Daily iPad App: The Orchestra for iPad is a home run for classical music fans

If you love classical music you really need to think about getting The Orchestra for iPad from Touch Press. The US$13.99 app is about the best use of multimedia audio and video I've seen on any computer platform.

The Orchestra allows you to experience eight classical selections, from Haydn to contemporary composers like Lutoslawski. You pick your music, and on screen you see a window with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen. Another window shows the Philharmonia Orchestra, and a third window presents a diagram of the orchestra seen from above. More on that later in this review.

You can also see the score scrolling horizontally synched to the music. In addition, there are chapters on each selection performed, and conductor Salonen offers a commentary on the music you are hearing in real time.


One unique feature lets you touch any section of the orchestra to hear its instruments isolated from the rest of the orchestra. By default, this feature is available in Beethoven's 5th Symphony. To unlock it for the other seven selections requires a $0.99 in-app purchase.

I don't think I've seen any other app utilize the power of a computer in a better or more compelling way. The app is not a series of performances, but contains many insights into the selections, and the composers.

Having said that, I have a few nits to pick. Charging an additional $0.99 in an app that is already $14 seems very Scrooge-like. It should just be thrown in. The selections themselves are excerpts, not complete works. I realize complete symphonies would take a lot of space, and hearing a movement is just not the same as getting the whole performance. There are links to the iTunes Store to download the complete works.

This is the kind of app that should support Apple AirPlay so it can be seen on a big screen with better audio. Sadly, the app doesn't appear to fully support it. I could see an image of the orchestra on my Apple TV-powered display, but the music never started playing. It did work in mirror mode, but the aspect ratio isn't right. The audio is pretty good, and is in stereo if you listen on a headset or an external source. The iPad speaker is no way to experience this app.

The Orchestra is an extraordinary way to show off what a great app can do. Classical music lovers will enjoy this app very much.

This app is, not surprisingly, a big one. Almost 2 GB without the in-app purchase, and I had to do a bit of house cleaning to make it fit. This app requires iOS 6.0 or above, and works on the second-, third- and fourth-generation iPad, and iPad mini.