In August 2021, Apple acquired Primephonic—which many people believed to be the leader in streaming for classical music—promising that in the near future there would be improvements to Apple Music’s classical presence and that a dedicated app for classical music enthusiasts would soon be launched. Today is that day, and Apple Music Classical is game-changing for anyone who’s interested in not just classical music but many of its adjacencies, including stage works, opera, film scores and more.
The acquisition, from the outside, appears to be a success, with the team still operating out of an Amsterdam office but with many additional resources from Apple and the support to deliver upon a shared vision of making an app for classical enthusiasts that leverages the best of manual, human-driven curation alongside an enormous volume of content and data. It’s important to note that the more than five million tracks in their library are now available on both apps, so the occasional listener may find that the Apple Music app meets their classical needs, but the additional functionality and other enhancements are only available on the new Apple Music Classical app.
Jonathan Gruber, who’s led Apple Music’s classical efforts for ten years, noted that Apple was already ahead of most competitors in the field when he started, and that he was brought on to “look after classical, to grow the business and to cultivate it…it was really, I think, a statement about what they wanted to do, even at that point.” He says that while some considered classical to be a niche offering, Apple wanted it to be presented equally alongside other musical categories. “And that was the big project for a long time, to just get it so that classical music is part and parcel of what we do,” he adds, noting that it has been an integral presence on Apple Music for years and “there’s something classical pretty much every week everywhere in the world that’s relevant on main pages” in the app. The problem has always been that classical music is simply more complex from a data point of view, and therefore figuring out how to integrate it into the Apple Music app always fell short. It became obvious that a separate app had to be created to best service listeners.
Anyone who’s used the Apple Music app will immediately be comfortable using the new Apple Music Classical app—it looks, feels and works the same way, though the programming is different and of course focused only on the genres it supports; the additional search functions are integrated and won’t take more than a minute to learn and use.
For example, if you search for Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, you can see how the two apps display the results. The Apple Music app presents an assortment of recordings, groups and artists. The same search on the Apple Music Classical app returns a more complete listing, “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67, ‘Fate Symphony'” and shows that there are currently 1,047 recordings of it available in the library. It also presents albums featuring the symphony, tracks and more. You can easily simplify your search if you add a specific performer—adding the Vienna Philharmonic for example presents around 50 recordings—and you can further refine your search by adding a conductor or performer to your query. The search menu lets you search by popularity, release date or title, and you can further filter by genre, period and instrument (in this case, orchestra, piano and violin).
Opera lovers will find similar pleasure in searching for a preferred recording of Bizet’s Carmen (there are 1,858 versions available). You can easily search for a favorite track, like “Melons” and add your desired orchestra, conductor or mezzo-soprano. Same for soundtracks, so when you can’t decide which of the 128 versions of the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” you’re vibing the new app makes it easy for you.
Another highlight of the app is the attention to illustration. Apple worked with multiple illustrators to create new images for composers, influenced by their age, era and location. Browsing by catalog shows new age-y icons, and instruments (including voices) have a new photorealistic illustration style. Organizing your library is easier too, with the addition of recordings, works and composers folders.
Aficionados and casual listeners will both find a lot to love using the new Apple Classical Music app. It can be downloaded from the app store and is free for all subscribers of Apple Music.
Images and videos courtesy of Apple