After a year of cancelled seasons, pay cuts, and dark stages, some bright spots are beginning to appear on the orchestral horizon. The brand new partnership between Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony has yielded its first joint venture: SFSymphony+. Announced in mid-January of this year and launched on February 4, SFSymphony+ (SFSymphony Plus) is a new on-demand streaming service. It is a brand new, membership-based service that will feature exclusive original digital content including all new SoundBox programs (the symphony’s experimental concert series) and CURRENTS episodes (a new series exploring rich intersections between musical cultures) as well as other special projects. Select, free-of-charge content, including previously released orchestral programs, newly recorded chamber music, and the symphony’s 2021 Chinese New Year Virtual Celebration, will also be a part of SFSymphony+.
In discussing the new venture, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen explained his vision: “The challenge with digital programming is to create something that has its own identity, an essential uniqueness that allows it to function as a self-contained piece of art. And to achieve that, it’s not enough just to capture a great performance by strong musicians, or even to have interesting programming. Instead, every member of the organization—on the performance level, on the production level, on the administrative level—needs to be working in harmony, drawing upon one another’s talents and strengths. What we’ve created for SFSymphony+ could not have been realized in a traditional live setting. My hope, once live performances resume, is that we can sustain the dialogue between digital and live performances to create something that audiences will find compelling and valuable—not only in the Bay Area, but across the world.”
Priced at $120 for the whole season, SFSymphony+ memberships will provide exclusive access to premium original San Francisco Symphony digital content, including seven SoundBox programs, five new CURRENTS episodes, as well as other special projects to be announced. The individual SoundBox programs and CURRENTS episodes will also be available à la carte, for $15 per episode. These episodes will be between 30–55 minutes and will remain available for on-demand streaming indefinitely after purchase.
SFSymphony+ joins several other streaming endeavors launched by major orchestras, including Boston’s BSO NOW, Chicago’s CSOtv, New York’s NYPhil+, and Philadelphia’s Listen On Demand (Note: See “Newslets” in the March 2020 issue).
Programming for its inaugural season includes digital SoundBox programs curated by Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen, Destiny Muhammad, and SF Symphony’s Collaborative partners Julia Bullock, Nico Muhly, and Claire Chase. CURRENTS episodes will explore Indian Classical, Native American, Zimbabwean, Persian, and Klezmer musical cultures.
All SF Symphony musicians, donors contributing over $250, and 2020–21 Season subscribers will automatically receive a complimentary membership in SFSymphony+, and memberships for others are on sale at sfsymphonyplus.org. While only available now for browser-based streaming, apps for smart phones, tablets, and TV’s (Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs) are in the works and will be coming soon.
Note: the author is the ICSOM Delegate for the San Francisco Symphony.