Thanks to some corporate largesse, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will become a more visible (and portable) presence in the coming years—well, for at least the three years covered by a new grant. A $3.4 million gift from BP —formerly British Petroleum—will allow weekly national broadcasts of the CSO to resume for the first time since 2001, through the WFMT Radio Network. The money will also support several international tours by the orchestra.

There’s more: thanks to those generous codgers over at Boeing, the CSO is launching its own label early next spring. Called CSO Resound, the label will feature a mix of physical CDs and download-only releases. The first title is an October 2006 performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, and at least six recordings made by the CSO will be issued over the next three years on CD. Additionally, three or four digital-only releases will be made available every year, sold on iTunes and eMusic as well as CSO’s own site.

With major labels all but abandoning classical music, this proposition certainly makes sense—especially now that Tower is kaput and it’s nearly impossible to find classical music in brick-and-mortar shops. I don’t have details on the sound quality of the digital downloads, but has this format become a viable one for serious classical fans? Me, I don’t know, but considering what sticklers classical listeners are for good sound, I’m skeptical. Am I nuts? In any case, I think this a great development, even if it depends on a corporate sponsor.