As 2012 comes to a close, we’ve collected our favorite iPad apps of the year for current and future classical music lovers.
1. The Orchestra
In addition to being a conductor and composer, Esa-Pekka Salonen can add app builder to his résumé. The Finnish maestro collaborated with the Philharmonia Orchestra (where he is the principal conductor) and the digital design company Touch Press to release The Orchestra.
The program shows how the ensemble comes together to play pieces such as Symphonie Fantastique, Stravinsky’s Firebird or Salonen’s Violin Concerto through video, abbreviated scores and commentary from the composer as well as individual musicians. You also have the ability to zoom in visually and aurally on different sections to learn about all the instruments.
The app released to positive reviews in Britain, and brought Salonen to a New York Apple Store for an in-person demo. "Even if you've never heard of a symphony orchestra it's still kind of fun because it's graphically attractive and gives you a certain tactile pleasure to play with this," Salonen said at the event. ($13.99)
2. Discover Szymanowski
The Philharmonie Luxembourg, London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev spearheaded the creation of the app, Discover Szymanowski, all about the lesser-known Polish composer, Karol Szymanowski. The material was compiled as the LSO prepared a tour, performing a complete cycle of Szymanowski’s works. This year was the 130th anniversary of his birth and 75th of his death. The app provides biographical material, videos of orchestra members and Gergiev discussing his work and musical clips. (Free)
3. John Cage's Prepared Piano
Anyone wishing to tickle some digital ivories can find a selection of apps that turn a tablet or smartphone into a mini keyboard. That works just fine for most of the keyboard repertoire, at least until you head into the mid-20th century cannon and reach John Cage. In conjunction with the composer's centennial this year, iTunes released John Cage’s Prepared Piano. The program allows you to accurately play the notes of his Sonatas, as they were sampled from a prepared piano so you can accurately play his Sonatas. ($.99)
In a scenario that might strike a little too close to home, Symphonica, a game for iPad, sets you up as the aspiring conductor Takt, who is the director of the floundering orchestra the Fayharmonic. In order to keep the ensemble afloat, you must balance the personalities in the ensemble and conduct them to glory. Glory, in this case, means leading them in a triumphant concert at the illustrious King Hall atop Concerto Tower. (Free)
5. Little Classical Music App
You can share your love of classical music with the littler ones in your life with Naxos’s Little Classical Music App. The program pairs famous pieces like Peter and the Wolf and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice with animated scenarios and narration. It’s sort of like Disney’s "Fantasia" if Leopold Stokowski provided commentary on the music while he was conducting. ($4.99)