Idagio’s Classical Music Streaming Service

Idagio, one of the two streaming services that specializes in CD-quality classical music, is now in the midst of a big launch push in the United States. Begun in Germany in 2014 by a group of young classical music lovers who had grown frustrated with struggling to conduct adequate classical music searches on the major streaming services, Idagio is geared specifically to the needs, wants, desires, and curiosity of classical music lovers worldwide.

“Our mission is to solve this painful problem of doing something as simple as finding all the given recordings of a given symphony,” Idagio co-founder and CPO Christoph Lange, 34, explained in a joint Skype interview that included Idagio’s Product Evangelist Elias Wuermeling, 27, and its Data Scientist for Music Information Retrieval, Julian Terzyk, 32. “Our goal is to build a better interface for classical music. If something is not found, it ceases to exist in the digital world.”

Try telling that to one of America’s leading all-genre hi-rez download services, whose search engine consistently lists recordings whose links are broken.

Idagio, which currently adds 20,000 tracks to its current offering of over 1.2 million tracks, offers three levels of downloads. These range from the absurdly titled “normal” resolution of 192kbps mp3 to 320kbps mp3 and lossless FLAC. As for why there is no hi-rez, especially when hi-rez versions of some of the titles on Idagio are available for streaming on Tidal and Qobuz, Lange explained, “We chose our levels for a really diverse body of paying subscribers. Lossless FLAC is comparable to CD quality and compatible with multiple different devices. Storage gets difficult when you want to stream in hi-rez, and many phones won’t play it.”

The phone thing is important, because 90 per cent of Idagio’s subscribers listen via the Idagio app on their phone or pad. (Of those, 60 per cent own iOS products, and a good 30 per cent go with Android.) Only 10 per cent of the company’s current users use browser-based or desktop apps.

For readers wondering if there’s really a need for two Redbook-quality classical music-only streaming services, the other being Primephonic – note that the huge Naxos Music Library streams classical music in mp3 – Lange cites a Goldman Sachs article that projects 550 million streaming service subscribers by 2025. Even if only 5 per cent of those people are passionate about classical music, that amounts to 25 million potential subscribers.

“We believe many classical music lovers are willing to pay for an exceptionally better experience,” Lange said. “We are building Idagio as a global service, and are already in 180 countries. We even have people in Bhutan who are subscribing.”

Perhaps the easiest way to acquaint yourself with the service is via the comprehensive, non-nonsense video overview found on YouTube. It also paves the way for a number of Idagio interviews on the site, some of which are far better than Thomas Hampson’s barely sufferable 46-second exercise in foolery.

In short order, you will discover that Idagio hosts sections for popular composers, performers and instruments, and also arranges classical music by periods and genres. You will also learn that Idagio hosts recordings from all three major labels as well as over 100 independent labels and rights holders. There’s an entire page of featured new releases, popular titles, award-winning albums, playlist recommendations from major artists and conductors — try Metropolitan Opera conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin’s “Leonard Bernstein Top Five” for starters — and more.

The curious amongst us can browse for music by mood, from “radiant” and “optimistic” to “nervous” and “angry.” You may even find some instrumental pieces and opera arias that start off “sad” or “tragic” and end “angry” or “passionate.” If you’re not familiar with any of those, try listening to some of the recordings of soprano Maria Callas. Excerpts from the operas Norma and Medea would be a good place to start. Note that much of Callas’ commercial and live recorded legacy can be found in hi-rez on Tidal and Qobuz. Whether your mobile phone can stream hi-rez data without dropouts is another issue entirely.

As more phones become capable of decoding hi-rez—check out the LG V30 phone and its successor, the V40—it’s quite possible that Idagio will embrace hi-rez streaming options, including MQA. (MQA shrinks the size of the file, making wireless phone streaming possible with fewer or no dropouts.) Idagio will also hopefully seek to provide portals on various audiophile quality playback software (e.g. Roon, Audirvana, and Amarra) and devices (from Bluesound and Aurender to dCS).

As far as I’m concerned, any streaming service that offers 20 different versions and alternate masterings of Korngold’s aria, "Glück, das mir verblieb" from the opera Die tote stadt, including the irreplaceable 1924 duet version with Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber, conducted by George Szell — the second remastering of this performance in Idagio’s list is superior, and preserves far more treble information — and very different takes by Maria Jeritza (1922), the blessed Beverly Sills, and tenors ranging from Joseph Schmidt (a Nazi reign of terror casualty) to Jonas Kaufmann, is doing something very, very right.

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COMMENTS
volvic's picture

Created an account (but gave no CC), just to look at the selection. It is pretty good, loads were found when I searched for Gilels, Bohm, von Karajan, both Kleibers, Furtwangler and Walter. There is enough to interest anyone interested in dabbling in classical music. But alas if you're like me with over 5000 CD's and 4000 records with a few hundred in a pile waiting to be listened, this is not money well spent. I like the physical product in my hand and given the numerous versions of Cosi fan tutte that I already own, I don't feel the need to pay for access for another I will probably never need to purchase. That said, I know of quite a few audiophiles who have grown up with a steady diet of pop music and only now approaching their 50's, that are starting to dabble in the classics. To them I say get this, as to accumulate a collection like mine takes decades and lots of digging and hunting for rare titles. I wish Idagio lots of success, any avenue that easily opens up classical and opera music to a younger generation or can teach old dogs new tricks is worth the effort.

rodrigaj's picture

I subscribed to IDAGIO for 8 months. I loved the way metadata and search was set up for classical music genre.

But the only way I could get it to my audio system was thru Airplay and that, for whatever reason, created problems with inconsistent streaming.

IDAGIO needs to prioritize a DLNA app such as Spotify Connect, Tidal App, or Qobuz if they are to be taken seriously.

After months of glitches trying to deal with Airplay and Idagio I gave up. IDAGIO support was not interested except to tell me that it was a network error.

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