Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast

By Joshua Weilerstein

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 Oct 8, 2019

mattiaq
 Aug 10, 2019

Description

Sticky Notes is a classical music podcast for everyone, whether you are just getting interested in classical music for the first time, or if you've been listening to it and loving it all your life. Interviews with great artists, in depth looks at pieces in the repertoire, and both basic and deep dives into every era of music. Classical music is absolutely for everyone, so let's start listening! Note - Seasons 1-5 will be returning over the next year. They have been taken down in order to be re-recorded in improved sound quality!

Episode Date
The Music of Film Composers
44:24

Film music began as a solution to a problem. Early film projectors were really loud, therefore something was needed to cover up all the noise.  In addition, silent movies apparently seemed a bit awkward without any musical accompaniment.   Enter, usually, a pianist, who would improvise musical accompaniments to the events on the screen. None other than Dmitri Shostakovich got his first job as a cinema pianist, honing his improvisatory skills, and sometimes receiving cat calls and boos for his fantasy filled musings that tended to stray away from the action on the screen. Music in the silent film era had to help the audience in pointing out important moments to the audience,  enhancing the emotional effects of the story, and most importantly, it had to give a certain musical line to every character, giving to them the emotional depth that the audience couldn't get since they weren’t going to hear their voice.  To do this, early film composers turned to the idea of the Leitmotif, an idea developed by the opera composer Richard Wagner. This idea would take hold even once "talkies" took over the screen, with composers such as Max Steiner, Charlie Chaplin, and others setting the stage for a century of brilliant music, by composers like Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, Dmitri Shostakovich, Rachel Portman, Hans Zimmer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Christopher Willis, and dozens and dozens more. Today on the show we'll talk about this development of film music, and also hear some of the greatest and most recognizable film music ever written. We'll also talk about why film music is sometimes looked down upon in the classical music world, and how we might begin to change that perception. Join us! 

Dec 01, 2022
Janacek Sinfonietta
50:23

Along with Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana, Leos Janacek is known as one of the three great Czech composers. He was born in Moravia, part of the Austrian Empire at the time, and became passionately interested in studying the folk music of his Moravian culture. After World War I, when the empire collapsed and Moravia became incorporated into the new country of Czechoslovakia, those nationalistic sentiments only increased, and Janacek was the perfect person to express those feelings through his music, seeing as his interest in the folk music of his homeland had been a lifelong passion for him. Enter the Sinfonietta, written in 1926, commissioned by none other than a Gymnastics festival!

A sinfonietta is usually a smaller scale piece than a symphony, shorter, with a lighter orchestration and a lighter touch. But Janacek was always a rebel, and his Sinfonietta is a symphony in all but name, featuring an absolutely massive brass section that lustily performs the nationliaistic fanfares that Janacek gleefully adds  to the music. The Sinfonietta is an expression of patriotic love for Janacek’s homeland, but it is also a piece that shows off so many of the things that make Janacek such a unique and underrated composer, his love of short fragmented melodies, his shocks and surprises, his innovative use of orchestration, and more. If you're not familiar with Janacek's music, the Sinfonietta is the perfect entry point, so come join us on this Patreon-sponsored episode!

Nov 25, 2022
The Degenerates: Music Suppressed By The Nazis
57:39
The center of Western Classical Music, ever since the time of Bach, has been modern-day Germany and Austria.  You can trace a line from Bach, to Haydn to Mozart to Beethoven to Schubert to Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner, and finally to Mahler. But why does that line stop in 1911, the year of Mahler’s death? Part of the answer is the increasing influence of composers from outside the Austro-German canon, something that has enriched Western Classical music to this day. There was also World War I getting in the way.  But after the war, one could have expected that this line would continue again.  The 1920’s in Germany and the rest of Europe were a time of radical experimentation, a flowering of ideas, a sort of wild ecstasy of innovation across all the arts. So why don’t we hear of these Austro-German experimenters and innovators anymore?  Because of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and their Entartete, or Degenerate music.  Hitler’s worst crime was by no means his suppression of dozens of German, Austrian, and Eastern European composers, but it is a fact all the same that from the end of World War I until 1933, classical music in Germany and Eastern Europe(especially Czechoslovakia), was flourishing, with composers such as Zemlinsky, Krenek, Korngold, Schreker, Schulhoff, Haas, Krasa, and Ullmann taking up the mantle of the giants of the past and hoisting it upon themselves to carry it forward.  
 
The Nazis silenced, exiled, or  killed off many of these musicians during the twelve years of 1933-1945, and those voices are forever lost, but the music they wrote before, during the War and the Holocaust, and after it, some of it masterpieces quite on the level of their predecessors, has been preserved.  So why then are these composers not better known? I’ve chosen 12 composers, all of whom were writing music at the highest level.  Some of them may be familiar to you, but many probably won’t be.  And through all of their trials and tribulations, one of the things I want to emphasize throughout these stories, even the bleakest ones, is that so many of them found the will to be able to compose this heart-rending, beautiful, and often optimistic music all as they witnessed unimaginable horrors. It may seem empty when the end for many of these artists was so horrific, but these compositions and the men and women who were behind them are a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit.  These artists created a life for their friends, neighbors, and fellow inmates in concentration camps.  They wrote music they knew would almost certainly not be heard in their lifetimes, from an urge that could not be destroyed, even by gas chambers. Join us to learn about them this week.
Nov 17, 2022
David Krauss, Principal Trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
45:42

David Krauss is the Principal Trumpet of the Met Opera orchestra, and in this conversation, we talked about his beginnings on the trumpet, the differences between playing in a symphonic orchestra vs. an opera orchestra, how to manage the vast distances between singers, the conductor, the orchestra, and the brass section, the specific skills an opera orchestra player has to have, and some funny/terrifying stories about on stage moments we both would rather forget! We also talked about David's podcast, Speaking Soundly. This was a really fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Nov 03, 2022
Beethoven Op. 18 String Quartets, Part 2
01:06:32

Note: This episode will be a lot more enjoyable if you listen to Part 1 first!

As we turn towards the final three quartets of the set, we’ll see a lot of the same characteristics of the first 3; a perfect classical era proportionality, strong influences from Haydn and Mozart, and that perfect blend of vividly drawn but just very slightly restrained characters that marks Beethoven’s early period. But we also will see something else. We will see C Minor, Beethoven’s favorite key to depict drama and anxiety, we will see music that is almost impossibly charming and Mozartian coming from a composer as irascible as Beethoven, and then we will arrive at Op. 18 No. 6, perhaps the most emotionally complex and forward looking of the 6 Op. 18 quartets. We’ll take our same birds eye view of each of these quartets, as we did last week, but I will also do two more deep dives. We'll take apart the first movement of Op. 18 No. 4, and the last movement of Op. 18 No. 6, which is the movement that for many is the highlight of these quartets. Along the way, we’ll enjoy all of the quirky details of these three mini masterpieces, and see how Beethoven was starting to break the mold and set out onto his own path, one note at a time.

PS: All recordings used on the show for the last two weeks were done by The Cleveland Quartet - recordings of the complete quartets are available at clevelandquartet.com

Oct 27, 2022
Beethoven Op. 18 String Quartets, Part 1
01:06:37

In 1798, Beethoven, all of 28 years old, was about to begin a project that would take him to the last days of his life, a project that would result in some of the most far-reaching, most cosmic, most life-affirming, most dramatic, and simply put, some of the greatest music he, or anyone else, ever wrote. This project that Beethoven was beginning was his first set of string quartets. Beethoven wrote/published 16 string quartets during his life, and they are both a superhuman achievement and yet also a testament to the ability of a single person to create music of vast complexity and the deepest of emotions, all for just 4 musicians.

To really understand Beethoven’s quartets, and his achievements with them as he progressed through his life, we have to start at the beginning. Beethoven was very rarely in the shadow of anyone during his life, but when it came to the string quartet, Beethoven still felt very much indebted to two of his colleagues, Haydn and Mozart. Haydn had essentially invented the genre of the string quartet, and by 1798 was beginning the massive project of cataloguing and writing out his 68 string quartets. Mozart had died only 7 years earlier, leaving us with some of the most pristine and gorgeous entries in this still relatively new at the time genre of instrumentation. 

Beethoven’s music is often separated in to early, middle, and late periods, and these string quartets are always placed into the early period, which makes sense considering his later works, but also belies the fact that Beethoven had already accomplished quite a bit by the time he turned 30! It’s safe to say that these pieces come near the end of this early period, where Beethoven was still working out how to embrace the classical traditions that he admired so much in composers like Mozart and Haydn, while also finding his own path as the creator of brand new traditions, smashing the rule book along the way.

So this week, I wanted to take you through an overview of these amazing works. We’ll talk about the genre of the string quartet itself, what Haydn and Mozart had essentially codified when Beethoven wrote his Op. 18s, and of course, what Beethoven did with this genre, even at this early stage, which is often absolutely astonishing in its creativity, intensity, and just plain excitement.

Oct 20, 2022
Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1
01:00:09

In almost every one of the past shows I’ve done about Shostakovich, the name Joseph Stalin is mentioned almost as much as the name Dmitri Shostakovich, and of course, there’s a good reason for that. Shostakovich’s life and music was inextricably linked to the Soviet dictator, and Shostakovich, like millions of Soviet citizens, lived in fear of the Stalin regime, which exiled, imprisoned, or murdered so many of Shostakovich’s friends and even some family members. Post his 1936 denunciation, Shostakovich’s music completely changed. Moving away from the radical experimentation he had attempted with his doomed opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, he adopted a slightly more conservative style, which he hoped would keep him in good stead with the authorities.

But the piece I’m going to tell you about today, his monumental first violin concerto, is a bit different. It was written just after World War II, between 1947 and 1948. And yet, it was not performed until 8 years later. Shostakovich himself withdrew the work and kept it “in the drawer” along with his 4th string quartet and his song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry.

When the piece was finally performed by its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, it was a massive success, and it remains one of the best ways to “get into” Shostakovich’s music. It is a huge work, in 4 grand movements, and Shostkaocvich himself described it as a “symphony for violin solo.” It features all of the qualities that make Shostakovich’s music so exciting, powerful, heartbreaking, and intense, while also allowing the listener, for the most part, to remove politics from the equation. While there are certainly encoded messages in the piece, one of which we’ll get into in detail, this is a piece that is as close to pure musical expression as any of Shostakovich’s post 1936 works, and so today I won’t be mentioning Stalin all that much, I won’t be mentioning the Soviet government every other sentence, and instead, we’ll explore what makes this concerto so fantastic, so emotionally powerful, and so rousingly exciting. Join us!

Oct 13, 2022
10 Pieces You've (Probably) Never Heard, But Need to Listen To!
01:02:37

Everyone knows Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.  Even if United Airlines hadn’t made the piece ubiquitous, it seems like the one piece of classical music almost everyone knows besides the beginning of Beethoven’s 5th symphony is Rhapsody in Blue.  But did you know that Gershwin wrote a second rhapsody for piano and orchestra?  

We know Shostakovich’s later works for their intensity, drama, and depth, but did you know that Shostakovich was a completely different composer when he was a young man?  That he wrote funny, sarcastic, and wildly experimental music?  

How about Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber and his Battalia a 10?  Or Ethel Smyth’s string quintet? Or the music of Teresa Carreno? Leonard Bernstein used to talk about the infinite variety of classical music because there’s simply an endless treasure trove of great and often totally unknown classical music out there.  So today, I want to take you on a bit of an archeological expedition, exploring 10 pieces you’ve (probably) never heard of, but really have to listen to.  My list includes some very recognizable names, including Ravel, Gershwin, and Shostakovich, but also some names you might know less well, like Anton Arensky, Milosz Magin, and Teresa Carreno. Join us and discover something new!

Oct 06, 2022
Ives, "Three Places in New England"
01:00:25

In 1929, the conductor Nicolas Slonimsky contacted the American composer Charles Ives about performing one of his works. This was a bit of a surprise for Ives, since he had a checkered reputation among musicians and audience members, if they even were familiar with his name at all. In fact, he was much more famous during his lifetime as an extremely successful insurance executive! Ives mostly composed in his spare time, and his music was mostly ignored or ridiculed as that of a person suffering from a crisis of mental health. Most of his music was never performed during his lifetime, and even today, he is thought of as a great but extremely eccentric composer, and orchestras and chamber ensembles often struggle to sell tickets if his name appears on the program. But for those who love Ives, there is an almost evangelical desire to spread his music to the world. I’m one of those people, and I’m finally fulfilling a pledge to myself to do a full show devoted to a single work of arguably the greatest and most under appreciated American composer of all time, Charles Ives. The piece I chose to talk about today is Three Places in New England, or the New England Symphony, a piece that is a perfect amalgam of what makes Ives such a spectacular composer - his radical innovations, his ahead of his time experiments, his humor, his humanity, his warmth, and the staggering creativity that marked all of Ives’ great works. We’ll start with a little biography of Ives in case you’re not familiar with him, and then we’ll dive into Three Places in New England, and by the end, I hope , if you’re not already, that I will have converted you into an Ives fan for life! Join us!

Sep 29, 2022
Louise Farrenc Symphony No. 3
57:31

In the mid 19th century, the way to make yourself famous in France as a composer was to write operas. From Cherubini, to Meyerbeer, to Bizet, to Berlioz, to Gounod, to Massenet, to Offenbach, to Saint Saens, to foreign composers who wrote specifically for the Paris Opera like Rossini, Verdi and others, if you wanted to be somebody, especially as a French composer, you wrote operas, and you wrote a lot of them. But one composer in France bucked the trend, and her name was Louise Farrenc. Farrenc never wrote an opera - instead she focused on chamber music, works for solo piano, and three symphonies that were in a firmly Germanic style. Writing in a style that was not en vogue in her home country, along with the obvious gender imbalances of the time, meant that you might expect that Farrenc was completely ignored during her life. But that’s not the case. She had a highly successful career as a pianist, a pedagogue, and yes, as a composer too. But after her death, her music was largely forgotten. Bu in the last 15-20 years there has been a concerted effort at bringing Farrenc’s music back to life, part of a larger movement to rediscover the work of composers who were unfairly maligned or treated during their lifetimes and after. One of Farrenc’s greatest works, and the one we’re going to be talking about today, is her 3rd symphony in G Minor. On the surface this is a piece in the mid-to-late German Romantic symphonic tradition, with lots of echoes of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but there’s a lot more to it than that. So today on this Patreon sponsored episode, we’ll discuss how Farrenc’s music fit into French musical life, how a symphony was a still expected to sound in 1847, and of course, this dramatic and powerful symphony that is only now beginning to find its rightful place on stage. Join us!

Sep 22, 2022
Saint-Saens, The Carnival Of The Animals
56:57

In 1922 a review appeared in the French newspaper Le Figaro: “We cannot describe the cries of admiring joy let loose by an enthusiastic public. In the immense oeuvre of Camille Saint-Saëns, The Carnival of the Animals is certainly one of his magnificent masterpieces. From the first note to the last it is an uninterrupted outpouring of a spirit of the highest and noblest comedy. In every bar, at every point, there are unexpected and irresistible finds. Themes, whimsical ideas, instrumentation compete with buffoonery, grace and science. ... When he likes to joke, the master never forgets that he is the master.” You would think that this review came after a triumphant performance for Saint-Saens, and that he basked in the glory of the major success of what would become perhaps his most well known work, the Carnival of the Animals. But it just wasn’t the case. In fact, this review appeared after a performance of the piece given after Saint-Saens death, and there was a reason for that. Saint-Saens, after 3 private performances of the piece, forbade it from being performed publicly during his lifetime. Why? Well, he was concerned that this lighthearted piece would diminish his standing as a serious composer. Even in the mid 1880s when this piece was written, Saint-Saens began to evince the conservatism, musical and otherwise, that would mark his later career, to the point that he wanted Stravinsky declared insane and said this about Debussy: "We must at all costs bar the door of the Institut against a man capable of such atrocities; they should be put next to the cubist pictures." Why was Saint-Saens so opposed to modernism? Why was he so concerned with his reputation as a serious composer, to the point that he suppressed this wonderfully creative piece? And just what makes the Carnival of the Animals so fantastic and so much fun to listen to, as well as being so vivid in its portrayals of the animals it represents? Join us to find out!

Sep 15, 2022
Brahms Symphony No. 4
01:10:30

Welcome to Season 9 of Sticky Notes! We're starting with a bang this season with Brahms' incomparable 4th symphony. This symphony takes the listener on a journey that unexpectedly ends in a legendarily dramatic and stormy way. What would compel a composer like Brahms to write an ending like this? Was it a requiem for his place in music? For Vienna? For Europe? Or was it the logical conclusion to a minor key bassline he stole from a Bach Cantata? This is the eternal question when it comes to Brahms - logic or emotion? Well, usually the answer is a bit of both, and today we're going to go through this remarkable piece with all of this in mind. Join us!

Sep 08, 2022
Mozart, The Music, The Myth, The Legend, w/ Jan Swafford
59:52

"I think Mozart just really loved people." - Jan Swafford.

For the Season 8 Finale, I had the great pleasure of welcoming back Jan Swafford, the great writer on music, who has written a spectacular new biography of Mozart. In this conversation, we talked about who Mozart really was as a person, some of the myths that defined him during his lifetime and into the present day, and of course, the incomparable music that Mozart was able to create, sometimes on a whim or in a single afternoon. This is a conversation about a man who understood people perhaps better than almost any composer, and a musician who scraped and struggled during his life while achieving immortality through his creations. Please note that this will be the last episode of Season 8 and Season 9 will begin on September 8!

Aug 04, 2022
The Life and Music of George Gershwin
43:15

George Gershwin’s story is like the story of so many American immigrants.  His mother and father, Moishe and Rose Gershowitz,  were Russian Jews who came to New York City in the 1890s looking for a better life and to escape persecution at home. Soon they became the Gershwines, and in 1898, Jacob Gershwine was born. Later on he changed his name to sound just a little bit more American, and the name George Gershwin was on its way to immortality.  In just a few short years, the Gershowitz’s had become the Gershwins, and the story of George Gershwin was beginning to be written.  On today’s show we’ll talk about some of Gershwin’s greatest works, including his Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, and Porgy and Bess, but we’ll also talk about the collision between Classical and Pop music, a Russian Jew imbibing the purely American form of Jazz, and Gershwin’s place in the modern classical and jazz repertoire, and in America. Join us!

Jul 28, 2022
Haydn Symphony No. 94, "Surprise"
39:41

If you want to understand how a symphony works, look no further than the works of the Father of the symphony, Joseph Haydn.

In 1790, a concert promoter and impresario named Johann Peter Solomon showed up un-announced at the Vienna home of the great composer Joseph Haydn.  He immediately told Haydn: “I am Solomon from London and I have come to fetch you.”  What Salomon and Haydn were about to embark upon would be one of the greatest successes of both of their lives.  Haydn would end up making 2 visits to London, presenting an adoring audience with 12 symphonies, almost all of which are still regularly performed today.  But the most famous one is the one we’re going to be talking about today, the 94th symphony, nicknamed “Surprise” or in the slightly drier German version: “the one with the Drumstroke.”  The piece is famous for this surprise, which is now so well known that it rarely surprises anyone, though we’ll get into just how you might be able to do that in 2022.  But the entire piece is a masterpiece in its own right, and so today we’ll discuss all of the tricks and traps Haydn pulls with his audience, leading to one of the most enjoyable symphonies of his entire catalogue.

Jul 21, 2022
Derrick Skye: "Prisms, Cycles, and Leaps" w/ Derrick Skye
01:00:27

Derrick Skye is one of the most creative, innovative, and brilliant composers of our time. His orchestral work, Prisms, Cycles, and Leaps is a musical thrill ride spanning influences from literally all over the world, from West African Music, Balkan Folk Music, Hindustani Classical Music, all the way to Appalachan Folk harmonies. I had the great pleasure of talking my way through this piece with Derrick, exploring the mind-bogglingly complex rhythmic patterns, the melodic lines that blend cultures and harmonies, and the infectious joy of this unique piece. If you're not familiar wiith Derrick's music, trust me, take the time to get to know him and his music in this interview/analysis - you won't regret it!

Jul 14, 2022
The Music of Olivier Messiaen
01:00:34

There is one composer who I’ve never devoted a full show to that fills me with the same devotion and ecstasy as the people who claim that Wagner almost immediately dissolves them into tears. His music is widely played, but it has never been totally embraced by the wider classical music audience. There are a variety of reasons for this, but his uniquely 20th century language of tonality mixed with atonality mixed with something completely different from anyone who has ever written music makes it sometimes difficult to pin down his vast contribution to the world of music. His music is as deeply connected to his religious faith as any composer in history, and yes, that includes Bach. His music is as deeply connected to Nature as any composer who ever lived, and his music is tied directly to the colors he saw as he played and listened to it. His name is Olivier Messiaen, and he is one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. I wish I could describe to you the otherworldly feeling I get when I listen to his music, but for a very long time, I shied away from it.  Perhaps the reason is that it’s extremely hard to talk about Messiaen’s musical outlook without talking about his religious faith. I’m a non-religious Jewish person, so the depths of devotion that Messiaen describes regularly as his inspirations were and are foreign to me. And yet, the first time I heard his L’Ascension, every single hair on my body seemed to stand on end. I was completely blown away by these ravishing harmonies, how light seemed to shine off of them, how Messiaen translated his religious devotion into sound. I’ve not talked about Messiaen’s music on the show because it’s not easy to grapple with, but I can’t wait any longer. Today I’ll tell you a bit about Messiaen’s life, his upbringing, his musical and religious revelations, and then I’ll discuss some of his greatest pieces using three frameworks - religion, nature and specifically birdsong, and color. Join us!

Jul 07, 2022
Dvorak Symphony No. 8
01:00:01

Bucolic. Sunny. Cheerful. Joyous. Folksy. Ebullient. Thrilling. These are all words that I found while researching Dvorak’s 8th symphony. Dvorak’s gift for writing the most gorgeous of melodies is on full display in his 8th symphony, a piece that has been charming listeners ever since its very first performances. It is, on its surface, an uncomplicated piece, bursting at the seams with melody after melody after melody, almost mirroring one of Brahms’ greatest one-liners, where he referred to his summer country home as a place where melodies were so heavily present thatt one had to be careful to avoid tripping on them! The overriding characteristic of this 8th symphony is joy, from its childlike key of G Major, to its raucous use of folk music, and even its smiling through tears slow movement.

Very often on this show I try to take pieces that are quite complicated and break them down for you to show you how to follow their twists and turns despite their complexities. But today, I’m going to do the opposite. Today, I’m going to take a piece that is, on its surface, quite simple, and I’m going to show you how this symphony is not quite as simple as it seems. It is a piece full of invention and of the scintillating energy of trying out new ideas. As Dvorak said, he would try to make this symphony ”different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out in a new way.” So today on the show we’re going to talk about how this symphony is different from other symphonies, and also how Dvorak constructs his chains of melodies that add up to the joyful whole of this piece, though tinged with the melancholy that is almost always present with Dvorak. Join us!

Jun 30, 2022
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 4, "Italian"
47:05

How does a composer capture the spirit of a country, especially if it's not his native land?  Mendelssohn, in his Italian Symphony, gives us one of the best examples of someone doing just that, giving us a tightly integrated, yet highly independent set of 4 snapshots from his travels all over Italy.  And yet, despite the piece being called the Italian Symphony and being indelibly associated with the country, the symphony remains a relatively traditional 4 movement German classical symphony.  What we hear then is a brilliant amalgamation of a symphony and a tone poem that is among the first of its kind.  The symphony tells no story, has no narrative, and yet, when we finish the breathless Tarantella that ends the piece, we feel like we’ve been flicking through a photo album of Felix’s vacation, smiling (mostly) all along the way. Today we’ll talk all about how Mendelssohn builds this symphony and how each movement captures such a distinctive character, while remaining Mendelssohnian to its core - kind, warm-hearted, and full of bubbling energy. Join us!

Jun 23, 2022
Brahms Piano Quartet in G Minor (+Schoenberg!)
58:22
Today I’m going to be talking about one piece, but in two different ways.  I’m going to start today with an in-depth look at Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G Minor, an early piece of his that reveals an incredible sense of drama, drive, and creativity. This is very different music than I’ve talked about before with Brahms as this is decidedly the work of a young composer, without all the burnished maturity of Brahms’ later music. This is also a great opportunity to revisit the bedrock of the Classical and Early Romantic eras, Sonata Form, a form that makes so many pieces from those eras intelligible and clear. 
But I’m also going to be talking about another piece. Well, it’s the same piece, but to some people, it sounds so completely different that it constitutes a completely new piece entirely. To some others, myself included, it almost constitutes an entirely new Brahms symphony. What I’m talking about is the composer Arnold Schoenberg’s arrangement of Brahms’s Piano Quartet for a massive orchestra, filling the stage with instruments that Brahms never would have even conceived of! You don’t often think of Schoenberg and Brahms in the same breath, but Schoenberg was a devotee of Brahms’ music, and often defended him against those who called him a crusty old conservative composer. But Schoenberg was still Schoenberg, and this arraangement of the quartet reflects that in a lot of ways. So along with an exploration of Sonata Form, I’ll save a look at the Schoenberg arrangement for the end of th show, since this is a great chance to look at orchestration and how a composer takes a piece written for 4 people and transforms it into a piece for 100. So today we’ll dive into this vast and complex piece, and along they way we’ll visit Schoenberg’s fascinating and sometimes downright wacky arrangement.  Join us!
Jun 16, 2022
Berio Folk Songs
55:52

In 1964, the popular 20th century composer Luciano Berio was commissioned by Mills College in California to write a piece for voice and chamber orchestra. What Berio came up with is one of his most remarkably creative works, which is really saying something considering the innovative and constantly evolving way that he wrote music. Berio once said:  “My links with folk music are often of an emotional character. When I work with that music I am always caught by the thrill of discovery… I return again and again to folk music because I try to establish contact between that and my own ideas about music. I have a utopian dream, though I know it cannot be realized: I would like to create a unity between folk music and our music — a real, perceptible, understandable conduit between ancient, popular music-making which is so close to everyday work and music.”

The words "thrill of discovery" are at the core of what makes the Folk Songs so wonderful and easy to listen to. They combine a modernist classical aesthetic with songs that are of such beauty that it is hard not be overwhelmed by them. Berio took 11 folk songs from 5 different regions of the world, from places as far away as the United States and Azerbaijan, and transformed them. He wrote: “I have given the songs a new rhythmic and harmonic interpretation: in a way, I have recomposed them. The instrumental part has an important function: it is meant to underline and comment on the expressive and cultural roots of each song. Such roots signify not only the ethnic origins of the songs but also the history of the authentic uses that have been made of them.” Today on the show I’m going to take you through these 11 songs, going on a historical expedition to find some of their roots and to get as close to the original songs as I can, and then looking at how Berio re-worked these songs into this cycle that consistently stuns people with its beauty and creativity. If you’ve never heard these pieces before, get ready, because Berio will take you on a remarkable journey. Join us!

Jun 09, 2022
Prokofiev Symphony No. 5
01:03:05
It’s very easy to compare Sergei Prokofiev to Dmitri Shostakovich.  They are the two most famous representatives of Soviet and Russian music of the 20th century, they lived around the same time, and their music even has some similarities, but at their core, you almost couldn’t find more different people than Prokofiev and Shostakovich.  Shostakovich was neurotic, nervous, and timid.  Prokofiev was confident and cool.  Shostakovich was tortured by the Soviet government, and while Prokofiev certainly had his runins with Stalin and his crones , his life wasn’t so inextricably linked to the Soviet Union, besides the fact that he had the bad luck to die on the same day as Joseph Stalin, which made it so that there were no flowers available for his funeral. Prokofiev was able to travel, and see the world, generally without nearly as much interference as Shostakovich faced.  These two lives are reflected in two very different musical approaches.  Shostakovich's wartime symphonies are full of terror and violence, whlie Prokofiev wrote that his 5th symphony was a hymn to the human spirit. We don't know how much that reflects his true feelings, but its undeniable that there is a certain "optimism" to this symphony that both thrills and unsettles listeners to this day. It is also filled with traademark Prokofiev cynicism and sarcasm, and so we are left, as always, with a contradiction. What did Prokofiev mean with this symphony? Join us as we try to find out!
Jun 02, 2022
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24
44:00

Imagine writing a concerto that prompted Beethoven to remark to a friend: “we’ll never be able to write anything like that.  Or a piece that prompted Brahms to call it: “a masterpiece of art, full of inspiration and ideas.”  Or had scholars and musicologists raving, saying things like: "not only the most sublime of the whole series but also one of the greatest pianoforte concertos ever composed" or "whatever value we put upon any single movement from the Mozart concertos, we shall find no work greater as a concerto than this K. 491, for Mozart never wrote a work whose parts were so surely those of 'one stupendous whole'."  I could go on and on, but the simple end to this story is that Mozart’s C Minor Piano Concerto has been considered one of the great achievements of humanity ever since it was premiered on either April 3rd of April 7th of 1786, performed by Mozart himself.  While we don’t know exactly how long it took Mozart to complete this concerto, it could not have taken more than a few months, and it came amidst him writing his 22nd and 23rd piano concerti, both masterpieces in their own right, and it was written just as Mozart was putting the finishing touches on his comic magnum opus, The Marriage of Figaro.  It’s almost a cliche at this point, but its one of those rare cliche’s that really deserves to be repeated:  If Mozart had written just one of those 4 pieces, his name would have been etched in history. Instead he was working on all 4 at the same time! Today, we’re going to be talking about the astonishing harmonic language of the piece, it’s skeletal manuscript, and how performers deal with the contradictions and quite frankly, missing pieces of this concerto. Join us!

May 26, 2022
The Life and Music of Florence Price
51:26

Today I’ve got a pretty special show for you. It’s set up in two parts, with the first part featuring an interview, and the second part will be a more typical Sticky Notes analysis of a specific piece. Why did I set up the show this way this week? Well, I had the opportunity a few months ago to work with an extraordinary scholar and musician, Dr. Samantha Ege, who is the Lord Crewe Junior Research Fellow in Music at Lincoln College, University of Oxford,  and is also one of the foremost scholars on the music of Florence Price.

Florence Price is a composer who has been receiving a lot of attention over the last 5-7 years. As the first African American woman to have a major piece performed an orchestra, her first symphony was performed in 1933 by the Chicago Symphony, Price has become one of the most prominent figures in the revival of music written by Black composers as orchestras and performers not only in the US but all over the world attempt to diversify their programming. Price is part of a group of composers from the early twentieth century who were the first nationally successful Black composers. This group included luminaries such as William Grant Stiill, William Levi Dawson, and Nathaniel Dett, among others, and all of these composers have had their works rediscovered during this period, a truly exciting development that has brought a lot of neglected music back onto the concert stage. I’ve wanted to do a show devoted to Florence Price for a while, but when I got the chance to perform Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement with Dr. Ege, I knew I had to ask her to come on the show to tell the incredible story of this wonderful American composer. So the first part of the show is devoted to an interview with Dr. Ege going through Price’s background and talking about her writing style and approach to music. This was such a fun interview - Dr. Ege is a great teacher and I learned a ton about Price that I didn’t know about beforehand. The second part of the show will be an analysis of one of Price’s most rarely played, but in my opinion, one of her best, orchestral works, Ethiopia’s Shadow in America. Join us!

May 19, 2022
Mahler Symphony No. 9, Part 4
47:06
Mahler once said this to Bruno Walter, his protege and great advocate of Mahler’s works: "What one makes music from is still the whole—that is the feeling, thinking, breathing, suffering, human being
 
You could almost just stop there with the last movement of Mahler 9.  This is music so full of feeling, thinking, breathing, suffering, but also of also acceptance and consolation, that words fail to describe its emotional impact. But as always with Mahler, this isn’t merely an emotional outpouring, a dumping of his innermost feelings onto the audience. It is a superbly paced, beautifully written movement, and despite its 25 minute length, and very stable and slow tempo, the movement does the seemingly impossible and feels both endless and compact at the same time.
 
So today, while of course we’ll talk about the emotional content of the music, I want to focus a bit more on how Mahler writes this music to make it so effective, and how he finds a way to reach the peaks of expression and the epitome of using silence as music. And finally, we'll explore how and to whom Mahler says goodbye to at the end of this symphony, as everything fades away. Join us!
May 12, 2022
Mahler Symphony No. 9, Part 3
36:28

It's easy to forget that Mahler, for all of his ubiquitous success nowadays, was much better known as a conductor during his life than as a composer.  He had basically one major success in his compositional career: a performance of his 8th symphony in Munich in 1910 that finally seemed to give him the approval he craved from the audience.  But for much of his compositional life, Mahler was misunderstood. His symphonies were either too long, too dense, too confusing, too esoteric, too vulgar, too banal, lacking in sophistication, or had too MUCH sophistication - the list goes on and on.  Mahler famously said in regards to his music that “my time will come” and it certainly has come, with regular performances of his music all around the world.  But as we discuss the third movement of Mahler’s 9th symphony today, I want to keep reminding you that Mahler was really not a popular man.  Even as a conductor, he had bitter enemies that drove him out of his position as the Director of the Vienna Court Opera in 1907.  As a person, he could charitably be described as difficult, with moments of kindness followed by bouts of stony silence or fierce rages.  Mahler was a complicated man, and it's perhaps in this third movement that we can learn so much about this side of Mahler that doesn’t get talked about as much - that bitter, sarcastic, nasty side of him that many choose to ignore, preferring to focus on the love and warmth that he instills into much of his music.  In the third movement of his 9th symphony, Mahler seems to be letting out some of his rage and anger at the Viennese public, concerned in his mind only with intrigue and gossip, and those critics who trafficked in open Anti-Semitism in order to bring him down from his lofty perch.  But amidst all of this, Mahler continually grasps for order throughout the movement, only to find it ripped away from him.  This is the shortest movement of Mahler’s 9th symphony, but it is also the most dense.  So today, we’ll talk about that bitter pill that is this movement, a movement that is nevertheless relentless in its search for beauty, form, and order. Join us!

May 05, 2022
Mahler Symphony No. 9, Part 2
37:39

Remember where we ended in the first movement of Mahler's 9th symphony? After a 27 minute farewell which touched on the two poles of rage and acceptance, while filling in every conceivable emotion in between, we ended in total peace, calm, and acceptance .  

There is a lot about this symphony that is traditional - it has four movements, it's tonal(for the most part), it uses(mostly) traditional forms, but there is one thing about the symphony which is extremely unusual: the fact that it is bookended by two slow movements.  A traditional symphony takes the form of a moderately fast first movement, either a slow movement or a fast dance movement for the second movement, the same for the third(almost always the opposite of whatever the second movement was), and a fast last movement to send the crowd home happy.  Mahler,  using a form that he never used before, and would never be used again by any composer, writes a slow first movement, then 2 fast dance movements, followed by a slow final movement.  It's a fascinating formal design, but one that presents a lot of problems to solve; how do you contrast the two middle dance movements?  How do you create a sense of excitement when you’ve just finished a 27 minute slow movement which could easily be its own piece?  And perhaps most importantly, how do you conceive of the arc of a 16 minute dance movement, one that seems almost shockingly simplistic in its basic harmony and melody.  Well, Mahler finds a way through a combination of genuine joy, sarcasm, bitterness, and irony, emotions we will certainly be talking about as we take apart this second movement.

Apr 28, 2022
Mahler Symphony No. 9, Part 1
54:21
Two events, occurring on the same day, drove Mahler to the brink. His daughter Maria died at the age of just 4, and Mahler himself was diagnosed with a heart condition that would prove to be fatal. He became consumed even more so than he ever was before with the idea of death, the afterlife, and all the philosophical trials and travails that came with these thoughts.  These ideas of death did not come only from his own sense of loss and grief; they were about his place in history, and how he would be remembered. The 9th symphony explores all of these questions in a remarkably powerful way. The symphony sets up two poles: acceptance and struggle, and then wavers between them for its duration, vacillating between desperately clinging to life, and accepting and letting go.  Leonard Bernstein famously said that the symphonies' 4 movements represent 4 ways for Mahler to say farewell, but they could just as easily be 4 movements for Mahler to say he will be here forever. Join us today for part 1 to discuss the first movement of this monumental symphony!
Apr 14, 2022
Shostakovich String Quartet No. 4
46:20

Shostakovich is one of the easiest composers to do podcasts about because his life and his music is full of such incredible stories. But as easy as it is, it's also complicated. Shostakovich's music is sometimes heard as a musical history book, a testament, which it often is, but we should never lose sight of the fact that Shostakovich was a composer first, not a politician.  So today we're going to be looking at the 4th quartet in two contexts, the historical and the musical, and then try to see how one works(or doesn't) with the other.   How do you incorporate religion into music, and how do you handle the heavy burden that was laid down to you by masters of the String Quartet like Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert? How do you write political music without getting in trouble with the authorities? How do you speak out against injustice when it can put you in grave danger? Shostakovich, as always, has the answers. Join us!

Apr 07, 2022
Barber Adagio For Strings
36:21

Barber’s Adagio seems to access a deep well of sadness, heartache, passion, and nostalgia in the listener that is very difficult to explain.  As dozens of commentators have noted, there is nothing in particular in the piece which is particularly remarkable.  There are no great harmonic innovations, no formal surprises, nothing NEW, at all. In fact, the music was completely anachronistic for its time.  Despite all of that, or perhaps because of it, Barber’s Adagio has become perhaps the most well known piece of American classical music in the world.  It became even more famous after its use in the Vietnam War Movie Platoon.  It was played at the funeral of Franklin Roosevelt and Robert Kennedy, and was performed to an empty hall after the assassination of John F Kennedy.  A deeply emotional performance of the piece was done at the Last Night of the Proms, a traditionally celebratory affair, on September 12th, 2001.  Simply put, this piece has come to symbolize SADNESS in music.  But would it surprise you to hear that the Barber Adagio for Strings wasn’t originally for string orchestra at all?  That it was the second movement of a string quartet, sandwiched by movements that were much more modernist and “forward-thinking” than its slow movement?  Would it surprise you that sadness might never have been the intention of Barber in the piece?  Well, let’s take a closer look at Barber’s Adagio this week - how the piece works, what originally surrounded it, it’s different arrangements, and its tempo. Join us!

Mar 31, 2022
Schubert Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished"
40:27

There are many reasons why Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony remains a mystery to this day -  the literally unfinished form, the unusual way of the symphony's emergencee into public consciousness, and probably most importantly, the character of the music itself, which seems to inhabit a different realm altogether, whether in its brooding first movement or the heavenly second movement.  When Schubert’s half-finished symphony was discovered, it had been sitting in a drawer of the minor composer Anselm Huttenbrenner for 43 years, unmissed and unheard by anyone.  The score was discovered by the conductor Johann von Herbeck.  Herbeck naturally considered the moment where he first held the score unforgettable, quickly organized a performance, and 37 years after Schubert’s death, the Unfinished symphony was heard for the first time.  But, the truth is that the fact that the symphony is unfinished isn’t really that special.  Composers started and failed to finish works all the time, whether they were songs, symphonies, operas, cantatas, or something else.  Most of those pieces are either ignored or are regarded as interesting curiosities by none but the most hardcore classical music lovers.  So why is this one different?  Why do these two movements rank up there with Bach’s Art of Fugue, Bruckner’s 9th symphony, Mozart’s Requiem and C Minor Mass, as pieces that are still performed today despite their unfinished nature.  Today, we’re going to find out.  We’ll explore the two existing movements of the symphony, take a look at the fragment of the third movement that Schubert started, stopped, and then tore out of the score, and also the speculative last movement, theorized by some enterprising musicologists.  But all along, we’ll marvel at Schubert’s lyricism, his endless creativity, and the powerful character of this unique symphony. Join us!

Mar 24, 2022
Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2
54:43

Brahms’ two piano concertos could not possibly be any more different.  The first, written when Brahms was just 25, is dramatic, stormy, and impulsive.  This makes sense seeing at it was written practically as a direct response to the attempted suicide of his friend and mentor Robert Schumann.  The second, written 22 years later when Brahms was a seasoned and mature composer at the height of his abilities, was not, as far as we know, inspired by any specific event.  It is a warm, almost sun-tanned piece, but it also does something that makes it both the perfect piece to analyze on a show like this, but also makes it a rather elusive one that takes some baking to really understand and appreciate.  What Brahms does in the 2nd piano concerto is to distill everything that makes Brahms really Brahms into one 50 minute piece of music.  There’s continuous development, gorgeous melodic lines, contrasts of character, stern willful music immediately followed by tenderness, Hungarian music, light music - it’s ALL there - but here’s the key - it’s not an events based piece.  What I mean by that is that its not like Brahms moves from one character or personality trait to another like he’s putting together mismatching clothes.  Instead, he integrates all of these different facets of his music into the whole - one moment you are hearing stern and powerful music, and the next, almost without realizing, you are into some of the most tender music he ever wrote.  This is the power but also the complexity  of Brahms’ 2nd piano concerto.  Join us to learn all about it!

Mar 17, 2022
Rachmaninoff: The Isle of the Dead
45:36

How do you orchestrate a painting? How do you take the detail and the visual imagery of a painting and translate that into something that is so vivid that even if you’ve never seen the painting before in your life, you can picture it as clearly as if it was right in front of you? Most people look at a painting for no longer than a minute or two at a museum, so how do you sustain that image over nearly 20 minutes of music? Well, to answer all of these questions, all you need to do is look at Rachmaninoff’s brilliant tone poem, The Isle of the Dead, which he wrote in 1908.  In 1907 Rachmaninoff saw a black and white reproduction of a painting by the Swiss artist Arnold Bocklin entitled The Isle fo the Dead. This painting had cause a storm of interest all across Europe. Vladimir Nabokov said that prints of the painting were found in every home of Berlin, Sigmund Freud owned a copy, as did Lenin. Bocklin painted 5 different version of the piece, but they all had the same theme - a desolate haunting image of a large rocky island, with a solitary boat with a coffin approaching it. It is said that the painting portrays the mythological river Styx, and even reproduced on the computer, it is a striking image. From that encounter, Rachmaninoff sat down and created one of his most underrated and enduring compositions, the masterful Isle of the Dead, which features a gigantic orchestra that very rarely shows off its full power, a rhythmic character that is both inevitable and unstable, and an unsettling and haunting theme that followed Rachmaninoff throughout his life, the Dies Irae. We’re going to talk all about this brooding and mysterious piece on this Patreon sponsored episode this week - join us!

Mar 10, 2022
The Music of Ukrainian Composers
47:08

While the inspiration for the show today is likely obvious, I’m also very happy to get the chance to share this wonderful music with you, separate from the current horrors going on right now.

Here’s a little quiz for you - name a Ukrainian composer. Were you stumped? Well, so are many people by that question. Despite a long line of brilliant composers throughout history, the music of Ukrainian composers has not entered the standard repertoire, except if you consider the contemporary composer Valentin Silvestrov. But Ukrainian music has a long and fascinating history, from the so called Big Three of the 18th and 19th centuries who were heavily influenced by the legendary Austro German composers but wrote in a highly unique style, to the nationalistic and folk inspired music of Lysenko, to the wild experimentation of Lyatoshinsky in the 20th century, all the way to the contemporary era  and the post modern work of Silvestrov.  Today on the show I’m going to take you through a history of Ukrainian classical music, and all along the way I’ll share the stories and the music of 6 of the most important Ukrainian composers.  You’re going to hear some of the most fascinating and touching music around, and you’re going to wonder how it’s possible that you haven’t heard this music before. Join us!

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqdwQ4eCTHM (Documentary on Ukrainian Composers by Natalya Pasichnyk)

Mar 02, 2022
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5
01:01:43

In 1888, Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony was premiered. It was enthusiastically received by the audience, and by Tchaikovsky’s friends. But Tchaikovsky’s nemesis, the critics, were not so happy with the piece.   One utterly tore apart the symphony, writing after a performance in Boston: "Of the Fifth Tchaikovsky Symphony one hardly knows what to say ... The furious peroration sounds like nothing so much as a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy, the music growing drunker and drunker. Pandemonium, delirium tremens, raving, and above all, noise worse confounded!” Another wrote: “Tchaikovsky appears to be a victim of the epidemic of the Music of the Future, that in its hydrophobia, scorns logic, wallows in torpor, and time and again, collapses in dissonant convulsions. Of basic inspiration in these people, who present interest at most as pathological cases, there is very little indeed.” 

Usually this is the moment where I quote Sibelius’ brilliant: “no one ever built a statue to a critic” line, but for once, Tchaikovsky somewhat agreed with his critics. He wrote to his legendary patron Nadezhda von Meck: “I am convinced that this symphony is not a success. There is something so repellent about such excess, insincerity and artificiality.” Though he later changed his mind, the last movement of the symphony was always problematic for Tchaikovsky, and its been problematic for many performers and audience members to this day. Is the ending a profound expression of triumph over fate? Or is it hackneyed, over the top, and as Tchaikovsky said, excessive? Perhaps it’s the controversy over its ending, or perhaps something else, but ever since its premiere, Tchaikovsky’s 5th has been one of the most dependable audience favourites around the world. Today I’m going to take you through the genesis and the composition of this wonderful and polarising symphony. Join us!

Feb 24, 2022
Fauré Requiem
57:33

In 1902, the great French composer Gabriel Faure said this: “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.  As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different."

Faure’s requiem is part of a long tradition of master composers addressing death through Requiems. Mozart, Brahms, Verdi, Britten, Berlioz, Beethoven(to a certain extent), and many many other composers all tried their hands at the Requiem, some of them keeping to Requiem Mass traditions, and some striking out completely on their own. Most notably, Brahms barely followed the traditional Requiem mass at all, preferring to use his own favorite biblical texts. Faure was also a composer who followed his own beat throughout his life, and perhaps one of his best known works is his modest and humble Requiem, which omits the fire and brimstone of famous requiems like Verdi’s, and focuses more on what he called the ‘happy deliverance’ of death.  What results is a remarkably inward looking piece, with only 30 or so measures sung at the loudest possible dynamic. It’s a piece that only lasts around 35 minutes, and was actually first performed as part of a liturgical funeral service.  Faure’s Requiem is music of mysticism and comfort, brilliantly conceived from start to finish in Faure’s own unique way. We’re going to talk a bit about Faure the man and the composer today, since it ties in so much to how he conceived of this requiem, and then of course, all about the Requiem itself on this Patreon sponsored episode. Join us!

Feb 17, 2022
Stenhammar Symphony No. 2
57:30

The year is 1910. Imagine that you are a young composer, and the music world is in flux all around you. Mahler is dying, and with his death many agreed that the great Austro-German symphonic tradition that stretched from the late 18th century with Haydn all the way through Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schubert and more, was over and done with. Wagner’s music dramas had inspired an entirely new style of music, and composers like Strauss, Liszt, and Berlioz had blown open the possibilities of what music could portray. But even their experiments had seemed to have reached a breaking point. For many composers, there seemed to be nowhere to go.  As the great Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt said: “There was nothing to be done all the great melodies had all been written - what could one do. There was so much wonderful music but composers had to regroup and develop their own language and that wasn’t easy in 1910. Stravinsky found his own method inspired by Russian culture, Bartok was similar, Hindemith went to Baroque and the Renaissance. Schoenberg’s idea was: it’s all nonsense, we need to start from the beginning. Every composer has to make a new start.”  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to talk about composers who struggled with these questions, and the first one on the list is the most important Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar, who started out his life as a disciple of Wagner, but in the end rejected that influence and created a style all his own, which is perhaps best exemplified in his second symphony, which features the sounds of Swedish folk music, harmonies that stretch back not into the classical era but into the Medieval period, and a powerful resolve to not be like Wagner, but also to not even approach the idea of sounding like Schoenberg either. Stenhammar wrote to a friend as he began writing his G Minor symphony: “In these times of Arnold Schoenberg, I dream of an art far removed from him, clear, joyful and naïve.” We’re going to discuss all of these roiling tensions this week, so please join us for a look at this underrated symphony!

Feb 10, 2022
Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherezade
56:42

Rimsky-Korsakov, above anything else, is regarded as a master of orchestration, the art of creating orchestral sound and color. As Rachmaninoff said about Rimsky-Korsakov’s music: "When there is a snowstorm, the flakes seem to dance and drift. When the sun is high, all instruments shine with an almost fiery glow. When there is water, the waves ripple and splash audibly throughout the orchestra … ; the sound is cool and glassy when he describes a calm winter night with glittering starlit sky." Nowhere is this gift more on display than in one of Rimsky-Korsakov’s seminal works, Scheherezade. But this work is far more than only orchestration. It is a shining example of a number of complicated facets of both Rimsky-Korsakov’s and Russian Nationalist music of the time. It also displays so many of the contradictions that marked this era of classical music, and in particular, Russian classical music. Rimsky-Korsakov originally gave the piece a clear narrative, but then withdrew it angrily, saying that any programmatic narrative was merely meant peripherally, and “I meant these hints to direct but slightly the hearer’s fancy…All I had desired was that the hearer, if he liked my piece as symphonic music, should carry away the impression that it is beyond doubt an oriental narrative of some numerous and varied fairy-tale wonders and not merely four pieces played one after the other…” And that word, oriental, a complicated word in our modern times to be sure, plays a huge and unavoidable role in this piece. This was a time when Imperial Russia occupied lands in Central Asia, and when the Russian public became obsessed with so called “oriental” literature and music. Composers drew liberally on these sources for their music, and Rimsky Korsakov’s mentor, the great composer Mily Balakirev, heavily encouraged Russian composers to use these sources as a way to set their music apart from German composers of the time. A group of composers, the not at all egotistically named “Mighty Five” Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, and Cesar Cui, almost all became famous through their use of Central Asian and Middle Eastern themes and stories. But no piece has captured the imagination of listeners around the world more than Scheherezade, a piece that drew upon the collection of Middle Eastern folk tales known and One Thousand and One Nights, and features some of the most legendary melodies in the history of Western Classical Music. We’re going to talk about all of this today on this Patreon sponsored episode, so please join us!

Feb 03, 2022
R. Nathaniel Dett: The Ordering of Moses
57:31

In May of 1937, R. Nathaniel Dett’s oratorio “The Ordering of Moses” was premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony. The performance was carried live on national radio by NBC, but about 3/4’s of the way through the piece, the broadcast was halted due to unspecified scheduling conflicts, the origins of which remain mysterious and highly speculated on. And since its premiere, The Ordering of Moses has been performed only a handful of times, and never, as far as I can tell, outside of the United States. Well, that is going to change this February, as I’ll be conducting the UK premiere of the Oratorio with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and soloists Rodrick Dixon, Chrystal Williams, and  Eric Greene. Today on the show I’m going to tell you all about Dett’s remarkable story, his passionate advocacy for black folk music and spirituals, and the profoundly moving music that runs all the way through The Ordering of Moses. You won’t regret jumping into this rarely heard and rarely talked about gem of a piece, so come join us!

Jan 27, 2022
The Music of Ingram Marshall
58:27

“I never really thought of them as walls. I thought of them more as boundaries. Walls are a much more serious matter. You're not supposed to be able to get through, while boundaries at least you can crossover and I think the whole crossover thing is basically what the history of music in the second part of this century is about. It's about crossing over these boundaries.”

If there’s one quote that could sum up the music of the composer Ingram Marshall, it might be this one.

Last week I talked about Sibelius and our inability to place him in the typical classical music eras of Romantic or Modernist music. Well, Ingram Marshall’s music follows very much on that discussion, and it’s no surprise that Sibelius is one of Marshall’s favorite composers. I imagine most of you listening to the show today are not familiar with Ingram Marshalls’ music, so today on this Patreon Sponsored episode, I’m going to briefly give you a background on this remarkable modern composer, and then we’ll finish the show with both an interview and an analysis of Marhsall’s work Flow with the great composer Timo Andres, who studied with Marshall and had some great insights on his music. You won’t regret diving into the remarkable work of Ingram Marshall, so come and join us!

Jan 20, 2022
Sibelius Symphony No. 5
01:06:35

Sibelius never gets mentioned on “most” lists, the most innovative, modernistic, romantic, beautiful, conservative, ugly, violent, peaceful etc. In fact, no one is ever sure where to put him on these lists, and that’s partly due to that lifespan that began when Brahms was 32 and ended when Pierre Boulez was also 32 years old. And this uncomfortable place between Romantic and Modernist is exactly why Sibelius is, to me, one of the most interesting topics to cover on this show - and the perfect vehicle to explore Sibelius further is the 5th symphony, one of the most remarkable fusions of modernism and romanticism I’ve ever heard.

Jan 13, 2022
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Part 2
49:52

Last week I told you the story of the genesis of Shostakovich’s 5th symphony. We talked politics, but we also talked about just the music itself. Today, I’ll take you through the second half of the symphony, again first from a musical point of view. But by the end of the piece, the political conversation and the debate over the ending itself becomes unavoidable. There is no other piece whose character or even tempo is as debated as the ending of Shostakovich’s 5th, so we're going to have it out! Join us!

Jan 06, 2022
Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Part 1
52:06

Shostakovich’s life and career was so wrapped up with his relationship to the Soviet government that it is sometimes hard to appreciate that, all else aside, he was one of the great 20th century composers. His 5th symphony is the meeting point between Shostakovich's music and the political web he was often ensnared in, and it is a piece that is still being vociferously debated. This week we’re going to tell the story of the piece’s genesis, and then we’ll explore the first two movements of the symphony.

Dec 30, 2021
Ysaye Sonatas for Solo Violin
01:16:50

If you’re not a violinist, you might not be familiar with the name Eugene Ysaye. But this violinist and composer was called “The King of the Violin” at the turn of the 20th century. Ysaye’s biggest compositional achievement was inspired by a performance by the legendary Joseph Szigeti in 1923. Enraptured, Ysaye went into his studio and 24 hours later (!), he emerged with 6 solo violin sonatas, each dedicated to one of his favorite violinists. Dive in with us this week to learn all about these amazing works!

Dec 16, 2021
Mahler Symphony No. 1, Part 2
58:31

This week, on part 2 of this look at Mahler 1, we're going to take a deep dive into the third and fourth movements of this massive and massively ambitious symphony. We'll talk about Frere Jacques, bizarre woodcuts, Klezmer bands, cries of wounded hearts, the most touching consolation, terror, rage, standing horn sections, and one of the most exhilarating endings of any symphony. Mahler's 1st symphony was one of the most ambitious statements a young composer ever made, so let's finish the journey together!

Dec 09, 2021
Mahler Symphony No. 1, Part 1
47:07

No one makes a grand statement quite like Gustav Mahler, and his first symphony, nearly an hour long, was one of the boldest statements ever made by a young composer. Today I’ll take a look at the history behind the early inspirations behind the piece, Mahler’s turbulent life, and the first two movements of the symphony. As the great Bernard Haitink said, Mahler had a talent for suffering, but this symphony is often full of a naivete and joy missing from Mahler's later works. Join us to find out more!

Dec 02, 2021
The Music of Heinrich Schutz (and Brahms!)
43:03

There are composers whose influence outstrips their popularity. The Baroque composer Heinrich Schutz falls into this group, due to his total focus on writing sacred vocal music. But for those who know his music, he is essential. He was the most important German composer before Bach and was vital to the development of music. Today I’m going to take you through some of Schutz’s greatest musical achievements, including his Muskalische Exequien, the piece that very likely inspired the Brahms Requiem. Join us!

Nov 24, 2021
Bartok Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste
53:54

Bartok’s Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste is a perfect encapsulation of Bartok’s musical output. Each movement provides us with a magnifying glass into some of the qualities that made Bartok one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. But for how spectacular a piece it is, it isn’t played as often as it should be, partly because of its extreme difficulty. Today, I’m going to talk you through what is perhaps Bartok's greatest piece, the unforgettable Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste.

Nov 18, 2021
Bach Transformed
48:01

Arrangements of Bach's music have been happening essentially since his music was “rediscovered” by Mendelssohn in the 19th century. But Mozart and Beethoven arranged Bach's music too, and Bach himself would recycle works for different groupings of instruments. Today, I'm going to take a look at some of those arrangements, and what kind of insights we can gain into Bach's music, the styles of the times in which these arrangements were done, and even(!) whether we might prefer these new flavors. Join us!

Nov 11, 2021
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3, "Scottish"
58:38

Mendelssohn was only 20 years old when he wrote to his friend Karl Klingemann: "...I am going to Scotland, with a rake for folk songs, an ear for the lovely, fragrant countryside, and a heart for the bare legs of the natives.” Over two months in 1829, Mendelssohn traveled through much of the Scottish Highlands, and it was on this trip that he found the inspiration for his beloved Scottish Symphony. But is this symphony all about Scotland? And how should we interpret this symphony in 2021? Join us this week!

Nov 04, 2021
Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances
52:12

Rachmaninoff’s music is often described as many different kinds of chocolate cake, but this piece, if it's chocolatey at all, would be that 85% dark chocolate - more bitter than sweet. It might be Rachmaninoff’s greatest orchestral work, and one that is inextricably linked to his tumultuous life. Throughout the Dances we hear references to war, to nostalgia, to Rachmaninoff's past failures, and so much more. This is one of the underrated masterpieces of the 20th century - join us to learn all about it!

Oct 28, 2021
Shostakovich Symphony No. 11, "The Year 1905"
01:04:38

In 1956, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote: “I am now writing my 11th symphony, dedicated to the First Russian Revolution...I would like in this work to reflect the soul of the people who first paved the way to socialism.” Soviet loyalists were thrilled with the piece, but his friends were disappointed at this seemingly blatant act of propaganda. But quickly, a new and more subversive narrative emerged about this sprawling, cinematic, and elementally powerful symphony. Find out all about this masterpiece this week!

Oct 21, 2021
Sticky Notes Vs. Wagner w/ Rafael Payare
01:00:12

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!

Oct 14, 2021
Elgar: Enigma Variations
57:12

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!

Oct 08, 2021
Fantasia 2021: 7 Pieces to Get You Started with Classical Music
55:44

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!

Sep 30, 2021
Debussy La Mer
55:34

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.

Sep 23, 2021
Mozart Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter"
44:59

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!

Sep 16, 2021
Schumann Symphony No. 2
56:04

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!

Sep 09, 2021
Brahms Symphony No. 2
01:04:13

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!

Sep 03, 2021
How to Understand(and Enjoy!) Atonal Music, Part 2: The Wars of the 1950s
46:09

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!

Aug 26, 2021
How to Listen to (and Enjoy!) Atonal Music, Part 1
53:11

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!

Aug 19, 2021
The Degenerates: Music Suppressed by the Nazis
01:01:11

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!

Aug 12, 2021
Sibelius Symphony No. 2
55:58

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!

Aug 05, 2021
Dvorak Symphony No. 9, "From the New World"
58:06

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.

Jul 29, 2021
Havergal Brian, "Gothic Symphony"
01:09:19

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!

Jul 22, 2021
Bruckner Symphony No. 7
58:12

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.

Jul 16, 2021
A Conversation with Gabriela Lena Frank, Composer
34:54

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!

Jul 08, 2021
Shostakovich Symphony #13: "Babi Yar"
01:03:42

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.

Jul 01, 2021
The Story of "Blind" Tom Wiggins, w/ Deirdre O'Connell
40:26

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.

Jun 24, 2021
Bach Chaconne for Solo Violin
52:18

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!

Jun 17, 2021
Wynton Marsalis and the "Blues Symphony"
41:58

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!

Jun 10, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Part 2
01:01:20

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!

Jun 04, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 9, Part 1
48:38

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.

Jun 01, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 8
43:43

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!

May 27, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 7
55:31

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.

May 20, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 6, "Pastoral"
01:01:01

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..

May 17, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 5
56:57

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..

May 13, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 4
53:48

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..

May 10, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 3, "Eroica"
01:08:10

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...

May 06, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 2
48:53

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..

May 03, 2021
Beethoven Symphony No. 1
46:02

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!

Apr 29, 2021
Overtures, Overtures, Overtures!
01:09:10

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!

Apr 22, 2021
Bach Cello Suites
50:41

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.

Apr 15, 2021
Haydn & Henle w/ Stephen Hough and Norbert Müllemann
39:56

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!

Apr 08, 2021
Baroque Music in 60 Minutes
58:57

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.

Apr 01, 2021
Mozart, "The Marriage of Figaro," Part 2
01:31:36

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!

Mar 25, 2021
A Conversation with Frederica Von Stade
48:45

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.

Mar 18, 2021
Introduction to Opera + Mozart, Marriage of Figaro (Part 1)
01:13:13

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!

Mar 11, 2021
Renaissance Music in 60 Minutes
56:57

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.

Mar 04, 2021
William Levi Dawson, "Negro Folk Symphony"
54:00

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.

Feb 25, 2021
Nathan Milstein, Django Reinhardt, Playing with Only Two Fingers, and More, w/ Clayton Haslop
40:15

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.

Feb 19, 2021
Bartok Divertimento for String Orchestra
50:26

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!

Feb 11, 2021
Medieval Music in 60 Minutes
52:59

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.

Feb 04, 2021
Beethoven Violin Concerto
50:50

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!

Jan 28, 2021
Berlioz, "Symphonie Fantastique"
59:24

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.

Jan 21, 2021
History of Classical Music in 60 Minutes
01:03:59

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!

Jan 14, 2021
Schubert Symphony No. 9, "The Great"
55:20

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.

Jan 07, 2021
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Part 2
44:43

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.

Dec 30, 2020
Tchaikovsky, The Nutcracker
42:44

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.

Dec 24, 2020
Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, Part 1
45:38

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.

Dec 17, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 3, Part 3 (Season 6 Finale)
40:17

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!

Dec 10, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 3, Part 2
55:56

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!

Dec 03, 2020
Copland "Appalachian Spring" (Re-Upload)
46:58

For this Thanksgiving week we’re doing another re-upload from the archive! Today we’ll look at Copland’s Appalachian Spring, a ballet that has captured the imagination of listeners worldwide and seems to be the marker of the “American” sound in Western Classical Music. We’ll look at some of the differences between the two versions of the piece, talk about why it sounds so American, and listen to some fascinating rehearsal footage with Copland himself! This is one of my favorite past episodes - please enjoy!

Nov 25, 2020
A Conversation with Harry Christophers, Founder and Director of The Sixteen
01:01:28

This week I spoke with Harry Christophers, who wears many different hats in his jobs as Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society, and as the Founder and Director of The Sixteen, one of the world's most renowned choirs. I spoke with Harry about A Choral Odyssey, a new program debuting TONIGHT on thesixteen.com. The show explores great choral repertoire while exploring the venues in which it was first created. We also talked about choral conducting vs. orchestral conducting, and much much more.

Nov 19, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 3, Part 1
43:43

Mahler on his third symphony: “Just imagine a work of such magnitude that it actually mirrors the whole world—one is, so to speak, only an instrument, played on by the universe. . . . My symphony will be something the like of which the world has never yet heard! . . . In it the whole of nature finds a voice.” As one of the grandest symphonies ever written, Mahler’s 3rd symphony truly does embrace the world of nature in every possible way. This week we discuss the first movement, a 36 minute long colossus!

Nov 12, 2020
A Conversation with Composer and Violinist Jesse Montgomery
59:03

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. Her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. We had a great conversation touching on her upbringing, improv in classical music, her wide range of works, and much more!

Nov 05, 2020
Politics in Classical Music
52:33

First of all, if you’re American, I hope you’re listening to this while standing in line to vote!  Western Classical Music does not have the reputation for political activism that other kinds of music have, but that doesn’t mean composers haven’t made political statements all throughout history with their music. Today we’ll go through some of the most politically charged pieces in Western Classical Music History, all the way from the music of Joseph Haydn to the music of today. Don't forget to vote!!

Oct 29, 2020
Mozart Symphony No. 40
47:43

This week continues my project of reuploading seasons 1-5 in new and improved sound quality! The opening of Mozart's 40th symphony is one of the most recognizable tunes in the whole repertoire, but to this day we don't know what it is about or even why Mozart wrote it. But even though it can be frustrating to not know these answers, it's also exciting and potentially rewarding to go searching for answers on our own! Today we'll talk all about this dramatic piece, and all of its many twists and turns.

Oct 22, 2020
"Wagnerism" with Alex Ross
01:01:29

This week I got to cross off a Sticky Notes bucket list item by interviewing the best-selling author and critic Alex Ross. We talked about his incredible new book Wagnerism, discussing Wagner’s influence on just about every artist/thinker of his time and into the future, his anti-semitism, and more. We also talked about how people understood Wagner, and how they understand him today. Talking to Alex Ross allowed me to understand how one composer's music could create so much beauty, and so much destruction.

Oct 15, 2020
Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann: A Love Story
32:29

Today is the beginning of a new project to re-upload older episodes in new and improved sound quality! First up is a story I can't believe Hollywood hasn't told in decades - the story of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Perhaps it’s because of its complex, ambiguous, and unsettled ending, but for whatever reason, it has been a story somewhat lost to history. So today we'll look back at the lives of Johannes and Clara, accompanied by pieces they both wrote during the time that they knew one another.

Oct 08, 2020
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
48:35

In one of the most famous reviews in this history of Western Classical Music, Eduard Hanslick torched the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, saying that the violin was "beaten black and blue." This review wounded Tchaikovsky to his core, and he wasn't sure if his concerto would ever see the light of day again. Luckily for him, and for us, the piece continued to get performed, and it is now one of THE most beloved pieces in the whole repertoire. Today we'll talk through this extraordinary concerto - join us!

Oct 01, 2020
Bruckner Symphony No. 4
01:01:53

Bruckner's symphonies are a world unto their own. They are epic works that are also full of a trademark humility that is present in the work of no other composer. Bruckner's 4th Symphony, the "Romantic," has remained one of his most popular and beloved works. We'll talk through the "Bruckner Problem" that has plagued this symphony since it's premiere, but mostly we'll talk through this majestic symphony, from the solo Horn that begins it, to an ending that “rises in solemn quiet above all earthly desiring.”

Sep 24, 2020
Stravinsky Pulcinella
45:30

In 1919, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev came up with the idea of having Stravinsky write a ballet inspired by 18th century music by composers like Pergolesi. The result, Pulcinella, began a transformation of Stravinsky’s music. Stravinsky would later say: “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible." Today we'll talk through Pulcinella - a brilliant and funny piece that shows Stravinsky in a totally new light. Get ready for a fun ride!

Sep 17, 2020
The Music of William Grant Still
45:36

William Grant Still was a man of firsts. He was the first African American to to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the United States. In 1931, his first symphony became the first complete symphony ever performed by a major orchestra, and until 1950, that symphony was the most performed American symphony by ANY composer. Still’s music reflects a remarkable breadth of styles, structures, and orchestral colors, and it’s a great pleasure to take you through some of his most emblematic works today.

Sep 03, 2020
Mozart Symphony No. 36, "Linz"
43:24

In 1783, Mozart wrote a letter to his father. He wrote, in part: "On Tuesday, November 4th, I am doing a concert in the theatre here and, as I have not a single symphony with me, I am writing a new one at break-neck speed, which must be finished by that time.” The date of that letter was October 31st. In 4 days, Mozart completed one of his most beloved symphonies, the "Linz." We'll talk all about this brilliant work and how Mozart was able to write such a coherent and beautiful piece in such a short time.

Aug 27, 2020
Caroline Shaw on Composing, Performing, and Letting Go
47:59

This week I had the huge honour to speak with the composer, vocalist, violinist, and producer Caroline Shaw about her music and her performing career. Caroline is one of the most exciting composers around these days, and it was a special thrill for me to try to get inside of her compositional head in this conversation. We talked about her meteoric rise as a composer, her beginnings as a musician, how it feels for her to have her work performed, and the fascinating connection between speech and song.

Aug 20, 2020
Goldberg Variations Mini-Episode + Announcement
09:34

I’m sharing today’s mini episode for two reasons - the first is that I wanted to show all of you who are not subscribed on Patreon what I put up there every week. Every Thursday, I do a sort of deep dive on a specific passage that I didn’t have time to get to in the main show. Sometimes its a specific passage or orchestration that I particularly love, or sometimes it’s looking at a specific movement, like today’s episode on the 25th Variation of the Goldberg Variations.  I really enjoy doing these episodes, as they really allow me to get right into the nuts and bolts of how a passage is put together. The second reason I’m sharing this episode today is that I need to make the announcement, the happy announcement, that I am very likely to be beginning to conduct again after a period of 5 months.  In September the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and I are planning a Beethoven Cycle where we play all 9 symphonies in 11 days, the perfect way to shake the rust off!  But the partial resumption of my conducting schedule means that I will no longer have time to make two episodes a week. SO we’re going to return to the pre-pandemic schedule of a new show every Thursday BUT I’m also going to continue making these mini-episodes, so if you would like to check those out, do check out the Patreon page at patreon.com/stickynotespodcast.

Aug 17, 2020
Bach, The Goldberg Variations
54:57

In 1741, Bach published a piece called “Aria with diverse variations.” Little did he know that the piece would become one of the most beloved and nearly mythical works in all of Western Classical Music. The piece I’m talking about is now referred to exclusively as “The Goldberg Variations.” Today we'll talk through these remarkable variations, and as a special bonus, I was joined by Jeremy Denk, Mahan Esfahani, Inon Barnatan, and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein for a virtual panel discussion about the Goldbergs.

Aug 13, 2020
"Chasing Chopin," with Annik LaFarge
57:10

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Annik Lafarge, author of “Chasing Chopin,” a book being released Tomorrow, August 11th, wherever books are sold. This is really a wonderful book and you’ll hear in this interview all of Annik’s abiding enthusiasm about Chopin which comes through so beautifully in the book. We talk about Chopin’s pianos, Chopin as a symbol of Poland, the famous Funeral March, Georges Sand, and traveling to places that Chopin lived and worked. In essence, this is an immersion into Chopin and his music, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this fascinating interview - Chopin’s debut on Sticky Notes!

 

Aug 10, 2020
Brahms Requiem
01:02:28

In February of 1865, Johannes Brahms received a letter from his brother saying: “If you want to see our Mother again come at once.” Brahms rushed off to Hamburg but was two days too late. He had long thought about composing a requiem but this seemed to be the catalyst for him to finally write one. And it is a requiem like no other. Selecting biblical but secular texts himself, Brahms created what he called a "Human Requiem," a piece that is a balm and a comfort to the living as they mourn the dead.

Aug 06, 2020
Talking Conducting, Studying, and Loneliness w/ Dalia Stasevska
47:47

Dalia Stasevska is a wonderful conductor whose career has skyrocketed in the past few years. She is the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony and is the incoming Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony in Finland. We had a really great talk about getting into music, learning conducting from two legends in the field, Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstram, and about the sometimes lonely life of a conductor. Dalia is one of my favorite people to talk to in the music world and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this!

Aug 03, 2020
The Connection Between Language and Music w/ Yundu Wang
50:02

I had the great pleasure of speaking with my friend Yundu Wang about her doctoral thesis exploring the connections between language and music. This research gets into thorny questions about the relationship between national origin and the way we interpret music, and also into questions of identity, stereotyping, and prejudice. I find this research particularly compelling and fascinating, and I hope you will too! Yundu's wonderful blog can be found here: https://blog.yunduwang.com/2020/05/12/an-introduction/

Jul 27, 2020
A Decidedly Undogmatic Conversation w/ Mahan Esfahani
01:00:41

Mahan Esfahani is a world-renowned harpsichordist who has said that it is his mission to rehabilitate the harpsichord as an instrument for modern audiences. In this conversation, we talked about Beethoven, playing modern music on the harpsichord, and nearly starting a riot over the music of Steve Reich! We also discussed the battles WITHIN the early music movement over performance practice. Mahan is one of the most fearless and outspoken voices in classical music so I think you'll really enjoy this one!

Jul 20, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 6, Part 3
47:50

Albert Camus once wrote: “when I describe what the catastrophe of man looks like, music comes into my mind—the music of Gustav Mahler.” The last movement of Mahler 6 is a symphony within a symphony. It is a difficult movement to understand, and even the way it ends is full of the emotional complexity that marks Mahler’s music. I'll take you through this movement today, through its peaks and valleys of ecstasy and despair all the way to the hammer blows that cut our hero down as he strives ever upward.

Jul 16, 2020
Understanding Schoenberg, Shostakovich, Varese, and Berio w/ John Heiss

It was such a pleasure to welcome back the great John Heiss to discuss more encounters with some of the greatest composers of the 20th century. We started off with a survey of Schoenberg’s music and how best to approach each period of his life. John is one of the premiere experts on Schoenberg so don't miss this! We then talked about his personal experiences with Shostakovich, Varese, and Berio. Talking with John was like going back to class again - a class I’m so thrilled to share with you here today.

Jul 13, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 6, Part 2
49:24

There are few controversies like the ones surrounding the order of the inner movements of Mahler 6. Musicologists and conductors battle with each other about what Mahler meant and what his wife knew, and they also are at each other's throats about which order WORKS better logically in the symphony, regardless of Mahler's intentions. There's an answer to the first part, but not to the second, and that's just one of the things we'll explore today as we look at the inner workings of these remarkable movements.

Jul 09, 2020
Programming Post-Covid, Competitions, and the Negro Folk Symphony, w/ Ryan Bancroft
39:03

Ryan Bancroft is a conductor who has seen a meteoric rise ever since winning the Malko Competition for Conductors in 2018. In this conversation, we talked about programming post-pandemic, and also about our common entry into the conducting world, and all of the pressures and joys of that kind of rocket boost to your career. At the end of the show, we discussed the absolutely amazing and underrated Negro Folk Symphony of William Levi Dawson. This was a such a fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it!

Jul 06, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 6, Part 1
41:40

Mahler's 6th Symphony is one of his most complex and ambitious pieces, though it retains a firmly classical structure throughout. It has notorious performance problems such as the order of the middle movements, and the symphony within a symphony final movement. It is also one of Mahler's most emotionally profound pieces, embracing life, death, and the struggles between these two forces. In the first movement, Mahler sets up the stakes for the battles to come and it's this movement we discuss today.

Jul 02, 2020
Founding an Orchestra, w/ Eric and Colin Jacobsen of The Knights
44:33

Eric and Colin Jacobsen are co-founders of the The Knights. The orchestra has claimed a spot over the last 10 years as one of the most dynamic and adventurous orchestras in the world. Colin and Eric are some of the most interesting people in classical music and so we talked about a lot of things, including founding an orchestra, what they felt was missing in the classical world, what it means to play chamber music in an orchestra, and of course, the current situation and what it means for the future.

Jun 29, 2020
Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, "Organ"
46:57

Saint-Saens considered his 3rd symphony his greatest work: “I have given all that I had to give. What I have done I shall never do again.” Later in his life, Saint-Saens would be known as an arch-conservative, but at the time he was writing the Organ symphony, Saint-Saens was enamored with the formal and structural innovations of the music of Liszt. Today we’ll explore the dualism between the piece’s Romantic aspirations and Classical grounding, plus of course, the role of the organ in this Organ Symphony.

Jun 25, 2020
The Organ, Competitions, Filmmaking, and more w/ Alcee Chriss and Stacey Tenenbaum
37:23

I had a chance to sit down with the award winning duo of organist Alcee Chriss and filmmaker Stacey Tenenbaum for a fascinating interview about the organ, competitions and more. We talk about Chriss' experience at the Canadian International Organ Competition, the pressures of performing and whether Jazz works on the organ, and I got a chance to pepper Tenenbaum with some questions on filmmaking, and her process of understanding the organ from the point of view of a total outsider. This is a fun one!

Jun 22, 2020
Beethoven Triple Concerto
51:00

Beethoven’s Triple Concerto might be his most heavily criticized work. Musicians look down on it, critics always complain about it, conductors hate conducting it, orchestral musicians hate playing it, and yet it still gets performed fairly regularly. But I’m here today, thanks to Brooke who sponsored today’s show on Patreon, to say that I think all of this criticism of this much maligned piece is totally unfair. I love the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and I think I can convince you to as well.

Jun 18, 2020
Encounters with Milhaud, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Lutoslawski, and Ligeti, with John Heiss
56:48

John Heiss teaches composition, flute, and music history at the New England Conservatory. I first encountered Mr. Heiss in his legendary Schoenberg/Stravinsky class at NEC and have been an admirer of his ever since. Mr. Heiss spearheaded visits to NEC from composers such as Milhaud, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Lutoslawski, and Ligeti, the subjects of today's conversation. You'll notice I don’t say much - today is like coming to class with a master teacher, an experience I'm so glad to be able to share with you.

Jun 15, 2020
The Life and Music of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges
46:20

Just a glance at a biography of Le Chevalier should have every movie producer salivating. He was the son of a 17 year old slave and her white owner. He was an expert athlete, known as the greatest fencer in all of France. He led a legion of black troops to fight during the French Revolution. On the musical side, he was a virtuoso violinist and wrote some truly wonderful music that is only recently being rediscovered by mainstream institutions. Join Sticky Notes as we explore his remarkable life and music.

Jun 11, 2020
Stephen Hough on Practicing Through the Pandemic, Composing, and Classical Music as Entertainment.
45:16

First, I want to let my listeners know that Thursday will begin a new commitment to exploring the works of minority composers. It's long past time to begin doing that.

For today, please enjoy this thoughtful and deeply entertaining conversation with the great pianist, composer, and writer Stephen Hough. Hough is one of the great pianists of our time and is also a deep thinker about classical music of yesterday and today. I had so much fun with this conversation, recorded about three weeks ago. Enjoy!

Jun 08, 2020
Bartok Violin Duos and Social Duoing
56:08

Bartok's 44 Violin Duos are a triumph of Bartok's devotion to the folk music of Eastern Europe. 42 of the 44 are based on field recordings Bartok collected in his travels, many of which you will hear today. The social duoing project, where I played all 44 duos with 44 violinists from around the world, was started as a result of the pandemic, but was also made possible by this forced pause in travel and work. Enjoy!

Jun 04, 2020
How Musical Revolutions Were Created, Part 2 - w/ Jan Swafford
48:15

Jan Swafford was such a fantastic guest last time that I thought we had to have him back on! During these past two weeks, we discussed how so much of the revolutionary music in the history of classical music was influenced by storytelling, whether it was Monteverdi, Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, Debussy, Ives, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg. This week, on Part 2, we discuss the final 4 composers, including one of the most beautiful descriptions of Ives I've ever heard. Don't miss this episode! You won't regret it.

Jun 01, 2020
Sibelius Symphony No. 7
44:21

Sibelius' 7th Symphony is a piece that is barely a symphony at all, and yet it carries symphonic logic throughout. It's only 20 minutes long, in one movement that never stops evolving, with a form that has sparked many debates, and with an ending that is as shocking as any in the Western Repertoire. Simply put, it is Sibelius at his best, and so today we’ll take apart this incredibly complex piece, talking about its form, its stunning metric modulations, its inspiration, and of course, its abiding emotion.

May 28, 2020
How Musical Revolutions Were Created, Part 1 - w/Jan Swafford
39:17

Jan Swafford was such a fantastic guest last time that I thought we had to have him back on. This week(and next week), we discussed how so much of the revolutionary music in the history of classical music was influenced by storytelling, whether it was Monteverdi, Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, Debussy, Ives, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg. This week, on Part 1, we discuss the first 4 composers on the list, trying to understand the chicken or the egg question of which came first? The story? Or the revolution?

May 25, 2020
Respighi, "The Pines of Rome"
41:36

Respighi occupies a strange place in musical history. He is almost never considered to be one of the “greats,” though his mastery of orchestral color is never doubted by anyone. Today on this Patreon sponsored episode, we’ll look at his Pines of Rome. We’ll talk about Respighi’s extremely detailed program notes, his Strauss like gifts at portraying real life in his music, and the fact that Respighi, for all his innate conservatism, was actually the first composer to use electronic music in one of his works.

May 21, 2020
Quarantine, Richter, Kleiber, Dvorak, Zander, Wearing Different Hats, and Schumann w/ Zsolt Bognar
47:43

Zsolt Bognar is a Renaissance Man. He is a pianist, a writer, a thinker, and the host of Living the Classical Life, an amazing show where Zsolt sits down with some of the leading lights of the classical music world. Today I turned the tables and interviewed him in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on some of our favorite musicians and composers, our experiences wearing many hats in the classical music world, and of course, how we’re dealing with quarantine life. This was a really fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

May 18, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 2, Part 3
55:49

At the end of 1893, Mahler could not find a way to end his 2nd Symphony. But the funeral of Hans Von Bulow, a conductor who Mahler worshipped even though Von Bulow hated Mahler’s music, gave Mahler what he called "the flash that all creative artists wait for." In one of the most sprawling, dramatic, and narratively based movements he would ever write, Mahler embraced a kind of universal humanism that is inspiring to this day. We'll talk about this movement and the radiant Urlicht movement that precedes it.

May 14, 2020
Classical Music During the Pandemic
44:27

Today I was thrilled to have with me Matthew Szymanski of the Phoenix Orchestra and Aram Demirjian of the Knoxville Symphony on the show to talk about what classical music as a whole is going to need to do to respond to the current situation with COVID-19. This is a weedsy conversation that digs into streaming, the future, and the sobering realities of audience-free concerts. If you want to hear 3 musicians grappling in real time with this crisis and how we will come out of it, this is the show for you.

May 11, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 2, Part 2
36:58

Today we explore the two middle movements of Mahler's 2nd symphony. These movements were meant as intermezzi, and are both memories in their own way. The first is a nostalgic, wistful, and extraordinarily simple(for Mahler) Austrian Landler. The second is a bitterly cynical and ironic retelling of a story from Mahler's favorite collection of folk poetry, Des Knaben Wunderhorn(The Boy's Magic Horn). These are the movements listeners sometimes struggle with the most, so let's uncover their secrets together!

May 07, 2020
Debussy Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
35:17

We're taking a brief detour from Mahler 2 today to discuss Debussy's legendary Afternoon of a Faun, a piece written in the same year as Mahler's 2nd symphony. It's easy to forget how revolutionary this piece was at the time, but composers from Stravinsky to Schoenberg to Boulez to Messiaen were galvanized by this 10 minute masterpiece which Boulez said "breathed new life into the art of music." This is a piece that changed musical history for good, and today we'll find out exactly why it had such an impact.

May 04, 2020
Mahler Symphony No. 2, Part 1
38:24

“What next? What is life and what is death? Will we live on eternally? Is it all an empty dream or do our life and death have a meaning? We must answer this question, if we are to go on living.” These words form the basis of Mahler's epic second symphony. This week, on Part 1, we'll talk about the first movement of the symphony. We'll explore Mahler's multiple programs for the piece, the structure of this huge movement, and of course, the powerful emotions underpinning every single note Mahler ever wrote.

Apr 30, 2020
A Conversation with Jan Swafford, Composer and Author
56:02

If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall for a slightly nerdy conversation between a conductor and a composer who also happens to be a great writer and thinker about classical music, this week's show is for you! This is a wide-ranging, free-flowing conversation that covers the composition process, understanding Beethoven from a composer's perspective, the intimacy of Brahms, and the wackiness and earnestness of the music of Ives. I hope this hour will be as fun an escape for you as it was for me!

Apr 27, 2020
Opus 1s: The First Works of Great Composers, Part 2
42:13

Every great composer has an origin story. Every composer started somewhere. I'm fascinated with a composers first works because they tell us so much about who they are going to become. In some cases, composers were writing masterpieces before they turned 18! And some were late bloomers, giving some hope to the rest of us! Today we look at composers 5-10: Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, Shostakovich, and in my Patreon exclusive mini-episode, Prokofiev. You'll hear some truly astonishing music this week!

Apr 23, 2020
What is Historical Performance? w/Augusta McKay Lodge
41:04

Have you ever wondered what the real differences are between modern and historical performance? Why do historical performances sound so different from modern ones? This week, we take a deep dive into historical performance with the baroque violinist Augusta McKay Lodge. We talk the differences in the sound worlds between modern and historical performance, and also try to resolve the "Cold War" between modern and historical performers. This was a truly fascinating interview, so I hope you'll enjoy it!

Apr 20, 2020
Opus 1s: The First Works of Great Composers, Part 1
45:39

Every great composer has an origin story. Every composer started somewhere. I’m fascinated with a composers first works because they tell us so much about who they are going to become. We can see in so many of these works a germ, a seed of an idea that will blossom into masterpieces. In some cases, composers were writing masterpieces before they turned 18. And some were late bloomers, giving some hope to the rest of us! Today we look at composers 1-5: Mozart, Rameau, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Korngold.

Apr 16, 2020
Conductor's Roundtable
56:21

This week I was proud to join the Phoenix Orchestra's livestream at twitch.tv/thephoenixorch for a quarantined conductor's roundtable featuring Matthew Szymanski, Aram Demirjian, and Gemma New. We discussed what it is that conductor's do, the art of rehearsing, batons, the psychology of working with large groups, our craziest stories from doing the job, and much much more. This was such a fun experience and we're going to be doing it again very soon. We hope you enjoy it and will join us for the next one!

Apr 13, 2020
Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, Part 2
47:16

Bartok did not have an easy life in the US, and he was constantly both homesick and horrorstruck by the news from across the ocean. The final three movements of his Concerto for Orchestra display some of that heartbreak, but also the life-affirming joy that Bartok found in his final creative resurgence. Today we’ll talk about the devastating 3rd movement, the odd fourth movement, a movement that is playful, heartbreaking, and satirical all at once, and finally we’ll explore the ecstatic final movement.

Apr 09, 2020
Bartok Concerto For Orchestra, Part 1
42:19

In 1944, Bartok, dying of Leukemia and weighing only 87 lbs, was commissioned to write a new orchestral piece. He had not written any music for years, and was barely clinging to life. The commission sparked a creative resurgence for Bartok, resulting in his most beloved piece, the Concerto For Orchestra. This week, on Part 1, we'll talk about the first two movements of the piece, from the alternately brooding and exhilarating first movement, to the second movement, a genuinely funny and charming diversion.

Apr 02, 2020
Shostakovich Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad"
40:57

I've been coming back to this symphony again and again over the past couple of weeks. The story of the composition and Leningrad performance of Shostakovich 7 is one of the most remarkable stories of human perseverance, symbolism, and collective action in history. This is a story I haven't told yet on the show, but it couldn't be more relevant today. It is a story about overcoming tragedy. It is a story about hope. It is a story that I think should inspire all of us as we go through this situation together.

Mar 26, 2020
The Overtures of Beethoven
56:39

Never fear everyone, the podcasts are still coming during this crazy time! This week I'll take you through 7 of Beethoven's greatest overtures, pieces that distill Beethoven's storytelling abilities, compositional mastery, and blazing fire all down into just a few minutes. We'll also get a chance to explore Beethoven's creative process, and the development of the Overture itself. Come check out the Coriolan, Egmont, and Leonore Overtures 1, 2, AND 3 plus the overtures to Fidelio and Prometheus. Stay safe!

Mar 19, 2020
Schumann Cello Concerto
46:06

On today's Patreon-sponsored episode, we'll explore the enigmatic masterpiece known as the Schumann Cello Concerto. This is a piece that has been relentlessly criticized ever since it was written, and yet it remains a part of every cellist's repertoire all over the world. What accounts for this contradiction? This week we'll attack these criticisms head on, and also marvel at the melodic inspiration and formal innovations that run through this underrated gem from a deeply underrated composer.

Mar 12, 2020
Brahms Symphony No. 3
01:01:01

Brahms' 3rd symphony is his most underrated symphony. It is a nearly perfect piece that transcends the traditional symphonic narrative over its 40 minute journey. So why doesn't it get performed as often as the other 3 symphonies? This week we dissect the symphonies' origins(hint: it has something to do with Clara Schumann), it's unique cyclical structure, and the motto that runs through the entire work. There are few symphonic hikes more satisfying than Brahms' 3rd symphony, so let's start up together!

Mar 05, 2020
How to Be A Film Composer, with Christopher Willis
40:42

This week I was joined by the wonderful composer Christopher Willis for a wide ranging and fascinating conversation.  Willis, who wrote the music for The Death Of Stalin, Mickey Mouse Shorts, Veep, and the new movie the Personal History of David Copperfield, divulged many secrets about the film composing world in this fascinating interview. How does music correspond to actions on screen? What is the process of how film music is created? All these questions and more are answered today!

Feb 06, 2020
Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3
55:55

Rachmaninoff remains extremely popular as a composer. But at the same time, a kind of condescending attitude continues to linger about Rachmaninoff’s music. People say it sounds like movie music, it's too sentimental, etc. etc. In fact, Rachmaninoff’s music is as well put together and as innovative as any composer of his time, just in a different way. And the third piano concerto is no exception. Today we'll debunk the myth of Rachmaninoff the mediocre composer, with one of his most brilliant works.

Jan 30, 2020
Classical Music Changemakers Week: Aubrey Bergauer + Lorenzo Brewer
55:28

This week, I'm interviewing 3 people who are making real change in the classical music business. Today, I talk with Aubrey Bergauer, the former Executive Director of the California Symphony, and Lorenzo Brewer, the founder of Nkoda, the Spotify of sheet music. We'll talk about the simple yet radical changes Bergauer made during her tenure, and Brewer's belief in the accessibility of sheet music. I think these interviews will appeal to anyone interested in change, the future, and music itself. 

https://medium.com/@AubreyBergauer

nkoda.com

Oct 22, 2019
Sticky Notes Mailbag!
01:02:06

At long last, it's the Sticky Notes mailbag!  I'm joined by a special guest to answer around 20 questions such as, "What is the best way to learn how to compose?" or "Is there a simple explanation in classical music itself for this love that I feel which makes me miss a beat when I listen to it and that can reduce me to tears?" I'll also be answering questions about conducting, programming, musical theory, and much more. I had such a great time doing this, and I hope you enjoy it!

Jun 27, 2019
Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 132 (Part 2)
44:37

This week we're diving into one of the great movements ever written in Western Music with the slow movement of Beethoven's Op. 132 quartet. This is a movement that explores Beethoven's contradictory religious beliefs, his core optimism despite all that happened to him during his life, and his fascination with religious music. We'll then look at how Beethoven concludes this epic piece, using sketches of music that started out as being part of his 9th symphony, but not in the way you might expect. Enjoy!

Jun 13, 2019
Beethoven String Quartet, Op. 132 (Part 1)
45:01

I’ve long hesitated to write a show about any of Beethoven’s late string quartets.  These are pieces that quartets spend the better part of their careers grappling with, struggling with, failing with, and much more rarely, succeeding with.  They are some of the most extraordinary pieces of art ever conceived of.  5 quartets, Opus 127, Opus 130, Opus 131, Opus 132, and Opus 135 - all written near or at the end of Beethoven’s life, these pieces represent the pinnacle of everything Beethoven achieved, yes, even far beyond his symphonies in this conductors opinion.  They explore not only every conceivable emotion, but they dig down into the core of those emotions, defiantly refusing to skim the surface and daring to ask and THEN ANSWER the fundamental questions of life and death.  Everyone has a favorite Late Beethoven Quartet, but mine has always been Opus 132, and so this week I’m taking the opportunity of getting a Patreon sponsor request from Maria for a piece of chamber music to take the leap myself into Late Beethoven.  We’ll discuss Beethoven’s situation as he recovered from a life-threatening illness which he was sure was going to be his end, the unusual 5 movement structure of the piece, and this week, the first two movements of the quartet, the first of which, to me, defines everything that Sonata Form can do to express emotion and a narrative in a piece of absolute music.

Jun 06, 2019
How to Build an Orchestra w/Joshua Roman
51:04

I was thrilled to be joined by Joshua Roman, cellist, composer, and curator. The core of our discussion centers on building an orchestra from the ground up. That is, not taking over an existing orchestra, but starting one completely from scratch. How would this look in 2019? Joshua has been thinking about this for years so it was fascinating to hear him discuss this and many other topics. Thanks again for all of our support and here's to another 100 episodes!

Jan 25, 2019
Deborah Borda, President of the New York Philharmonic
49:19

Of all the interviews I've done this year on Sticky Notes, this might be my favorite.  I sat down a few weeks ago with Deborah Borda, the new CEO and President of the New York Philharmonic, to talk about the future of not only the New York Philharmonic, but also classical music in general.  We also talked about the connections between the artistic and social imperative of a classical music organization, Gustavo Dudamel, and the importance of listening to our communities.  This was a truly inspiring conversation, so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

 

Feb 21, 2018
42 Years on the New York Phil Front: A Conversation with Glenn Dicterow
45:48

This week on Sticky Notes, I'm really happy to welcome Glenn Dicterow, the former concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, to the show.  Glenn was a concertmaster for an incredible 42 years, giving him thousands of great stories, memories, insights, and thoughts about leading, conductors, violin-playing, and orchestral life.  Thanks so much for listening, and I hope you enjoy it!  

Dec 07, 2017
A Conversation w/ Bass-Baritone Eric Owens
39:25

Part 2 of The Week of the Voice is here with the incredible bass-baritone Eric Owens!  We talk about the joy of getting to play bad guys in opera, his professional-level oboe playing(!!), conducting, the future of classical music, and the art of getting into character.  If you've never heard Eric Owens sing before, you're missing out, but it's also a treat to hear him speak on any topic.  Thanks for listening!  

Oct 19, 2017
A Conversation w/ Mezzo Soprano Sasha Cooke
47:38

Welcome to the Week of the Voice!  Join conductor and host Joshua Weilerstein, back from a brief illness-inspired hiatus(!), as he welcomes in the amazing Mezzo-Soprano Sasha Cooke for a chat about Mahler, about singing opera versus recitals, preparation, text, traveling, contemporary music, and improv comedy!  This is the first of TWO interviews this week, so please stay tuned for an interview with the incredible bass-baritone Eric Owens, coming out on Thursday!  Thanks for listening!  

Oct 17, 2017
How to Change the World w/ Yo-Yo Ma
39:34

Join conductor and host Joshua Weilerstein as he welcomes the legendary cellist and humanitarian Yo-Yo Ma for a full-length interview!  In the interview, we discuss what it means to be a musical citizen, how to create change through music, why Yo-Yo went down this path, how he discovered so many different styles of music, and much much more.  I really hope you enjoy this interview of such an amazing artist - thanks for listening!  

Sep 20, 2017
Emanuel Ax Interview
55:01

Join conductor and host Joshua Weilerstein for a conversation with the world-renowned pianist Emanuel Ax!  We cover crossword puzzles, growing up in the Soviet Union, moving to Canada, and then to New York, selling baloney sandwiches, his first big break, the value and the drawbacks of competitions, his reputation as the nicest guy in classical music, the evolution of conductors, his timpani debut(!), and a lightning round!  I hope you enjoy it!  

Jun 20, 2017
Eun Lee, Founder of The Dream Unfinished
31:16

Concluding a week-long focus on Composers of Color, join host Joshua Weilerstein as he welcomes Eun Lee, the founder of The Dream Unfinished, an activist orchestra using classical music as a platform to address issues of racial and social justice.  We talk about how that works, and how and why the project started.   Their concert is this Sunday, June 11th at Cooper Union University, and it's an event you shouldn't miss!  

Jun 08, 2017
10 things to change about classical concerts
01:04:12

Join your host, conductor Joshua Weilerstein, as he welcomes Aram Demirjian, the Music Director of the Knoxville Symphony, and Matt Szymanski, the Founder and Music Director of Phoenix, to discuss an article that roiled the classical music scene just a few years ago: Baldur Bronnimann's "10 things to change about classical concerts."  The article caused a firestorm of criticism and comment when it was released, and we're here to discuss, mull over, turn inside out, and evaluate each idea, from whether the audience should be allowed to clap between movements, to whether you should be allowed to Tweet during performances.  This was a fascinating discussion and I hope you enjoy it!  Please consider going to Baldur's site to follow along as we discuss each idea: http://www.baldur.info/blog/10-things-that-we-should-change-in-classical-concerts/

May 23, 2017
A Conversation w/ Itzhak Perlman (w/special guest Toby Perlman!)
56:51

He needs no introduction - one of the greatest artists of our time, Itzhak Perlman joins Sticky Notes to talk about teaching, playing, conducting, keeping things fresh, vibrato, style, taste, food, childhood, and so much more.  Then, at around 42:00, Toby Perlman joins us to talk about the Perlman Music Program, my introduction to the Perlmans, and an incredible place for musicians to learn and feel safe and supported.  Thanks again for listening!  

May 09, 2017
An Interview with Donald Weilerstein and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein
40:59

Join conductor Joshua Weilerstein and his parents(!), the esteemed performers and teachers, Donald and Vivian Weilerstein, as they discuss how they met, their first time playing music together, teaching philosophies, parenting philosophies, and much much more!

Mar 14, 2017
Shostakovich Symphony No. 10
50:47

Join conductor Joshua Weilerstein as he takes a deep dive into Shostakovich's monumental 10th symphony.  We'll analyze the music, the history behind the music, and much more, all in an easily digestible and accessible way.  This podcast is for beginners all the way to experts.

Mar 14, 2017