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50 of the best

top websites revisited

About a year ago, the February 2000 edition of Chamber Music America contained a feature listing the top 50 classical music websites. One year at 'internet speed' is a long time, and there have been many changes, so I thought it might be fun, 12 months on, to see how they're progressing, perhaps encountering a few surprises and making a few detours along the way. Here goes ...


At 50th place is, a site for interactive sheet music, recently acquired by the Hal Leonard Corporation, and the iSong community website is being relaunched, but is currently unavailable, so there's just a place-holding page at the address below.


'You are standing outside one of the most prestigious concert halls in the United States. This is the original 1891 structure, commissioned by Andrew Carnegie, at the urging of Walter Damrosch who needed a home for his Oratorio Society.'

Online since 1996, New York's Carnegie Hall has an attractively designed site with all you'd expect for one of the world's major concert venues. Your 'virtual visit' to the hall can include 'Carnegie then and now' -- a history tour with timeline, a 360 degree navigable photo bubble of the main hall (needing an iPIX plug-in), and a (non-functional, when I tried it) Real Audio walkthrough narrated by the Carnegie Hall Archivist Gino Francesconi.

I wonder why such a good site is so far down the list (No 49)?


The comprehensive and official Leonard Bernstein website, as recently visited in Site Seeing, includes an online tour of LB's studio, the 2001 Bernstein Online Quiz, a store of Bernstein merchandise (using and lots of Bernstein news and events. I can only assume that this site has improved lots in 12 months ... it deserves a higher position than 48.


The Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center (artistic director David Shifrin) is at 47 -- a site promoting the society's New York concert season, tours and recordings. Read how it all began with William Schuman, Alice Tully and Charles Wadsworth, and find out where Brahms meets the Yalloppin' Hounds!


The Orion String Quartet -- Daniel and Todd Phillips, Steven Tenenbom and Timothy Eddy -- are based in New York, but have an international reputation. The quartet formed officially in 1987. In addition to the expected news and concert and recording listing sections, the website features a personalised USA-wide dining guide ('Musicians always consider where to eat as one of their most important decisions when touring', say the Orions) and a photo gallery. Position 46 in the CMA February 2000 feature.


No 45 -- Hampsong, or the official website of the leading baritone Thomas Hampson, is the singer's glossy promotional site, including a scrapbook and a tour of the Hampson conservatory. Many of the page copyright notices are dated 1997, so it's possible that some of the site hasn't been updated for a while, although the 'forthcoming performances' section is right up to date.


The official Evelyn Glennie website (44). Another promotional site, fun and feature-filled, including a 'mix and match' biography! Links to the Braunarts' Virtual Percussion Masterclass, also well worth a visit. (43) -- big, well-known, commercial and paying out download royalties to attract impoverished composers and artists. Lots of material here -- thousands of composer and performer sites and virtual radio stations, but the speed, (things really start to slow down when you visit artists' pages) the blandness of database-generated pages and the registration procedure (necessary before you can download anything, presumably because they can then try to sell you things by e-mail) may put you off exploring very much of it. Persevere, though, and you may make some interesting discoveries. The link below takes you to the main classical page.


The Classical MIDI Connection. Thousands of small downloadable MIDI ('piano-roll' type music files in Musical Instrument Digital Interface format), sorted into libaries by period. They can be listened to quite easily on most computers. Great fun! Place 42. -- 120 professionally programmed music channels in many genres of music. Twelve 'classical' channels appear from the 'classical' link on the 'listen' page, although netradio today (their promotional/news channel) and Music Industry News have zero or dubious classical content, and Classical Notes wouldn't play because of a bad link. Baroque and before failed too, in a similar way, and the Opera channel caused a run-time error in my browser! At this point I gave up, having failed to hear anything related to classical music. Position 41, although it wouldn't appear on my list at all!

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Copyright © 30 January 2001 Keith Bramich, London, UK


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