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.
To escape the city of Vienna, Beethoven often spent his summers in the rural counties surrounding it—a love reflected in his Symphony No. 6, Pastoral. With movements titled Awakening of joyful sentiments upon arriving in the country and Scene by the brook, the work depicts life in the country.
Beethoven's opera Fidelio is a story about the triumph of truth and justice. But it's also a story about the triumph of love.
It's the most famous four-note pattern in all of music. But it's also the key to Beethoven's 5th Symphony - and maybe to Beethoven himself.
To set about composing his Missa Solemnis, Beethoven looked to the past. He obtained a copy of the score to J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass, at that time still unpublished, and also studied the sacred music of C.P.E. Bach. After countless sketches and spiritual preparation, Beethoven composed this work for large orchestra and chorus, dedicating more time to it than to any other work he composed. Written simultaneously with the Symphony No. 9, the Missa Solemnis is considered one of the most significant mass settings in classical music.
After fleeing Hungary during World War II for the United States, Béla Bartók was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony, to write a piece for orchestra. This resulted in one of Bartók’s best-known works, the Concerto for Orchestra, which contains a parody of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7.
Originally composed for solo piano (and later orchestrated by Ravel), Pictures at an Exhibition was written by Modest Mussorgsky after he visited a retrospective exhibit of the works of his friend Victor Hartmann. The collection of pieces represents a promenade from painting to painting, pausing in front of works called The Gnome, Ancient Castle, and Great Gate of Kiev. Mussorgsky was a member of a nationalistic, anti-conservatory group of young musicians, and he had an unusual ability to interpret visual art in musical expression.
When Igor Stravinsky wrote his ballet Pulcinella, he looked to the past for inspiration, but he ended up inspiring his own future.
Mahler's sunny Symphony No. 4 ends with a song - a child's description of heaven. But it is also full of reminders of the vastness of his musical universe.
Serge Diaghilev was turned down by four composers before turning to Igor Stravinsky to write the music for a new production by the Ballet Russe. Luckily, Stravinsky, eager to try his hand at a ballet, had already been working on the music for a month, and their artistic relationship went on to produce Petrushka and The Rite of Spring.
After nearly being expelled from conservatory and enduring the disastrous premiere of his first symphony, Rachmaninoff didn’t write a note of music for three years. His recovery was affirmed by the 1901 premiere of his famously beautiful 2nd Piano Concerto.
Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1 is full of passion and energy, channeling the past on the way to the future.
Ravel's Alborada del gracioso is a jester's song to his lady—a poignant love song surrounded by a miniature musical comedy.
Anton Bruckner's symphonies are monumental cathedrals of sound, and his Symphony No. 8 is one of his grandest; composer Hugo Wolf called it "the absolute victory of light over darkness."
Living in Hollywood in the 1940s, Igor Stravinsky couldn't help but be influenced by the movies. His Symphony in Three Movements was almost entirely inspired by films—whether or not he cared to admit it.
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