Review: Primephonic Classical Music Streaming Service
Launched in 2017 Primephonic is a fast-growing Dutch-American classical music streaming service that has been called ‘the Spotify of classical music’.
Most major mainstream streaming service apps are designed for pop music with the option to search by artist, track or album, which often leads to frustration when searching for classical music. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked Amazon Music for a concerto or symphony only to find myself listening to a single movement - usually the most boring one! And good luck getting past the first Aria of The Goldberg Variations - the rest of the variations shall forever remain a mystery. On Spotify I can listen to all 30 variations. Hurrah! But only on shuffle play.....Arghh! A thousand times no; I simply want to hear them from start to finish in the order in which they were written. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon and Spotify are brilliant for popular music, but really only suitable for casual browsing of classical music.
What sets Primephonic apart is that it has a search functionality specifically designed for classical music, which means that you can search by composer, conductor, orchestra, work, artist, musical period, genre, ensemble and choir. From there, you can sort even further by popularity, A-Z, Z-A, opus number or key.
In addition, you have access to the largest catalogue of classical music in the world - over 3.5 million tracks - which for a classical music aficionado is a bit like being a kid let loose in a sweet shop.
You can stream Primephonic on your smartphone and tablet as well as on your computer via the web-player. For audiophiles, Primephonic streams are available at the highest quality possible in 320 kbps MP3 and up to 24-bit HiRes FLAC depending on your subscription. Unfortunately, I don’t have the audio equipment to take advantage of the highest levels of streaming and to be perfectly honest, even if I did, I doubt whether I’d be able to tell the difference. What I can say is that the audio quality is uniformly crisp and clear through my headphones, iPad and Amazon Echo.
Stuck in a rut
The visual design is aesthetically pleasing and the interface couldn’t be simpler to use. At the top of the home screen is a sliding gallery of featured recordings and new releases, conveniently followed by the albums you have recently listened to, and below that, an extensive selection of playlists.
If you are stuck in a rut with your listening habits and don’t have the time or mental energy to search out new music then Primephonic is ‘playlist city’. Grouped around different themes you can choose from: national playlists; thematic playlists; instrument playlists curated by world famous instrumentalists - Albrecht Mayer, Tine Thing Helseth; playlists chosen by great artists - Julian Bliss, Michael Tilson Thomas; Musical rarities; choral playlists, mood playlists, and the list goes on.
And if that is not enough, each week you receive five personalised playlists that are based on the music you have recently listened to, along with regular emails alerting you to the top new releases and the latest podcasts, which include Behind the Scenes: Insights and Interviews with composers, conductors and artists.
Alongside the Search feature is the Browse button which I have found to be an extremely useful tool when looking for inspiration and jogging my fading memory.
After listening to your chosen piece of music you are then directed to 5 related composers and 5 related works so you can explore and discover more new music.
Primephonic also offers a range of ‘radio stations’ using criteria you set yourself, such as a time period, an instrument, a genre or a mood; which then generates hundreds of hours of music.
‘My Music’ lets you download entire albums or create playlists from individual tracks for offline listening.
Supporting your listening experience is a comprehensive encyclopaedia which helps you to explore the world of classical music; this includes in-depth background information, including stories and anecdotes about composers, recordings, and artists, plus Digital CD booklets.
An innovative recent addition is the Maestro
feature, which was trialled at the BBC Proms in 2019 when the audience followed the music via programme notes on their mobile phones. If you’ve never tried this, it really does enhance your understanding and enjoyment; every 20 to 30 seconds, a short text is displayed guiding you through the music. At the moment the library of works available on Maestro is not extensive, but I assume that more tracks will be added in time.
Primephonic is not just for classical music aficionados, it also caters for newbies and those with limited classical music knowledge. Guy Jones, Primephonic’s Head of Curation, has created Classical Encounters, an eight part podcast which acts as an introduction to classical music. Essential Playlists selects the most famous works for each sub genre (e.g. chamber, orchestral, or opera) and each time period and finally, on each composer page there is a selection of their best known works.
For complete beginners Primephonic has recently launched Ludwig - a 10 week classical music crash course which offers full access to Primephonic. https://www.primephonic.com/ludwig/home
. If you are already a Primephonic subscriber Ludwig comes free of charge.
A pleasure to use
I’ve been impressed by just how much thought has gone into this app; it is a pleasure to use and works brilliantly on every level.
Music I’ve been listening to for years sounds fresh and exciting due to Primephonic’s top class recordings and superb audio quality, added to which, I’ve discovered lots of fabulous new music courtesy of Primephonic’s extensive catalogue, playlists and regular emails alerting me to the latest releases and podcasts.
I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending Primephonic and I’ll be signing up as soon as my free trial ends.
for a 14-day free trial - no card details required. A full subscription is activated for £9.99 (premium) or £14.99 (platinum) a month.