Apple’s new app for classical music, Apple Music Classical, is now available for download. The app is free for everyone, but you need an Apple Music subscription. Notably, it is not available in select countries at launch, including China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Taiwan, and Turkey. However, Apple says it will arrive in these markets in the future.
The company said that there are more than 5 million tracks available on the app right now, as well over 50+ million data points with data attributes of 20,000+ composers, 115,000+ unique works, and 350,000+ movements. This data helps Apple Music subscribers find recordings across the catalog through the app’s specialized search engine built for classical music.
As Apple explains, classical works have multiple movements and tracks, while famous pieces have hundreds of recordings with different orchestras, conductors, and soloists. In addition, many composers have their own special catalog classifications, which means classical music search has to be built differently with these complexities in mind.
In the new app, users can search for works using keyword combinations that include composer, work, opus number, conductor, artist, instrument or even the work’s name. Plus, when you look up a work on the app, you’ll find all its associated recordings as well as a hand-picked “Editor’s Choice” performance.
Apple Music Classical’s editors created over 700 playlists to guide listeners through 800 years of music, the company notes, and says more will be added over time. One initial collection, The Story of Classical audio guides, will combine commentary and selected works to introduce key composers, periods, instruments, and classical terminology for those just starting their discovery of this genre. For those already more knowledgeable, the app lets you go behind the scenes of selected recordings as classical artists offer track-by-track audio commentary, Apple notes.
Another selection called “Hidden Gems” highlights a selection of lesser-known works, while “Composer Undiscovered” playlists aim to bring a new perspective to famous names.
Many of the works on the app will come from classical institutions partnered with Apple to offer new and exclusive content and recordings, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Opéra National de Paris, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Vienna Philharmonic.
To kick off the launch, Apple Music Classical will host live performances from partners from its Apple Store locations across the world, as part of the “Today at Apple” programming series beginning in March 2023.
Meanwhile, on the discovery side, you can browse tracks using filters like composers, periods, genres, conductors, orchestras, ensembles, and choirs under the “Catalog” tab; different instruments through “Instruments” tab; and curated playlists under the “Playlists” tab.
The service is based on Primephonic, an Amsterdam-based company Apple acquired in 2021 for an undisclosed sum. It also features exclusive albums, composer bios, and editorial deep dives on certain key works. Earlier this month, Apple announced the new classical streaming service was available for pre-order on the App Store with a March 28 release date.
You can add a track to the library or your own playlist, downloads aren’t supported. However, you can add them to your library and download them via Apple Music. Apple has also made an interesting choice by not making shuffle available on the Classical app.
All compositions are available to stream in audio quality up to 192kHz/24-bit Hi-Res Lossless. Also, a lot of tracks are available in immersive Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos support — if you have speakers or headphones that support this technology. At the moment, only AirPods Pro (1st or 2nd generation), AirPods Max, AirPods 3rd gen, or Beats Fit Pro support Spatial Audio. Apple notes the Spatial Audio catalog will add new albums every week as recordings are remastered and new performances are captured in Spatial Audio.
While many of the compositions are focused on western classical music, TechCrunch was able to find some Hindustani classical and Carnatic titles, too, when testing the service at launch.
The app also features high-res digital portraits of many of the world’s greatest composers. These commissioned artworks were created with historical research into things like color palettes and artistic references from the relevant classical period. Classical figures like Bach, Beethoven, Hildegard von Bingen, Chopin, John Dowland, Fanny Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky, among other, are represented.
Currently, the app is only available on iPhones, so you can’t access the app on Mac or iPad. You have to be running iOS 15.4 or newer to use the app. An Android version is “coming soon.” Because it doesn’t support offline downloads, you’ll need an internet connection to stream from the service.
On Monday, Apple also released the iOS 16.4 update, which brings new emojis, notifications for web apps, voice isolation for better call quality and more.