Passionato: avoid

I had a look this morning at Passionato, which ought to be a really good idea: a site devoted to selling high-quality Classical music without DRM from the catalogues of respectable companies (DG, Decca, and so on). Unfortunately, this good idea has become an absolutely horrid web site. It hard to navigate and heavy with reproductions of album covers. There is no obvious way to find all recordings of any particular work, though typing “Lizst piano sonata” will find the piano sonata in B minor; it will also find the Dante sonata as the second hit, even though it is an entirely different work, because it has piano and sonata and Liszt in the text.

Obviously what they have done is to scan or transcribe a lot of covers. One effect of this is that there are lots of badly coded accents that come out as blotches. A much worse effect is that on CDs with numerous composers or works there is only a very confused indication of which work any track comes from and none at all of who is the composer. When the MP3s are finally downloaded they turn out not to be tagged with the composer, and both Martha Argerich and Alfred Brendel have been tagged as an artist called NULL.

For this service, they charge – so far as I can see – the full price that the CD would cost in the shops. One is saved the time taken to rip them, I suppose, but if I rip CDs myself, I get them more accurately tagged from FreeDB than Passionato can manage, and I have a backup, too. There is certainly no reason whatever to buy Naxos stuff from them, since the entire Naxos catalogue is already available from Emusic, for a lot less money.

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11 Responses to Passionato: avoid

  1. chris y says:

    Many thanks for that. You’ve probably restored a couple of hours of my life.

  2. Scraps says:

    Yeah, although there’s no observed standard for tagging of classical music on FreeDB, so I end up having to move around and edit the fields (and change the language), and often type a lot of stuff in anyway.

  3. acb says:

    Scraps: tagging classical music is a whole horrible subject in itself. I use Media Monkey, and have made custom tag for “Classical Work” which is much needed, but still involves a lot of typing. But most of it just doesn’t fit into the paradigm of songs on an album.

    Chris Y: I might take them away with a mention of the Crochet site, which sells unripped CDs, but has a far better interface.

  4. Scraps says:

    I use MediaMonkey too, but I just started. I’m desperately curious about your Custom Tag. This is what I settled on:

    Name: Composer
    Album: Title of Work, op.xx (conductor or featured performer)
    Song: name or instruction of movement

  5. acb says:

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re doing, but I use the Artist, Composer, Album, and Title fields more or less as they come. But I have renamed one of the Custom fields to “Classical Work” and another to “Primar Instrument”. I can then set up magic nodes — and if you haven’t got that script you’re missing half of what media monkey can do — which will sort all classical music by composer, and under that by work, and under that by performer. Tagging and arranging stuff like that is easier because you can., within limits, retag things in media monkey just by dragging and dropping. The real difficulty is discovering the canonical names and numbers for the various works.

  6. RDW says:

    A major saving grace of this site right now is the ‘deal of the day’, an album of their choice for 2 quid. A couple of days ago this was a full (4 disc) ‘Parsifal’ with Domingo, which would set you back 24 quid at play.com for the CDs. So I’ll be checking this daily for a while. Agree about the tagging – FWIW, I’ve sent them feedback about this (which I’d encourage others to do so that they get the message). There also doesn’t seem to be a way of downloading an entire album at once, at least for the ‘deal’ – clicking on 44 download links for the Wagner set was a bit of a pain. They should really take a look at http://www.gimell.com for the right way to do this – everything available in CD-quality FLAC or better, basic 320k mp3 for a fiver less than the CD, downloadable programme notes and album artwork, single links for full album downloads, etc. (though to be fair, this is a lot easier for a specialised single-artist label to implement).

  7. Håkan Lindgren says:

    Also, try the Swedish eclassical.com. No DRM, sometimes cheaper than iTunes, everything is properly tagged (they claim) and they even give your money back, no questions asked, if you change your mind after hearing the music you downloaded. Drawback: they spam you. After buying from them I’ve got a lot of unwanted mail.

  8. Richard Witt says:

    Some of musical friends and I had a drinking game related to the Passionato site. Each time we found a mistake or an album or genre tagged “Unknown,” we had a drink. I’ll just say we got pretty toasted. The Passionato site is pretty messy, not created by classical music lovers it would seem. I’ve been using Classicsonline.com which is a a good site for some excellent indies and nicely picked playlists.

  9. Allard says:

    Hey guys, just connect to MusiClassics website. Although in french, it seems exactly what we all need to enjoy classical music. And the sound quality is quite unique. What have they done!

  10. SeriousCollector says:

    These notes are pretty old. Has anyone been back to Passionato recently? Lots of the problems listed above have been fixed. The search and browse is much more accurate and the selection of music has broadened. I love the lossless FLAC–downloaded the new Grimaud album (bach) and really noticed the difference. Iagree Gimell is better, but you can’t live off their catalogue………..its too small.

  11. classicallover says:

    Yeah, I went there last night. The search and browsing functions still suck. You get different matches depending on very little variations in the keywords used (try for instance bach partita violin and put either no2 or bwv 1004, and see for yourself), not mentioning spelling mistakes. The site looks very cheap and is the slowest I’ve seen. When you switch from 10 results/page to say 30 it takes ages and sometimes it crashes. And that’s only part of a long list of erratic functioning. I still wonder why some people seem to think that anything goes like in the pre-bubble era and set out to deliver a half-baked experience in launching too early.

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