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How much longer can we count on finding racks of CDs at our local shops – or even at the webshops? I have to wonder when the Gustavo Dudamelcurrent number one classical recording on the Billboard Classical chart is a release presently available only as a digital download. It’s the DG Concerts release of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The conductor is the much-discussed young Venezuelan, Gustavo Dudamel, who will take over that orchestra as music director in 2009.

DG Concerts is Deutsche Grammophon’s download label. Although DG have garnered some press for their non-DRM releases of some recordings, the Dudamel recording appears to be available only through Itunes. Those of us who prefer our music downloads unencumbered by use restrictions are apparently out of luck.

It’s not clear whether DG will ever issue the Dudamel Symphonie Fantastique on CD, but it’s hard to imagine that they’d pass up the additional revenue from those who prefer the older format’s better sound and greater flexibility. Despite classical downloads’ sales growth, classical CD sales are still holding up appreciably better than those of pop CDs.

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