The Berlin Philharmonic has launched the world's first digital concert hall

The Berlin Philharmonic has launched the world's first digital concert hall, to be broadcast live on the internet

The Berlin Philharmonic has launched the world's first digital concert hall, which will broadcast its performances live on the internet and has the potential to widen the audience from a few hundred to millions around the world.

Sir Simon Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic's artistic director and chief conductor, said the orchestra's decision to broadcast most of its concerts as live video streams for a fee from next month was the "way of the future" for classical music.

"It's a marvellous thing for both the orchestra and the public and it's a wonderful thing to be able to welcome far more people to the Philharmonie [concert hall]than before," he said.

Under the slogan Any Place, Any Time, music lovers are being invited to take a front-row seat at the mustard-yellow concert hall from January at a cost of €9.99 (£9.50) for 48 hours' access, or €149 for a season of about 30 concerts. They will also be given access to an archive of previous performances.

The project, which is being sponsored by a German bank, is the most comprehensive of its kind. It will start on 6 January with a performance of Brahms's 1st Symphony and other works. Music critics said it would help to secure classical music's place in the multimedia world.

Olaf Maninger, the orchestra's principal cellist and the driving force behind the project, said that remote-controlled cameras and state of the art technology in the concert hall would ensure high quality transmissions. "Our primary concern is to ... record our concerts as authentically and vividly as possible," he said.

Maninger dismissed fears that the digital concerts would discourage people from going to concerts, saying he expected the online audience would consist largely of people who were unable to visit the concert hall because of geographical or time constraints. "I'm fascinated by the idea of a music student in New York logging on with his laptop to see Anne-Sophie Mutter performing live from the Philharmonie in Berlin," he said.

Tobias Möller, of Berlin Phil Media, which set up the project, said the orchestra hoped it would galvanise a whole new era for music lovers.

"Until now, if a critic wrote a cracking review of a concert, it was usually too late for the reader to enjoy it, but internet users will now be able to retrieve live recordings from the archive," he said.

Rattle, who has been with the orchestra since 2002, said that while his musicians were used to being in the spotlight, being filmed during every concert was something of a novelty. "We'll have to make sure we shave properly and powder our red noses," he said in a statement broadcast live on the internet.

Although Rattle has been credited with encouraging the orchestra to embrace a wider audience and to shake off its elitist appeal, those behind the project said the digital concert hall was a natural continuation of work begun by the Berlin Philharmonic's legendary conductor, the late Herbert von Karajan. He was known for his obsession with technology, and constantly worked on improving the orchestra's sound, which resulted in the orchestra producing the first classical CD, the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss, in 1980.


Kate Connolly in Berlin

The GuardianTramp

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