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Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast
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Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast

Author: Joshua Weilerstein

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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!
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Stravinsky: Petrouchka

Stravinsky: Petrouchka

2023-01-2701:03:04

If you listened to my show last week about Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, you know that Stravinsky’s life was never the same after the premiere of the ballet in 1910. Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes and Stravinsky’s greatest collaborator, said just before the premiere, “this man is on the eve of celebrity.” Diaghilev was absolutely right, as The Firebird made Stravinsky a Parisian household name practically overnight. Of course, immediately everyone wanted to know what was next. Stravinsky did too, and he was thinking that he needed to stretch himself even more, as even though the Firebird had caused a sensation, he still felt that it was too indebted to his teachers of the past like Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov and other Russian greats like Borodin or Mussorgsky. At first, Stravinsky dreamed of a pagan Rite, but quickly he changed course, wanting to write something that was NOT ballet music, and in fact would be a concerto for Piano and Orchestra. But instead of just a straight ahead abstract piece, Stravinsky had yet another story in mind. This time it was this: “In composing the music, I had in mind a distinct picture of a puppet, suddenly endowed with life, exasperating the patience of the orchestra with diabolical cascades of arpeggios. The orchestra in turn retaliates with menacing trumpet blasts. The outcome is a terrific noise which reaches its climax and ends in the sorrowful and querulous collapse of the poor puppet.” Diaghilev visited Stravinsky in Lausanne Switzerland expecting to hear more about the pagan rituals Stravinsky had been so excited about, but instead Stravinsky played him this strange piano concerto. But Digahliev, ever the visionary, saw the potential in this story and in this music for dance as well, and convinced Stravinsky to turn the piano concerto into a ballet, and Petrushka was born. Within a few months, Petrushka was written, performed, and was yet another sensation. Today, we’ll talk all about the brilliant music that Stravinsky composed for the ballet, the integration of choreography and music, and the radical changes that this music heralded for the western music world.
Stravinsky: The Firebird

Stravinsky: The Firebird

2023-01-1901:17:58

In 1906, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev created a sensation in Paris with an exhibition of Russian Art. This was the first time a major showing of Russian art had appeared in Paris, and from this point forward, the city was obsessed with Russian art, literature, and music.  Diaghilev, ever the promoter, then put together the Ballets Russes, the Russian Ballet, in 1909, a company based in Paris that performed ballets composed, choreographed, and danced, by Russians.  Over the next 20 years, the Ballets Russes became one the most influential and successful ballet companies of the entire 20th century, and a young composer that Diaghilev plucked from obscurity named Igor Stravinsky had a lot to do with their success.    The first season of the Ballet Russes relied on the big names of Russian music, like Borodin, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky Korsakov, but Diaghilev was always restlessly searching for something new.  For many years, Diaghilev had wanted to bring not only new Russian art, but also new Russian music to the West, and now he had found the perfect combination -  Diaghilev brought together the Russian artist and writer Alexandre Benoit and the Russian choreographer Michel Fokine to create a Russian nationalistic ballet based on Russian folk tales and mythology.  He then took a risk, giving the commission for the music to Igor Stravinsky.  The result?  The Firebird, a ballet that provoked an ecstatic reaction, a score that would propel Stravinsky to worldwide popularity, 3 different orchestral suites played almost every year by orchestras all over the world, and a 19 year collaboration and friendship between Stravinsky and Diaghilev which only ended in Diaghilev’s death and resulted in 8 original ballets, including The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. But, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves.  All of this had to start somewhere, so lets explore the Firebird, in all of its different versions and orchestrations, along with the folk tales and stories that go along with it. Join us!
Pavel Haas, Symphony

Pavel Haas, Symphony

2023-01-1257:021

This February, I have the great honor of joining the Indianapolis Symphony for the North American premiere of Pavel Haas’ remarkable unfinished symphony. Pavel Haas, a Czech Jewish composer, wrote the existing music for his symphony between 1940 and 1941 before his deportation to the Terezin ghetto/concentration camp. He was a full participant in the well known cultural activities of the camp, but was unable to complete the symphony before he was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. What Haas did manage to complete is not just a piece that is worth hearing as a historical curiosity, but is one of the towering testaments of both the time in which it was written, and of the unique and innovative Czech symphonic tradition. We are left with 1 fully completed movement, one fully sketched movement, and a "torso" of a third movement. The symphony was completed by the Czech composer Zdenek Zouhar after World War II. The story of Haas’ death, which we will learn about on the show today is, of course, devastating. Hearing his music reminds all of us of the individual voices that we have lost. The voices of the 6 million Jews, and 6 million others whom the Nazis murdered. But this music also reminds us of the proof that Pavel Haas lived. Haas was one of the truly unique composers of the 20th century, and while his tragic story cannot be detached from his music, the music itself transcends its time and acquires the universality of all great music. It Is truly an honor to be bringing this music to the North American stage for the first time, and at a time of rising Anti-Semitism around the world, I hope that his story, his music, and his voice, will reach far and wide. Join me to learn about this remarkable work. 
Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

2022-12-2201:05:301

Ask a non-classical music fan to name a piece of classical music. If they don’t say Beethoven 5, or the Ode to Joy, they probably will say The Four Seasons. They might not know that it was written by Vivaldi, but the Four Seasons are a set of pieces that have made that leap into popular culture in a way that almost no other classical composition has. The Four Seasons have been remixed, reimagined, rearranged, and recycled so many times that most classical musicians barely suppress an eye roll when they see them programmed or hear them mentioned. For some classical musicians, especially the ones that disdain anything to do with pop culture, the Four Seasons represent kitsch in classical music, an overplayed and overrated set of violin concertos that could easily be put away forever. But that’s a huge mistake on our part. For me, the Four Seasons are a masterpiece from a criminally underrated composer. They show a remarkable level of creativity, innovation, and ingenuity, and when you strip back the layers of accumulated traditions, all the remixes and “improvements” of them, you’re left with pieces that are way way way ahead of their time, and as exciting and fresh to listen to as they must have been when Vivaldi first wrote them. So today I’m going to take you through the Four Seasons - we’ll talk about Vivaldi’s place in musical history, program music and what that meant in Vivaldi’s time, and how music can portray nature. And I’ll try to convince any skeptical listeners out there that these pieces, far from being overplayed cliches, are actually underplayed, at least in their original form. Join us! Recording: Janine Jansen with Amsterdam Sinfonietta. Link to video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzE-kVadtNw
You might be thinking, "Why on earth would anyone want to devote an entire podcast to etudes?" For most instrumentalists, etudes are the bane of our existence. They are studies, meant to develop technique on an instrument. Etudes are an essential part of any instrumentalists work, but they had never been known for their musical content. As a violinist, I had practiced dozens of etudes by Kreutzer, Rodé, Dancla, Sevcik, Schraideck, Kayser, Mazas, and more, lamenting the day I chose the violin as my instrument. But pianists have the same dreaded names, like Czerny for example. Chopin changed all of that. Chopin was the first composer to integrate musical content into his etudes, which meant that Chopin's etudes were both extremely difficult technical exercises, but they also were musically interesting enough to be performed live. LIke everything Chopin did on the piano, this was revolutionary, and Chopin's 27 etudes have been part of the piano repertoire ever since. We'll discuss some of these etudes today, along with the nature of virtuosity itself. We'll also spend a lot of time talking about Leopold Godowsky. Leopold Godowsky is not a name you’ve probably heard very often. But he was one of the great pianists of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, with legions of admirers including legendary pianists like Josef Hoffman, Arthur Rubinstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Claudio Arrau, and the composer Ferrucio Busoni. Godowsky’s pianistic gifts were well known, but what about his compositional ones? Well, to speak of one is to speak of the other. During the 1890s, when Godowsky was in his late 20s, he began making arrangements of famous piano works of Chopin and other composers music. Over the next 20 years, he became engrossed with Chopin’s legendary etudes, or studies, and began writing his own arrangements of them. Now Chopin’s etudes are extremely difficult just on their own, but Godowsky’s studies are on another level of difficulty.  In fact, Godowsky’s transcriptions are so difficult that many pianists don’t even dare to play them, though some, like the great Marc-Andre Hamelin, have made them an integral part of their repertoire. So today on the show, we’ll take a look at some of the studies on Chopin’s etudes, analyzing both the original Chopin etudes and then the changes that Godowsky makes to them. This will be a show as much about Chopin as it is about Godowsky, because you can’t understand Godowsky’s achievement without understanding the Chopin first. Join us!
Schubert Cello Quintet

Schubert Cello Quintet

2022-12-0858:141

In the late summer or early autumn of 1828, Schubert completed an extraordinary work, his String Quintet in C Major. 6 weeks later, he was dead. Nowadays this piece is considered to be one of the most sublime 50 minutes to an hour that exists in all of music. But when Schubert completed this quintet, he sent a letter to the publisher Heinrich Albert Probst, to ask him to publish it. Schubert wrote: ‘Among other things, I have composed three sonatas for piano solo, which I should like to dedicate to Hummel. I have also set several poems by Heine of Hamburg, which went down extraordinarily well here, and finally have completed a Quintet for 2 violins, 1 viola and 2 violoncellos. I have played the sonatas in several places, to much applause, but the Quintet will only be tried out in the coming days. If any of these compositions are perhaps suitable for you, let me know.’  The quintet was ignored by Probst, and we don’t know if Schubert ever heard that rehearsal of his quintet.  When Schubert died, it was utterly forgotten until 1850, over 20 years after Schubert had put these notes down on paper. The well known at the time Hellmesberger quartet discovered the quintet, began performing it, and finally, in 1853, the piece was published for the very first time. Slowly, as so many great works of art do, it caught on, until today it is one of the most beloved works in the entire Western Classical music universe. But it’s not an easy piece to talk, or to write, about. Long associated with Schubert’s impending death, though we have no evidence that he knew he was dying when he wrote the piece, it is often seen as a work full of shadows and shades, despite its C Major key and often ebullient character. Writers, thinkers, and podcasters I should add, have often found it difficult to put their finger on the fundamental character of this remarkable piece, which I actually find to be an asset, not a problem to be solved. Schubert’s music is so beautiful because it speaks to everyone in a different way. Unlike Beethoven, who grabbed you and shook you and told you to listen to what he had to say, Schubert invites us in, has us sit down for while, and lets us take part in his remarkably complex emotional world. Today we’ll explore why Schubert wrote a string quintet at all, how he uses that extra cello in such beautiful ways, Schubert’s sense of melody, his expansive scope, and so much more. Join us!
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! 
Janacek Sinfonietta

Janacek Sinfonietta

2022-11-2550:231

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!
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
Brahms Symphony No. 4

Brahms Symphony No. 4

2022-09-0801:10:30

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!
"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!
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!
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Comments (19)

Sue Picco

Excellent podcast. Definitely worth subscribing. Used to listen to Karl Haas on the radio and miss him.This is a great listen for a modern audience and he bring to light not only the music but the social setting as well. Love it!

Jun 23rd
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Ashley

It took me a second to realize who "WC" is. You're mispronouncing "Debussy", lol.

May 4th
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Devin Leatherwood

What is the piece being played during the intro of the podcast?

Nov 13th
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Nikhil Bhatt

Hey I just came across your podcast and it was really nice, thank you!

Jun 25th
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New Jawn

You sound like such a tool with the throat-clearing pronunciation of Bach. Unless you are going to pronounce Polish composers the way Polish speakers would, Italian composers as would Italians, then stop with saying Bach as if you're battling COVID. It impresses not a soul. Good grief.

Apr 25th
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Ini Periodi

Hi. I had really liked the episode called "History of classical music in 60 mins". Wanted to play it in my sociology class today for my students who are all tracing predominant ideas of each era and how they influenced various aspects of life. I'm not able to find the episode. Has it been taken down? :(

Oct 19th
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Suzanne Dicker

This is such an excellent podcast! The question of attracting new audience members who feel they just don't understand classical music makes me think of religion. I think people go to concerts and go to church for the same reason. The silence just before and after a piece ends and the listening during a piece is a sacred, communal act. It does take a lot of Sunday school classes, family participation and commitment to create the practices and knowledge base to feel at home in a service at a house of worship. And most churches have to create engagement tools to attract new members. I see the concert hall as the new church for all people. Cultivating a community where the individual and collective mind can be elevated is surely something everybody craves. At the very end of the podcast, Joshua asked Zsolt what makes him an interviewer who can draw out even the stiffest musician. Zsolt described a friend who characterized his approach as "soulful listening". I agree! This approach is best explained by John O'Donohue who said, "The amazing thing about humans is that regardless of the morass of falsity that surrounds them, if they can be approached in a way where the true word of address to the soul is sounded, they are helpless but to react back with authenticity and integrity." Zsolt Bognar shows us this truth.

May 29th
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Devin Leatherwood

love this piece, I'm curious to why such a bad recording was used?

May 28th
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Suzanne Dicker

Great talk! I think that through streaming, if the regional audiences can become familiar with the personalities and abilities of the conductor and orchestra members, just as baseball fans become familiar with the individual players, attending actual live concerts will have the same interest and excitement as attending games in a professional ballpark. People want to feel connected. Responding to comments and questions before and after a streamed performance, is a wonderful engagement tool.

May 16th
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Nicholas Morgan

Thank you so much for making these documentaries and producing them with much devotion and a lifetime of study - a lifetime so we may understand in this brief hour of time..

Feb 27th
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Robert Howell

excellent discussion and analysis!

Feb 27th
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Suzanne Dicker

This was such a lovely interview. Many parents would benefit from your parents' thoughts on raising children, especially musical ones. The incredible creativity of Donald in working with Alisa is priceless. Humor and imagination combined with devotion to child and music!

Jan 29th
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Frank cooper

does a conductor hear all the music being played? can they hear each instrument, or even each section at once? is that possible?

Sep 5th
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WhitneyW

YAY So GOOD

Sep 5th
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Gale Fonder

Great podcast. Love for classical music re-ignite after listening to you.

Oct 20th
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Evelyn Herrera

Great intro. to this topic. couldn't really hear the similarities and differences in the selected samples of music. may be if I. listen to whole pieces, I may understand better. where can I find a song list used in this podcast?

Oct 8th
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Sungeun Jin

Finding this podcast is the best thing that happened to me this year! I recently developed my liking to the world of classical music and wanted to learn more about it to better enjoy and appreciate. Yet it wasn't easy to find a suitable source that's informative, educational, entertaining and kind enough to someone like me who has no musical training until I found this one! Thoroughly enjoying all the episodes so far and can't wait for more.

Apr 1st
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Emily Y

Wow!!!! I am only through the first episode but I am loving this podcast. It is interesting, informative, and entertaining! I listen to classical music all the time but have never learned much at all about the composers, history, or pieces themselves, so I am just so glad this exists. And I'm so happy that in this first episode you address how lively and enthusiastic it often is, it's not just "relaxing" music like a lot of non-listeners might think. I love how you point out the themes and repetition that I often have trouble hearing (especially in Shostakovich's piece because it has so much going on). I am beyond excited to listen to more episodes.

Jul 22nd
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