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.
Composed alongside fellow distinguished Russian composers at a House of Creative Work northeast of Moscow, Prokofiev’s renowned Fifth Symphony saw its premier in January 1945, as Soviet armies had begun their final push to victory over Germany. As Prokofiev raised his baton in the silent hall, the audience could hear the gunfire that celebrated the news, just arrived, that the army had crossed the Vistula and driven the German Wehrmacht back past the Oder river.
Tchaikovsky's Pathétique 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.
The real title of Haydn's popular Lord Nelson Mass is "Missa in angustiis" or "Mass in Troubled Times." But those "troubled times" inspired Haydn to new heights of creativity, variety, surprise, and drama.
Ottorino Respighi was a master of orchestral color, and his Roman Festivals contains all the colors of the musical rainbow, and then some.
Perpetually self-conscious, Tchaikovsky worried in spring 1888 that his imagination had dried up, and that he had nothing left to express through music. Vacationing at his home in Frolovskoe provided all the inspiration he needed, and by August, his Symphony No. 5 was complete.
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 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.
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.
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