The Symphony’s free Program Note Podcast Series highlights a great work being performed each week by the orchestra. Hosted by KDFC’s Rik Malone, the podcasts feature music from Symphony concerts and recordings, and commentary based on our award-winning program notes by James Keller and Michael Steinberg. You can hear them on the way to the concert, on your smart phone or computer. Listen here, and subscribe to get future episodes automatically.
Following multiple failed agreements with various ballets (including the Bolshoi, which declared the music impossible to dance to), Sergei Prokofiev reduced what would eventually become his most popular ballet to three orchestral suites. Described by Michael Tilson Thomas as "a great lyrical symphonic epic," the work uses character and emotional motifs to capture the dramatic action in Shakespeare’s classic love story.
Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony was not his farewell statement, although at the time of its first performances it may have seemed like one. What it did do was explore new depths of emotion, even for a composer used to wearing his heart on his musical sleeve.
Often called the greatest piece of music ever written, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was the last he would ever write. The first symphony to feature a chorus and vocal soloists, Symphony No. 9 also includes the famous Ode to Joy.
After composing Serenade No. 1, Johannes Brahms waited fifteen years before he wrote another purely orchestral work for large ensemble. Infamous for his harsh self-criticism and haunted by the feeling that he was living in Beethoven’s shadow, Brahms finally broke his symphonic silence at the age of forty-two with the Haydn Variations, a musical experiment with the arrangement of sonic shapes. By the time he composed his Symphony No. 3, ten years later, he had fully realized his true voice as a symphonic master.
In his "Dances of Galánta," Zoltan Kodály recreated the sounds of his childhood, and helped preserve the stamping feet of a vanishing culture.
Despite his family’s financial turmoil, the year 1806 was extraordinarily productive for Beethoven. He wrote many of his great works, including the Razumovsky string quartets, Piano Concerto No. 4, and Symphonies No. 4 and 5. Symphony No. 4—a return to the grace and relative simplicity of his earlier style—is perhaps Beethoven’s least frequently performed symphony. A passage in the middle of the second movement was called “one of the most imaginative passages anywhere in Beethoven” by musicologist Donald Francis Tovey.
Mozart wrote his "Linz" Symphony in just four days, but it was his biggest and grandest to that point, and it helped set the stage for the great symphonies of the 19th century.
Ravel’s American influences are easily heard in his Piano Concerto in G Major, which he modeled after the light, divertimento-like concertos of Mozart and Saint‑Saëns.
Late in his career, Gustav Mahler told his critics, "My time will come," but his unique vision and unmistakable sound were evident in his very first composition: the epic cantata "Das klagende Lied."
Gustav Mahler revived one of his earliest compositions to use in his first symphony; he ultimately cut it, and it was forgotten for almost sixty years. Now, one hundred years after it was written, this musical orphan finally has a chance to bloom on its own.
However you like your Messiah—big or intimate, modern or period, authentic or interpreted—when you listen you become part of an almost 300-year tradition of what may be classical music's most beloved masterpiece.
Following the conventional success of his Symphony No. 5, written to pacify the Soviet leaders scandalized by his opera Lady Macbeth, Shostakovich composed the Symphony No. 6. Characterized by its unusual Largo opening and scherzo-like finish, the work exhibits Mahler’s influence on Shostakovich’s sound worlds.
An often criticized social misfit during his time in Vienna, Bruckner’s success with his Symphony No. 7 came as a happy and restorative surprise to the composer, described by his friend Gustav Mahler as “half simpleton, half God.” Speaking to today's audiences with singular directness, Bruckner 7 remains the most loved of his nine symphonies.
Brahms's Symphony No.2 is generally thought of as his most lighthearted, but it's actually built on the contrasts between light and dark, between sunshine and clouds. Kind of like life.
Claude Debussy's ballet Jeux was almost completely ignored after its premiere in 1913, but it's now considered one of the fundamental works of 20th-century music.
Debussy's Images is music that "never looks back," and it still sounds new, more than a century later.
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201 Van Ness Ave
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