Wagner is probably the most admired AND the most reviled composer in Western Classical Music history. I've always been uncomfortable with Wagner's music, so I decided to sit down with the wonderful conductor(and my brother-in-law), Rafael Payare to try and understand how to embrace Wagner. We talk about emotional manipulation, the length of his operas, and of course, his almost pathological anti-Semitism. We also talk about Richard Strauss in this light-hearted and, I hope, illuminating conversation!
Elgar told us all about how the inspiration for his first great success: ?I began to play, and suddenly my wife interrupted by saying: ?Edward, that?s a good tune!... ?What is that?? I answered, ?Nothing ? but something might be made of it."
This little improvisation turned into one of Elgar?s greatest pieces, a piece that made him a legend. This week we'll explore this hymn to good humor, joy, and profound friendship. We'll also explore why this piece is called "Enigma." Join us to dive right in!
Almost everyone classical music fan has a memory of the first time they saw Fantasia. The brilliant combination of music and visuals made lifelong classical music fans out of millions of people. There's no audio only version of Fantasia, so this week I chose 7 brand new pieces that are a perfect entry point into classical music. These pieces represent composers from 6 countries and span 300 years of music. You'll hear from composers both familiar and brand new and I can't wait for you to dive right in!
It's 1905 and you've just come to the premiere of Debussy's La Mer. The orchestra begins playing, and a magical and completely unique journey begins. Gone are the peaceful and placid portrayals of water in music of the past. Instead, you hear strange harmonies and a diffuse language that seems to revel in ambiguity. In fact, it sounds more like an impression of the sea than anything. This is the story of Debussy?s La Mer, one of the most beautiful, strange, and compelling pieces of music ever written.
Mozart?s Jupiter Symphony is a piece that can practically define the classical era symphony. Mozart pulls out every trick in the compositional book and practically sums up everything written before him. It is a symphony full of musical cliches, self-references, and in some cases, flat out thefts from other composers. But as always with Mozart, the thrill of his originality shines through at every moment. Today we?ll explore just how Mozart created this masterpiece of art and musical architecture. Join us!
Schumann?s life was marked with severe mental health issues. In 1844, Schumann suffered one of his worst breakdowns yet. He was dizzy, weak, had vision problems, couldn?t sleep, and couldn't listen to music. By 1845 Schumann slowly began to recover and the first wholly new work he produced was a symphony in C Major. As Schumann said, ?I began to feel more myself when I wrote the last movement, and was assuredly better....still, it reminds me of dark days.? Today, we'll talk all about this huge symphony!
Brahms spent much of his life battling with his ambition to write great symphonies and his terror at the spectre of Beethoven looming over him. His first symphony was a success, and with immense relief, Brahms quickly turned out a second symphony in just 4 months, a bit less than the 14 tortured years it took him to craft the first. At first glance this symphony sounds pastoral and idyllic, but there are plenty of clouds in this seminal masterpiece, something we'll discuss throughout the show. Join us!
The 1950s featured a musical battle, pitting composers like Boulez, Carter, and Babbit against Bernstein, Copland, and Messaien. But how did the Post World War II movement towards total serialism and the avant-garde came about? And how did even the most forward thinking of artists become caught between the two camps of the tonalists and the serialists? We'll talk all about this today, as the battles between these two camps have ensnared almost every composer and continue to this day. Join us to learn more!
This week we're talking all about atonal music! I'm going to tell you all about the history of this controversial development in classical music, its development, and perhaps most importantly, I?ll try to find a way to help you enjoy this music in all of its complexity, intensity, and yes, beauty. Part 1 is focused on 12 tone music and the beginnings of this powerful movement that transformed 20th century music, and according to some, ruined it. If you're ready to give atonal music a shot, join us!
From the end of WWI until 1933, classical music in Germany, Austria, and Eastern Europe was flourishing, with composers such as Zemlinsky, Weill, Krenek, Korngold, Schreker, Schulhoff, Haas, Krasa, and Ullmann writing spectacularly innovative and thrilling music. The Nazis exiled or murdered many of these musicians while in power, but their music lives on. I've never found researching an episode so moving, enraging, and inspiring. Join us this week in this journey of rediscovery - you won't regret it!
In 1901, in the throes of the Finnish Independence movement, Jean Sibelius composed his legendary 2nd Symphony. Sibelius? close colleague, the conductor Robert Kajanus, said that the symphony "strikes one as the most broken-hearted protest against all the injustice that threatens at the present time to deprive the sun of its light and our flowers of their scent." But is the symphony actually about Finnish Independence? Or was it simply, as Sibelius said, ?a confession of the soul?? Join us for a deep dive!
Within three months of his arrival in New York, Antonin Dvorak was enamored with the sound of American music. Quickly he put forth what was at the time a controversial idea: "In the Negro melodies of America I discover all that is needed for a great and noble school of music..." This inspiration is threaded through almost every note of the New World Symphony, with a healthy dose of Dvorak's Bohemian roots and Germanic tradition as well! Join us as we explore this legendary masterpiece from every angle.
Havergal Brian?s ambitious Gothic Symphony has been called many things - massive, ambitious, barbaric, incompetent, insane, moving, brilliant, awful, torture, and much more. It is almost never performed due to the forces it requires and its two hour duration. Today on the show I?ll tell you about the background to this monumental work, and then I?ll try to walk you through the structure of this symphony. Like a Gothic cathedral, there are lots of corners to get lost in, but I'll try to keep you on the path!
With the rise of Wagner, the symphony seemed to be left for dead. But one composer in particular, Anton Bruckner, decided to take the plunge back into the symphonic genre, though he did it with a markedly Wagnerian touch. His most popular symphony? The 7th. We?ll talk about the connection between Wagner and Bruckner throughout the show, but we?ll also explore Bruckner?s distinctive orchestral sound, and how his music seems destined to be performed in a cathedral, always looking up into the sky in wonder.
Gabriela Lena Frank is currently serving as Composer-in-Residence with the storied Philadelphia Orchestra and was included in the Washington Post's list of the 35 most significant women composers in history, I've always been a huge fan of Lena Frank's music, and I was so thrilled to talk with her about how she approaches writing, the sense of fantasy that is so present in her work, the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy, and her fascinating NY Times article about Beethoven's deafness. This is a fun one!
In 1961, a poem appeared by the young poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, entitled Babi Yar. The first line of this poem is: ?There are no monuments over Babi Yar.? In September of 1941 at least 33,771 Jews were murdered at the Babi Yar ravine in Ukraine; the largest single massacre of Jews to that point in WWII. Shostakovich, moved by the bravery of Yevtushenko's poem, set it and 4 other Yevtushenko poems and created his 13th symphony. This is one of those unforgettable pieces - join me to learn all about it.
Never heard of Tom Wiggins? You're in for a treat with this episode! Tom Wiggins was a fantastic 19th century pianist and composer who was ruthlessly exploited by his owner/guardian on account of his race and his mental condition. He was known as one of the greatest performers of his era and yet was never paid for his work. I sat down with Deirdre O'Connell (The Ballad of Blind Tom) to talk with her about Wiggins' life and work. Also included are clips of his music, performed by the pianist John Davis.
The Bach Chaconne is one of the great masterpieces of Western Classical Music, and today we're going to be diving straight into this monumental work. We'll talk about the legends behind its composition, the work itself, different interpretations of the piece, and its many many arrangements. As Brahms wrote about the piece: ?On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings." Join us to discuss this towering artistic achievement!
I had the chance to sit down with virtually with the legendary Wynton Marsalis for a conversation about Jazz, comparing jazz and classical pieces, why so many classical composers writing jazz fail and vice versa, and about his massively ambitious Blues Symphony. About halfway through the show Wynton takes you straight through the first movement of his symphony and I got the sense that I was living the dream of every artist hearing with perfect clarity how a composer conceived of their ideas. Don?t miss it!
The cycle is complete! Would it surprise you to find out that Beethoven?s 9th Symphony wasn?t his last piece? Would it surprise you that he was actually considering an all instrumental movement for the last movement? Or how about that the second performance of the piece was given to a half full hall and it took decades for the piece to become popular? Or how about the famous words ?All men will become brothers?? What did that phrase mean to Beethoven? We'll talk about all this and more in Part 2!
More has been written about the meaning of Beethoven?s 9th than any other symphony. There are more recordings of it, more performances of it, and more uses of its most famous theme, the Ode to Joy, than any other piece. But what is often talked about less than the political and social ramifications of the piece, is the music itself - this shocking, roiling, and inspired music that seems to inject itself right into our bloodstream. This week we talk about the first two movements of this massive symphony.
In 1812, Beethoven's life was in ruins. He was embroiled in court battles, pining away for his "Immortal Beloved," and profoundly depressed. His musical response is one of his funniest, most charming, and most "classical" symphonies - the 8th. This is an underappreciated work that confused audiences of the time because it sounded almost experimental. So in the same vein, I'm going to reprise my live commentary experiment from my Marriage of Figaro episode and talk you through the entire symphony! Enjoy!
The composer Carl Maria Von Weber called it the work of a madman. Clara Schumann?s father, Friedrich Wieck, called it the work of a drunk. Beethoven?s 7th has been popular ever since its premiere, but as you can see, not everyone loved it. It is a piece that has defied explanations about its meaning ever since its premiere. Today, we?ll discuss this overwhelmingly joyous, raucous, even wild piece, its obsessive rhythms, its repetitiveness, and of course, that very nearly indescribable second movement.
Beethoven once said: ?No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.? There's no better example of Beethoven's love of nature than in his 6th symphony, where he takes simplicity to new heights, transforming the motivic cells that relentlessly drove his 5th symphony into motifs of bucolic joy. It still astounds me that the 5th and 6th symphonies were written simultaneously. Join us to learn about this most beautiful symphony..
They are the most famous 8 notes in all of Western Classical Music. If you walk down the street and ask someone to name a piece of classical music, they will surely say Beethoven 5. But why? What's the deal with the 5th? Well, today we?re going to take a deep look at this ubiquitous piece, exploring lots of different facets of this symphony. It is a monumentally important work because in many ways Beethoven 5 serves as the fulcrum between the classical and romantic eras. Join us to find out all about it..
Beethoven often gets the reputation of being a composer of extreme seriousness, shaking his fist at the heavens while dealing with a litany of medical ailments and heartbreak, and there is some truth to that as well. But the 4th symphony, a very strange and mysterious introduction aside, is a piece of almost unadulterated joy. It is another side of Beethoven: bouncy, funny, silly, and quite simply, happy. How and why did he write such a happy symphony? How does music become ?happy?? Join us to find out..
Two of the most famous chords in classical music propel us into this revolutionary, wild, and remarkable symphony. At the time, the Eroica symphony was the longest symphony ever written. At the time it was definitely the loudest symphony ever written! It delved into emotions that symphonies had studiously avoided in the past. Simply put, it changed the musical world forever. So how and why did Beethoven conceive of such a huge work? Is the piece really all about Napoleon? Join us to learn the story...
We continue the Beethoven cycle this week with his underrated 2nd symphony. Written at the height of Beethoven's despair over his increasing deafness, you might think that the symphony would be a dark and stormy one, but instead Beethoven writes one of his most relentlessly cheerful pieces. He even invented a whole new type of movement called a scherzo (joke) to heighten the mood. How do we account for this incongruity between life and art? We'll talk about all this and more as the journey continues..
Today begins a pretty massive project for Sticky Notes - a complete Beethoven cycle over the next few weeks! We start of course with Beethoven's 1st symphony. Some people tend to think of Beethoven?s 1st as a cautious foray into the symphonic world, but I couldn?t disagree more. It is a bold, confident leap into the genre, a genre that Beethoven would end up changing for good. All of the elements that make Beethoven's symphonies so fantastic are already present in this symphony, so let's begin the journey!
Imagine compressing a 3 or 4 hour opera into 8 minutes of music. You?ve just imagined an overture! Overtures are an integral and beloved part of the opera and concert experience, and the best overtures live on as separate pieces from the work they are attached to. These overtures feature music so wonderful that they become immortal miniature masterpieces. So today I'll take you through 10 of my favorite overtures, from William Tell, to Don Giovanni, to Candide, to Romeo and Juliet, and many more. Enjoy!
Bach's Cello Suites are now an indispensable part of the cello repertoire, but this wasn't always the case. After Bach's death, they were forgotten. But starting in the 1890s, a cellist named Pablo Casals began playing the Suites, and the rest is history. Bach left very few clues on how to play these suites, and so many cellists interpret the Suites extraordinarily differently. Today we're going to take a look at 6 cellists and talk about how they interpret these enigmatic, sacred, and inspiring pieces.
Have you ever wondered how music gets from the manuscript to the printed page? Today we?re talking about Haydn, and a project by Henle Publishers to reissue all 55 of Haydn?s piano sonatas with fingerings from 55 different pianists! I talked with the editor in chief at Henle, Norbert Müllemann, and also the brilliant pianist Stephen Hough, one of the 55 pianists chosen for this project. We talked about editing, putting fingerings in, and how interpretation is affected by these decisions. This is a fun one!
Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi. These are some of the biggest names in the history of Western Classical Music, and they were all writing in one of the most innovative periods in musical history - the Baroque Era. Spanning from ca.1600 to ca. 1750, Baroque music is truly the bedrock of the Western Classical Music tradition all the way through the Romantic Era. We'll discuss the earth-shattering impact of this, along with all of the composers who led the way to a new way of thinking about music.
Acts III and IV of the Marriage of Figaro are complicated in many ways. They are difficult for the singers, for the conductor, and especially for the director. So in honour of the many experiments that have been made with the second half of this opera, I?m going to try an experiment as well. I?m going to take a performance of the opera, and play you the entire 3rd and 4th acts while doing live, unscripted commentary on it. Think of it as opera meets ESPN. Make sure to check out Part 1 first and enjoy!
Frederica Von Stade needs no introduction. She is one of the legends of our time, and one of the most beloved singers in the world. She has made over 60 recordings and has appeared with all of the world's great opera companies. She is also spearheading a new project called The People's Choir of Oakland, focusing specifically on the homeless population. We talked about the People's Choir, and also touched on her career, including her experiences with Bernstein, Karajan, Abbado, and more. This was a blast.
In the late 16th century, a new art form emerged, borne out of a desire to re-engage with Greek dramas of the past. This art form was incredibly ambitious; it would involve music, words, and dance, all written to entertain court patrons and their subjects. Soon, this new idea had a name: Opera. Today, we?ll do a brief overview of how opera developed all the way up until Mozart?s time. Then, I?m going to take you through Acts I and II of Mozart?s opera The Marriage of Figaro, my desert island piece. Enjoy!
There are indelible images associated with the musical Renaissance period. This 200 year era saw an astonishing growth in productivity, an expansion of education, both musical and otherwise, and repeated religious upheavals. The music of this period existed both as a catalyst and as a reaction to all of these momentous events in history. We?ll talk all about this fascinating 200 years of musical history in the 2nd of this ongoing series of each of the periods of Western Classical Music in 60 Minutes.
William Dawson is not a household name to classical music lovers. But for one week in 1934, he was the talk of the classical music world. The legendary Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had chosen to program a new symphony by Dawson entitled "Negro Folk Symphony." It was broadcast nationwide and the audience reaction was ecstatic. But the piece soon disappeared and it is only in the past few years that it is performed more often. Today, I'll take you through this absolutely amazing symphony.
Clayton Haslop might not be a name that is familiar to all of you, but I bet you anything that you've heard his playing. He has appeared as concertmaster on over 1000 TV Shows and Movies, such as Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, The Matrix, Ratatouille, Star Trek, The incredibles, UP, and others. His story took on an extra resonance when he began suffering from Focal Dystonia. Taking a cue from the guitarist Django Reinhardt, Haslop relearned the violin with just two fingers. In this conversation, we talk about studying with Nathan Milstein, Neville Marriner, and Haslop's journey back to playing.
It might surprise, or even shock you, to learn that a piece that crackles with joy and excitement like Bartok's Divertimento was written in November of 1939. But the circumstances of the Divertimento are among the most unusual in the history of 20th century music. Bartok's Divertimento is a perfect amalgam of his style; a wholehearted embrace of folk music, old forms, and in the slow movement, a large dose of terror. This is a truly underrated piece that allows us to explore Bartok from every angle. Enjoy!
When we hear Medieval music performed live, it speaks to us in a different way than almost any other music. It seems to have just appeared, as is, from the earth itself. Medieval music was originally passed down by oral tradition but soon a desire for standardization led to musical notation, rhythmic notation, and the seeds of so much music to come. Medieval music might be the most mysterious of all the eras of classical music, so let's dive right in, with Medieval Music in (almost) 60 minutes.
December 23rd, 1806 should have been one of those dates etched into musical history; it was the premier of a new violin concerto by Beethoven, performed by one of the great soloists of the day. But the performance was a relative failure, and the concerto languished in obscurity for decades. Why did it fail? How did it get re-discovered, and how did it slowly become one of the most beloved pieces ever written? We'll explore all that today as well as every nook and cranny of this remarkable concerto!
Symphonie Fantastique, which was written just 3 years after Beethoven?s death, redefined what music could portray. Its color, fire, narrative arc, vulgarity, descriptiveness, and drug-induced hysteria put it in a class of its own in the classical music world. As Leonard Bernstein said: "Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.? Today we?ll get to know the story behind Symphonie Fantastique, and also talk about this piece and all of its brilliant innovations.
Welcome to Season 7 of Sticky Notes! I'm often asked: ?I want to get into classical music, but where do I start?? Today is my attempt to answer that question! Western Classical Music is an umbrella term that stretches over 1500 years of music, and there is an infinite variety to choose from. Today, we'll take a quick look at all 6 "periods" of classical music, from the Medieval, to the Renaissance, to the Baroque, to the Classical, to the Romantic, and the Contemporary. This episode is meant for beginners as well as lovers of classical music!
The pianist Andras Schiff on Schubert: ?There is a folk song like simplicity in Schubert?s Music; his music is never crowded. He does not want to impress you or overwhelm you. He tells you a very simple story and invites you by very simple means to come and join him and share his thoughts.? It's hard to describe an hour long piece as simple, but Schiff's description applies to this massive, majestic, and yes, simple(in the best way) symphony. This week, we'll talk all about this mesmerizing symphony.
A few years ago, I was at a performance of the Rite of Spring. Sitting behind me were some rather conservative audience members. As one particularly violent section of the piece blasted away, I heard one of them say, ?If they keep playing this modern music I?m cancelling my subscription.? How does a piece remain modern for so long? In Part 2 of the Rite this week, we explore this question, as well as dig into how Stravinsky builds a narrative that results in the sacrifice and the beginning of Spring.
It's possible that the Nutcracker is the most recognizable Western Classical Music in the world, so what could one say about this ubiquitous piece? Well, from the adaptations of the original story, to the composition process, to the premiere, to the music itself, and to what the Nutcracker means to classical institutions, there?s a lot here! At the end of the show, I also make a plea on behalf of ballet companies worldwide, and look forward to next year, when we can all enjoy this wonderful classic again.
You might be surprised to know that the famous riot at the premiere of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was by no means the only disturbance at a classical concert in history. But it is the most famous. This week, we'll explore the who, what, when, where, and WHY of this riot, and go through Part 1 of the Rite of Spring. We'll talk about folk music and Stravinsky's use of it, rhythm, orchestration, color, and much more as we grapple with a piece that sounds just as revolutionary in 2020 as it did in 1913.
Welcome to the Season 6 Finale of Sticky Notes! Mahler titled the last movement of his 3rd symphony "What Love Tells Me." This movement is my favorite movement of any Mahler symphony. It is a profoundly heartfelt chorale that traverses peaks and valleys of ecstasy and despair in equal measure. We'll talk all about this emotionally complex movement and how it relates to the other 5 movements in the symphony. At the end of the show, I took a moment to reflect on the previous year of shows. Please join me!
The middle four movements of Mahler's 3rd symphony were central to his mission - that is, to portray the entire world in one symphony. And when I say entire world I really mean it. In these movements, Mahler musically portrays what the flowers, nature, man, and angels tell him. These are some of the most colorful, kaleidoscopic, fascinating, and difficult movements in all of Mahler, and we'll talk all about them. We'll also try a new experiment where I take you through how I study a piece like this - enjoy!