Above: The project kicks off Saturday with a free livestream of SPCO Artistic Partner Thomas Zehetmair conducting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. (Photo: Pablo Faccinetto)

Want to catch the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra this evening? Tomorrow afternoon? Saturday morning in your pajamas? You're in luck. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra just posted a trove of HD concert videos for free on-demand viewing. No Netflix-style subscription necessary.

SPCO officials say the new "Concert Library" is unique in the orchestra world. "The only thing close would be in Detroit and Berlin," said SPCO President Jon Limbacher. "But in the case of the Berlin Philharmonic, it’s a subscription so you have to pay to access it. And in the case of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, you need to make a contribution." 

With just seven videos, the free library is off to a modest start. Early highlights include pianist and SPCO Artistic Partner Jeremy Denk playing Bach and Beethoven. The library also features approximately 100 free audio recordings of past SPCO concerts, a project launched with Classical MPR in 2011. 

The SPCO plans to add to its video collection, ever so gradually, by livestreaming select concerts. Catch the inaugural livestream (which is also free) at 8 p.m. Saturday when SPCO Artistic Partner Thomas Zehetmair conducts the sold-out season finale performance of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. The concert will appear in the library's permanent collection "no longer than a couple of months later," said Limbacher.

The SPCO hopes to add 7 to 10 concert videos per year, "depending on how much money we’re able to raise," said Limbacher. With high-standard video and audio quality, each new installment costs the orchestra $20,000 to $25,000 to produce.

The library is part of the orchestra's long-term effort to build bigger, more diverse audiences for SPCO programming, said Limbacher. "We’ve done that by lowering prices. We've done that by playing at 14 venues around the Twin Cities. This is merely a continuation of what we’ve done historically."

Livestreams, audio recordings and the full Concert Library are availalbe at thespco.org/music.

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