Download 400,000 Free Classical Musical Scores & 46,000 Free Classical Recordings from the International Music Score Library Project

The plea­sure of lis­ten­ing to clas­si­cal music, as every clas­si­cal music afi­ciona­do knows, goes well beyond lis­ten­ing to one’s favorite piece. You can’t have a favorite piece with­out hav­ing a favorite per­for­mance of that piece, played by cer­tain musi­cians, presided over by a cer­tain con­duc­tor, and record­ed in a cer­tain hall. And even so, many oth­er record­ings of that piece may well exist that you haven’t heard yet, one of which could one day usurp your per­son­al top spot. About many com­po­si­tions there also exists a near-infi­nite amount to learn and under­stand, espe­cial­ly for those of us with musi­cal train­ing or score-read­ing abil­i­ty.

This aes­thet­i­cal­ly and intel­lec­tu­al­ly reward­ing process of seek­ing out and com­par­ing — and indeed, the enter­prise of clas­si­cal music-lis­ten­ing itself — has become much eas­i­er with the advent of resources like the Inter­na­tion­al Music Score Library Project. Found­ed in 2006, it has by this point expand­ed to con­tain “123,134 works, 404,963 scores, 46,610 record­ings, 15,404 com­posers, and 445 per­form­ers,” all online and many free for the down­load­ing. Just search for the name of a piece or com­pos­er with the win­dow on the upper right — Wolf­gang Amadeus Mozart, for instance — and the IMSP will show you all the relat­ed items it cur­rent­ly has.

Mozart’s well-known and wide­ly heard 1787 com­po­si­tion Eine kleine Nacht­musik (known numer­i­cal­ly as K.525) has its own page in the IMSP’s data­base, where you’ll find not just 29 scores and parts and 28 arrange­ments and tran­scrip­tions in the sheet music sec­tion but two com­plete per­for­mances in the record­ing sec­tion: one by the Boston cham­ber orches­tra A Far Cry and one by the Nether­lands’ Roy­al Con­cert­ge­bouw Orches­tra. You can lis­ten to them right on the site, or down­load them by first click­ing on the down arrow (↓) next to the words “com­plete per­for­mance,” then on the down arrow (↓) that appears to the right of the vol­ume con­troller when the file starts play­ing.

Or if you’re not in the mood for a lit­tle night music, per­haps the IMSP can inter­est you in Lud­wig van Beethoven’s Sym­pho­ny No. 5 or Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach’s Gold­berg Vari­a­tions. But then, as the San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny’s Michael Tilson Thomas once said, “You can’t have Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as your favorite com­posers. They sim­ply define what music is!” So if you’d pre­fer to go beyond the def­i­n­i­tion and hear more of the vari­a­tions clas­si­cal music has to offer — vari­a­tions being one of the prime sources of its afore­men­tioned plea­sure — the IMSP’s vast archive has plen­ty of record­ings to sat­is­fy that desire as well, with more added all the time.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Free Music from 150+ Clas­si­cal Com­posers, Cour­tesy of Musopen.org

Free: Down­load 500+ Rare Music Man­u­scripts by Mozart, Bach, Chopin & Oth­er Com­posers from the Mor­gan Library

A Big Bach Down­load: All of Bach’s Organ Works for Free

The Library of Con­gress Makes 25 Mil­lion Records From Its Cat­a­log Free to Down­load

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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