Classical Breakdown

By WETA Classical

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Subscribers: 39
Reviews: 0
Episodes: 89

Description

John Banther takes classical music fans behind the scenes with interviews, deep dives, and analysis. Episodes released bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Produced by WETA Classical in Washington, D.C.


Episode Date
The Illustrious Life and Music of Haydn: From hardship to stardom
4898

Enjoy a performance of one of Haydn's iconic concertos at the end of the episode! We talk about Haydn's hardship to stardom life, and why he ended up writing all kinds of music, from symphonies, and concertos, to music for clocks. 

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May 30, 2023
Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor": Breaking expectations!
2525

We unravel the secrets and beauty of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor," hailed as a masterpiece in the piano concerto repertoire. We explore the complexities of the music, the unusual circumstances behind its creation, and what to listen for!

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May 16, 2023
In conversation with Maestro Gianandrea Noseda: His journey, perspectives on music, conducting, and more!
3701

This charismatic Italian has become one of the most sought-after conductors for both orchestras and opera houses. John Banther and Gianandrea Noseda discuss early musical experiences, preparing familiar works, the importance of recordings, ways to relax, and much more!

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May 02, 2023
Mahler's Symphony No. 1: A rewarding symphonic journey!
3043

One of the more original first symphonies from a composer, Gustav Mahler's entry into the symphonic world was initially misunderstood. John Banther and Evan Keely break down what made this symphony different, what to listen for, and why the journey is worth the test of patience!

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Apr 18, 2023
Fantasia: Music from the realm of imagination!
2070

Go on a journey through time with us as we explore a genre of music called the Fantasia! John Banther and Evan Keely discuss how the genre started, evolved, and captured our hearts and imaginations for centuries.

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Apr 04, 2023
The life and music of Cecile Chaminade: Genius has no gender
2608

She persisted and created her own success in defiance of the sexism faced at home and abroad. We explore her life, works you need to hear, and even hear a 122-year-old recording of Chaminade herself!

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Mar 21, 2023
Women in Music: 6 works by 6 composers you should know
1794

We explore in detail 6 works by 6 different living composers for a variety of instruments like solo cello, a string quartet, a piano concerto, and more! Visit the show notes page for more information on these composers and resources to find more.

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Mar 07, 2023
Ravel's Piano Concerto for Left Hand: A masterpiece of musical illusions and creativity!
1788

There are a lot of questions and considerations when it comes to writing a piano concerto for a single hand. John Banther and Evan Keely explore the origins of this masterpiece and all the ways in which Ravel makes it sound larger than its parts. 

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Feb 21, 2023
Joseph Bologne, the most interesting 18th century composer?
1847

If there was a "most interesting man in the world" it would be Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He wasn't just a virtuoso violinist, composer, and conductor, he was also one of Europe's greatest fencers, and a military man who led a legion in the French Revolution.

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Feb 07, 2023
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 "Pathetique": A symphony of unanswerable questions
2753

No matter how many times you've heard this work, there is much to discover! John Banther and Evan Keely examine letters from his final year, musical examples, and fascinating compositional techniques in search of answers to this enigmatic symphony. 

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Jan 24, 2023
Antonio Vivaldi's life, music, and the women who shaped his career
2439

Did a volcano erupt when he was born, what illness plagued his priesthood, and why did he write so many concertos? Join us to learn all about Vivaldi's life and appreciate the composer from a new angle. 

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Jan 10, 2023
Brahms' Haydn Variations: Don't judge a theme by its composer!
2160
Dec 27, 2022
A holiday gem: Margaret Bonds' The Ballad of the Brown King
1821

This work for choir and orchestra might become your new holiday favorite! Bonds' takes us on an evocative musical journey with more in the story than meets the eye. 

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Dec 13, 2022
George Frideric Handel: life of fame, musical style, and 3 things you didn't know before!
2478

He's one of history's most famous composers, but how much do you really know about Handel? Join us to learn about his life, music, and desire for fame; plus 3 things about him you didn't know before!

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Nov 29, 2022
WG Still's Afro-American Symphony: Blues idioms, new instruments, and a uniquely American style
2684

This symphony takes its inspiration from the blues in the 1920s, which were much different than the blues we typically hear today. Join us to learn how Still uniquely brought different styles of music together, new instruments in the orchestra, and his motivation.  

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Nov 15, 2022
The Saxophone, everything you need to know about this unique genre-hopping instrument!
2891

Doctors at one time prescribed playing the saxophone for certain ailments?! Learn all about the saxophone's invention, development, and all the genres it's hopped to along the way.

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Nov 01, 2022
Mozart y Mambo! Horn superstar Sarah Willis shows off her newest album
2997
Oct 18, 2022
By Listener Request: 3 deep dives into works by Pachelbel, Liszt, and Vaughan Williams
2385

Coming to you from our email inbox, here's an episode of music requested by you the listener! These three works are iconic, but leave your preconceived notions at the door and prepare to hear them in a new way. Plus, we also do a little Q&A at the end of the show. 

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Oct 04, 2022
Claude Debussy: 4 points to hear his music in a new way!
2623

Was he an impressionist, symbolist, or something else? John Banther and Evan Keely dive into the life and music of Debussy while giving you 4 points to hear his music in a whole new way.

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Sep 20, 2022
Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini: A Baltimore connection and hidden themes!
1360

Season 4 kicks off with one of the most beloved works in the orchestral repertoire. John Banther and Bill Bukowski talk about the theme's origins, melodies hidden in plain sight, moments to listen for, and what Rachmaninoff did to calm his nerves the night of the premiere!

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Sep 06, 2022
Summer Listening Guide: 4 albums to expand your musical horizons!
1203

Half the fun of music is finding something new, so why not use the summer to discover new classical favorites while you hit the road, the mountains, the beach, or wherever!

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Jun 28, 2022
Grieg’s Piano Concerto: The Heart of Norway
3436

Enjoy a full recording of this concerto after Linda and John discuss its origin, Norwegian influences, and what to listen for.

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Jun 14, 2022
An Unsung Heroine: The Life and Music of Fanny Mendelssohn
2143

She was a composer whose music was wrongfully neglected and was sometimes attributed and published under her brother's name. Join Evan Keely and John Banther as they discuss the unique challenges she faced, her letters, late success in publishing, and more. 

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May 31, 2022
Under Pressure: What is an Oboe with Nick Stovall, NSO's Principal Oboe
3017
May 17, 2022
Ravel's Bolero with Joshua Weilerstein: A conductor's insight
2286

It seems simple on the surface, but there is a lot to discover in Ravel's most famous work (much to his dismay!). Joshua Weilerstein, one of today's in-demand conductors, joins John Banther to offer his perspective on the music and all the details that need to be addressed to pull it off in performance.

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May 03, 2022
Piano Transformed: The Life and Music of Frederic Chopin
1958

He was a different kind of composer than Mozart and Beethoven, and he transformed how we hear the piano. John Banther and Bill Bukowski talk about Chopin's early life, relationships, new styles of music he wrote, what set him apart, and more!

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Apr 19, 2022
All about that bass! With NSO Principal Bass Robert Oppelt
2811

The Bass is one of the largest and lowest instruments in the orchestra. Learn how it evolved and was used over the centuries, how it can play solos just like any other instrument, and more!

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Apr 05, 2022
Louise Farrenc's Symphony No. 3: A hidden gem!
1965

Her final symphony is one that deserves your attention and is now performed more often. John Banther and James Jacobs discuss the challenges she faced with sexism and the French attitude towards symphonies at the time, what to listen for, influences, and her unique orchestration. 

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Mar 22, 2022
Clara Schumann: A story of stardom, passion, and courage
2329

She was a composer, prodigy, and was considered one of the greatest pianists of the 19th century. Linda and John discuss various aspects of her compositions, education, and complicated career. Also, we share a heroic story of Clara you likely haven't heard before!

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Mar 08, 2022
Florence Price Symphony No. 1: An American Symphony
1869

It was the first symphony of an African-American woman to be performed by a major US orchestra. John Banther and Nicole Lacroix talk about how she found time to write, a hidden motif to listen for, Americana aspects of the symphony, and more. 

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Feb 22, 2022
George Walker: He wants you to play his music
2849

DC native composer, George Walker, was one of the great American composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. His close friend and colleague, Dr. Mickey Terry, joins John Banther to discuss his life, challenges, and three works you need to listen to.

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Feb 08, 2022
Dvorak's Cello Concerto, 5 things to listen for!
1799

There is always something new to discover, no matter how many times you've heard a piece. Our resident cello player, James Jacobs, joins John Banther to give you 5 things to listen for in this masterpiece that you've either missed or could experience differently. 

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Jan 25, 2022
How an orchestra creates a year of concerts, with NSO's Nigel Boon
1970

Have you ever wondered how an orchestra puts a full season of concerts together? Nigel Boon, Director of Artistic Planning shows how he juggles multiple seasons of concerts involving many conductors, soloists, commissions, programs, and more!

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Jan 11, 2022
The life and music of Robert Schumann
2437

His music helped define the sound and direction of the Romantic period of the 19th century across different forms; like music for piano, song, chamber music, and symphonies. John Banther and Linda Carducci talk about characteristics to listen for in his music, why he became a composer, and how literature played a part in his works. 

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Dec 28, 2021
Bach's Christmas Oratorio, what to listen for and know!
2062

It's a holiday classic that is becoming more popular, especially in the Washington area. Bill Bukowski joins John Banther to explain everything we need to know in this masterpiece. From how it was originally performed, expected audience participation, and how Bach reused old music. Plus, we have some listener mail and a special Classical Breakdown challenge. 

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Dec 14, 2021
Bernstein's West Side Story
2204

Here is what to listen for, know, and appreciate when it comes to West Side Story before you watch the 2021 movie remake!

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Nov 30, 2021
The life of William Grant Still
2402

Known as the Dean of Afro-American Composers, William Grant Still wrote a variety of music, from symphony, opera, ballet, to popular song, and more. Gayle Murchinson, Associate Professor of Music at William and Mary, joins John Banther to discuss Still's life and explore his music across three aesthetics that she describes as Ultramodern, Racial, and Universal. 

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Nov 16, 2021
Mozart's Clarinet Concerto
1736

Composed in his final year, this concerto is one of Mozart's last and most enduring works. Nicole and John explore the origins of the concerto, which was originally for a slightly different and more obscure instrument. They also talk about what to listen for in each movement and even give a little music theory lesson to explore some unintended consequences in the music. 

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Nov 02, 2021
The Life of Sergei Rachmaninoff
2540

Linda and John uncover details about Rachmaninoff's life, like early influences that stayed with him his entire career, his comeback story after a disastrous symphony premiere, and what led to him emigrating to the United States. Plus, we hear some recordings of Rachmaninoff himself at the piano from the early 1900s.

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Oct 19, 2021
What is a Clarinet?
2050

It's a popular instrument, but how much do you really know about the clarinet? Principal Clarinet of the National Symphony Orchestra, Lin Ma, joins John Banther to talk all about the clarinet. Lin tells us everything, from what it's made of, its predecessor, how it was used over time, and he even plays some of his favorite examples!

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Oct 05, 2021
Tchaikovsky's triumphant Symphony No. 5
2433

This symphony is one of the most popular and triumphant in the repertoire, and for good reason! It takes us on a journey using a simple melody that appears in every movement, transforming from the opening in E minor to the triumphant E Major finale. John and Bill go through Tchaikovsky's personal correspondence during the months he was writing the symphony, show you what to listen for, and teach you a compositional technique used still today. 

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Sep 21, 2021
The Life of Leonard Bernstein
2547

How much do you really know about one of America's most treasured artists? There is a lot to explore in his early life in Massachusetts, his meteoric rise to fame in New York, and the unique characteristics we find all over his music.

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Sep 07, 2021
Season 3 starts September 7!
120

It's been a nice summer break, but we are excited to be back with your favorite classical music podcast! We kick things off on September 7 as Matthew Dayton joins John Banther to explore the life and music of Leonard Bernstein. The following episode, September 21, is all about one of the most popular symphonies, the No. 5 by Tchaikovsky. Bill Bukowski and John Banther explore the symphonies insecure origins and what to listen for in the music.

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Aug 31, 2021
New classical albums to listen to this summer!
1170

We wrap up Season 2 of Classical Breakdown with some recommended recordings for you to explore this summer. These recently released albums feature a diverse range of composers, styles, ensembles, and even world premiere recordings. 

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Jun 29, 2021
What is a Viola? Daniel Foster, Principal Viola of the NSO tells us everything!
2568

The viola is somewhat of an enigma and from a distance can be hard to tell apart from the violin. Daniel Foster explains how composers used the viola over the centuries, what his role as Principal Viola entails, and plays for us some extraordinary parts written for the viola. 

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Jun 15, 2021
Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. A story of obsession, betrayal, and execution.
2822
Jun 01, 2021
The Life of Johannes Brahms
2261

He's considered one of the greatest composers of the 19th century. But can you hum a tune by Brahms? We dive into the life and music of Brahms to better understand what set him apart from others, how his personality affected his music, and how he still appears in popular music and commercials today. 

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May 18, 2021
What is a Concerto?
2064

Where did the concerto come from and how did it evolve? We explore its origins, development through Haydn and Mozart, some of the most challenging concertos of the 19th century, and a couple of "hidden gems."

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May 04, 2021
Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. A masterpiece and tribute to a friend.
2522

This masterpiece, originally for piano, was inspired by the tragic loss of a friend, and Ravel's orchestration is a work of art in itself. While roughly half of the original pictures have been lost, we do have descriptions of the originals that give insight to Mussorgsky's music and Ravel's orchestration.

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Apr 20, 2021
What is a Bassoon? Sue Heineman, Principal Bassoon of the NSO, tells us everything!
2458

How does a bassoon make a sound and what is its purpose? Principal Bassoonist of the National Symphony Orchestra Sue Heineman doesn't just tell us; she also plays her favorite moments and discusses how it all fits together in the orchestra.  

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Apr 06, 2021
Appalachian Spring, an American classic by Aaron Copland
2186

There is so much to discover about this masterpiece, like its collaborative and ballet origins, Copland's inventive use of an unknown folk tune, and even how it got its name. 

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Mar 23, 2021
The Life of Bach
2896

Today we know him as one of the greatest and most influential composers, but that wasn’t always the case. Learn how a teenager became responsible for Bach’s revival, how is music changed from job to job, and even how he wound up in jail for nearly a month!

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Mar 09, 2021
The life of Florence Price
3018
Dr. Karen Walwyn discusses the life and music of Florence Price, the first woman African American composer to have a symphony played by a major orchestra in the United States.

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Feb 23, 2021
Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 "From the New World." The origins and inspirations you didn't know.
2379

There is a lot you may not know about the origins, inspirations and influencers when it comes to this masterpiece by Dvorak. We get into the details and music with examples from the latest recording from the National Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Noseda.

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Feb 09, 2021
It's fun and it's virtuosic! Exploring Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21
1834
You might not know this concerto by its number, but you're surely familiar with one of its aria-like melodies that has appeared in film and popular music.

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Jan 26, 2021
What does a Concertmaster really do? Concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef of the NSO explains.
1829
It's one of the most competitive positions in all of classical music. Learn more about the role of a concertmaster from Nurit Bar-Josef, Concertmaster of the National Symphony Orchestra.

She plays her favorite concertmaster solos

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Jan 12, 2021
The life of Strauss Jr. aka "The Waltz King"
1817
His music is celebrated today, especially around New Year's, and his waltzes are bound to put a smile on your face. Learn about Strauss Jr.'s life, his music, and a surprising answer he gave a New York reporter about his visit to Boston.

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Dec 29, 2020
The Nutcracker, how it became a holiday classic, and what to listen for
2677
This holiday classic has helped define the "Christmas" sound for generations, but there's more to the music than you think.

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Dec 15, 2020
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9
3179
Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 was revolutionary, but if all you know is the "Ode to Joy" you are missing out! From it's opening notes to the final crescendo, join Bill Bukowski and John Banther for a musical deep dive into Beethoven's final symphony.

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Dec 01, 2020
What is a string quartet?
3749
Is it the ultimate test for a composer? Discover its origins and how this genre evolved over centuries with James Jacobs and John Banther.

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Nov 17, 2020
Beethoven's triumphant Symphony No. 5
2770
There's a lot about this masterpiece you may not know. Nicole LaCroix joins John Banther to explore its premiere and unique musical moments.

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Nov 03, 2020
The life of Tchaikovsky
2699
From his humble beginnings to becoming one of the greatest composers, explore the life and music of Tchaikovsky.

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Oct 20, 2020
What is an Overture?
2446
Is an Overture defined by the kind of music it contains or simply where it appears in a concert? The answer can change throughout history, and with musical examples, John and Nicole get into the details of this "bite-size music."

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Oct 06, 2020
Rimsky-Korsakov's enchanting Scheherazade
2720
Discover the musical details and backstory of a work that's captivated listeners for over a century. John Banther and Linda Carducci discuss its origins and use their imagination to fill in the musical gaps.

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Sep 22, 2020
The life of Beethoven
4098
Discover the life and works of one classical music's greatest composers! His life was full of groundbreaking music, but it was also tragic as he dealt with family problems and hearing loss. We explore the details of his life and listen to samples of his music, from his first composition to his final Symphony No. 9.

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Sep 08, 2020
Recommended summer listening
654
Expand your musical palate with music found in an attic in 2009, new interpretations of Beethoven and Franck, and an instrument you've probably never heard before.

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Jun 30, 2020
Lawrence Brownlee on equality in classical music
1440
Brownlee talks about equality in classical music, his experience as a black man in the world of opera, and what we can do to encourage positive change towards a more diverse future in classical music.

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Jun 16, 2020
Haydn's lost cello concerto and its rediscovery
3866
Haydn's 1st cello concerto was lost for 200 years and is now considered one of the greatest cello concertos of the 18th century. Dr. Greenwald tells us how music can go missing, we examine musical examples that set this concerto apart, and we enjoy a full performance!

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Jun 02, 2020
NSO Principal Flute Aaron Goldman talks flute and shares his journey in music
3070
When was the flute invented, how did it evolve, what does a bass flute sound like? Learn all this and more with Principal Flute of the National Symphony Orchestra, Aaron Goldman.

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May 19, 2020
Debussy's La Mer - Part 3
1072
Debussy's La Mer is as imaginative and playful as it was in 1905, and while the original audience wasn't as receptive, it's become an orchestra staple over the last century. The final movement is called "Dialogue du vent et de la mer" (Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea) and features a theme originating in the oboe. We'll hear from Nicholas Stovall, Principal Oboe of the National Symphony Orchestra, on what this passage means to him and why he had to play it during Principal Flute auditions.

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May 05, 2020
Debussy's La Mer - Part 2
771
The trumpet shines through in Jeux de Vagues, (Play of the Waves), the second movement of Debussy's La mer. This is part 2 of our 3 part series on Debussy's enchanting orchestral work, La Mer.

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Apr 21, 2020
Debussy's La Mer - Part 1
1224
An orchestral staple today, this work about "the sea" wasn't well received at it's premiere. Audiences may have expected a Strauss-esque symphonic poem to bring the sea to life, but Debussy was more interested in the abstract. This is part 1 of our 3 part series on Debussy's enchanting orchestral work, La Mer.

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Apr 07, 2020
Artist Relief Tree, supporting artists affected by cancellations due to COVID-19
760
The Arts community is severely affected by the current situation involving COVID-19. Artist Relief Tree was created by Morgan Brophy to give direct support to artists and musicians.

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Mar 24, 2020
The Life and Music of Amy Beach, an American pioneer
1562
She was America's first woman composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra and the first American composer fully educated in the United States. She was praised and recognized but her journey to success was an uphill battle with obstacles and challenges.

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Mar 10, 2020
Haydn's final London Symphony
3063
Let's go on a musical deep dive of Haydn's final symphony. With musical examples we can breakdown Sonata Form, hear influences of other composers, and folk song!

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Feb 25, 2020
What is a Symphony? Part 2
3041
Beethoven changed all ideas and expectations about the Symphony. Bill Bukowski joins me as we figure out what happened to the symphony after Beethoven through the 21st century.

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Feb 11, 2020
The life of Mozart
3770
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life was kind of complicated. His childhood as a musical prodigy was filled with practicing, writing music, and performing for royalty throughout Europe. He later struggled at times finding suitable employment and wanted to find his own path. It was a life lived under the watchful eye of his father, Leopold Mozart, and cut short at the age of 35.

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Jan 28, 2020
The Planets by Holst
1618
Discover music by Holst that was inspired by the gods our planets are named after in our solar system. This seven-movement orchestral suite includes the terrifying sounds of war, the comfort of peace, jollity, and so much more.

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Jan 14, 2020
Tchaikovsky's The Seasons
1671
Get into the new year with a work that has music for every month! Tchaikovsky's The Seasons also includes poetry and gives us a glimpse into Russian life, month by month in 1876.

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Dec 31, 2019
What does a conductor do?
3472
Waving a baton is just a small part of being a conductor. Michelle Merrill tells what it's like to prepare a concert with an orchestra, from the year before to the downbeat of the concert.

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Dec 17, 2019
Handel's Messiah, from swords, hidden meanings, to theft!
4434
Here's everything you wanted to know about Handel's Messiah but were afraid to ask.

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Dec 03, 2019
What is a Symphonic Poem?
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Discover one of the more colorful genres of classical music, the Symphonic Poem, which can depict animals, landscape, literature, and even football players!

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Nov 19, 2019
Reading between the notes - making a score come alive
1666
Liz demonstrates musical terms on the violin, we talk about bringing sheet music to life and a special guest joins for an experiment with foreign language.

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Nov 05, 2019
The Abeo Quartet performs Moonshot
2243
The Abeo Quartet performs Moonshot, a new work by Alistair Coleman. Alistair talks about the inspiration for this piece, and after the performance, we talk with the quartet about putting this piece together, new playing techniques, and space travel!

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Oct 22, 2019
Kian Soltani, cellist, talks tempo, karate, and his debut album "Home"
1928
Kian talks about bringing people together in music, changing tempos, karate, and more. He is one of today's most celebrated young cellists and has risen the ranks as one of today's great cello soloists. His collaboration with conductor Daniel Barenboim has taken him around the world, he's performed with some of the worlds greatest orchestras. and records for Deutsche Grammophon.

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Oct 08, 2019
What is a Symphony? Part 1
2028
The Symphony has been one of classical music's biggest genres. But, have you ever wondered what makes a symphony, a symphony? The origins take us back to the 17th century with symphonies that lasted only a few minutes, and we explore its development up to Beethoven's blockbuster Symphony No. 9.

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Sep 24, 2019
The Four Seasons, how Vivaldi depicts the world in sound
3300
Poetry, falling on the ice, and a barking dog, there is so much to hear and discover in Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece, The Four Seasons. In this episode, we get into the details and musical examples with a recording that brings a fresh perspective to this work published nearly 300 years ago.

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Sep 10, 2019
Wu Han, pianist and cultural entrepreneur
2098
She might be the busiest chamber musician in the United States. Wu Han is in charge of several music festivals worldwide, has an intense performing schedule, and manages a record label. In this episode, she tells us about her early musical inspirations in Taiwan, how tragedy led her to another career path, where chamber music is headed, and even how to fix wardrobe malfunctions with a stapler.

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Sep 10, 2019
How does a composer actually write music?
2125

Mozart and Beethoven were genius composers, but they wrote music very differently. Renowned composer from Washington, Alistair Coleman, tells us what made Beethoven and Mozart different and describes his own music writing process.

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Sep 10, 2019