“Keeping Score”: Where the Classics Are Current — and High-Tech Page 3

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John Kieser, general manager of the San Francisco Symphony and an executive producer of the Keeping Score series

While celebrating the musical past, the San Francisco Symphony has long had an eye and an ear on the technological future. In 2001, it launched SFS Media — the first in-house recording label created by an American orchestra — so that it could begin releasing its Mahler symphony cycle on hybrid multichannel SACD. The orchestra’s commitment to that format has been steadfast. “In our opinion, multichannel SACD still may be the best-sounding digital format,” says John Kieser, general manager of the orchestra and an executive producer of Keeping Score. “That being said, Dolby TrueHD on Blu-ray Disc is an amazing-sounding format. However, it was not around when we started the Mahler cycle, and we wanted to be consistent throughout that project. We are still using hybrid multichannel SACDs with our new releases, and audiophiles really appreciate it.”

(For an update on the symphony cycle, involving both SACD and LP, click here.)

Audiophiles and videophiles certainly appreciate that episodes of Keeping Score have been released by SFS Media not only on DVD but also on Blu-ray, featuring a 1.78:1 picture and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks in 2.0, 5.1, and 7.1. The new Mahler episodes are already available on a two-disc Blu-ray set. The first disc contains both Origins and Legacy, and the second offers a complete live performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, with Thomas conducting his orchestra at their performance and recording base in Davies Symphony Hall.

Kieser is committed to the same high standards for all SFS Media releases: “Our goal is to have the production values match the excellence of the performance from the stage. Anything less would not be acceptable.”

He tracks Blu-ray sales with great interest, noting that the format’s success varies by market. “Blu-ray is becoming more popular in the Far East, to the point where some of the territories are telling us that they will soon not be able to sell any DVDs. Europe has been slower to adopt the format, and here in the U.S., it is growing. Overall, it’s too early to tell; however, Blu-ray accounts for 25% of all of our units sold.”

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