirdly, real radio with human hosts is much more fun! Why you'll ever need a Spotify radio when you have Radio 3 and BBCify?

Still, there are hidden classical radio stations on Spotify, including Mozart FM and Beethoven FM, with a gaming system. Here's how to tune into and play it in Spotify's desktop client:

1, Subscribe to this Mozart playlist: Complete Chronological Catalogue.

2, Put your Spotify in Shuffle, double click the playlist.

3, The music starts to play, do you know which piece? Can you guess it's from the early, middle or late years of Mozart's creative life? To be more specifically, the chronological position of the playing piece in Mozart's output?

4, Click the album cover at bottom-left, Spotify will go to the playing track and highlight it. Since the playlist is Mozart's complete works arranged in chronological order, the position of the scroll bar will tell you the answer.

It's the same for my chronological Beethoven playlist, and I find the Beethoven game much easier. His style had gone through sea changes and the difference is distinctive, while in Mozart, that divine instinct graced both early Salzburg works and late masterpieces.

I find this kind of "radio" more rewarding than randomly playing my whole classical collection, you can try my other composer playlists to create your own composer FM, though they are not in strict chronological order.

Other playlist that might be good to play in shuffle as a radio: 2011 New Classical Releases, Arthur Rubinstein Collection, and Classical Library For Dummies. I'm also considering creating collaborate playlists for different periods of classical music. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 3, 2011