Philharmonic Expanding ITunes, Ringtones

NEW YORK - The New York Philharmonic's new season will take the orchestra deeper into the non-classical world , with iTunes, cell phone ringtones and the Web.

The orchestra also plans to expand its global reach during the 2007-2008 with trips to China and Europe, orchestra officials announced Tuesday.

"We were at the top of the iTunes chart , along with Madonna," the Philharmonic's executive director, Zarin Mehta, boasted at a news conference at Avery Fisher Hall.

Entire live concerts, or just a few minutes, can now be downloaded through iTunes. Five online ringtones also are available , including Mozart's last symphonies , and more will be added.

Starting at 3 a.m. Wednesday, the orchestra is putting up its new Web site, with streamlined ticket-buying options and more audio clips and interviews.

But tradition has not lost ground in the lineup for the new season.

"The Tchaikovsky Experience" starting in late September will feature all of the composer's symphonies, plus his violin concerto with an up-and-coming artist as soloist , the 28-year-old Dutch-born violinist Janine Jansen.

Xian Zhang, a 33-year-old Chinese-born woman, is to conduct Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 later in the season. Another Chinese native in her 30s, soprano Hui He, takes on the title role in Puccini's opera "Tosca," led by the Philharmonic's music director, Lorin Maazel. And Chinese-born Lang Lang will premiere a piano concerto by Oscar award-winning composer Tan Dun.

Established artists performing next season include cellist Yo Yo Ma, singers Barbara Cook and Audra McDonald, pianists Martha Argerich and Emanuel Ax, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and violinist Pinchas Zukerman.

James Taylor is to make his Philharmonic debut as the evangelist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

The orchestra is paying special attention to building new audiences by offering programs for listeners as young as 3, while older children are invited to the Young People's Concerts.

Mehta stressed the Philharmonic's affordable prices, with concert tickets going for as little as $24, open rehearsals costing $15 and subscriptions starting at $69.

The orchestra is performing in China next February, and at European festivals in the summer of 2008. In its 166 years, the Philharmonic has toured in 420 cities in 58 countries.

"This is a remarkable group of musicians. You hear it in every note they play," Maazel said, adding a day before Valentine's Day, "This is my opportunity to say, `I love you.'"


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