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.
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.
Even Mozart realized that his 29th Symphony was something special. In many ways, it's the work in which Mozart became "Mozart."
Considered at first to be a composer of popular music and not a great symphonist, it was Brahms who believed in Dvořák enough to set him up with an important publisher. Written for the London Symphony, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 is a personal catharsis and a masterpiece in tragedy.
After Shostakovich's first opera landed him in hot water with the Soviet authorities, the success of his first Piano Concerto gave him the confidence to keep composing, and put him back in the government's good graces—at least, temporarily.
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.
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.
Sibelius' Symphony No. 3 is deliberately anti-Romantic. There is no story, no imagery and no drama except the drama of the music itself.
American Maverick Steve Reich celebrates his 80th birthday in 2016. There's always a pulse at the heart of his music, and his "Three Movements" lets the full orchestra feel the beat.
Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, by Gustav Mahler opens with a first movement originally composed as a stand-alone work entitled Todtenfeier (Funeral Rites). Five years later, following his appointment as principal conductor in Hamburg, Mahler realized that this was, in fact, the first movement of his second symphony. Following Symphony No. 1, which tells the story of a Hero’s life, the second symphony opens with the funeral rites of the Hero. The second and third movements are retrospective intermezzos, and the fourth and fifth movements depict the Last Judgment and Resurrection.
Beethoven’s first symphony premiered when he was 30. Schubert wrote his first at 16, and Mozart’s was composed when he was only 8. But Johannes Brahms, at 43, had yet to finish his Symphony No. 1, which he’d begun writing more than twenty years previously. A notorious perfectionist, he burned many of his early works and sketches; it was not easy living in the shadow of the giants before him. His many years of preparation were worth it—upon the work’s premiere in 1876, the Vienna press called it “Beethoven’s Tenth.”
Upon visiting Stravinsky in late 1910, expecting to find him immersed in composing the Rite of Spring, Serge Diaghilev was quite surprised to find him instead composing the ballet of an anthropomorphized puppet. The story recounts the rise and fall of mischievous Petrushka, a puppet brought to life by a magician as he courts the Ballerina and fights the Charlatan.
The Fourth Symphony was a product of the most turbulent time of Tchaikovsky's life—1877, when he met two women (Nadezhda von Meck, a music-loving widow of a wealthy Russian railroad baron, and Antonina Miliukov, an unnoticed student in one of his large lecture classes at the Moscow Conservatory), who forced him to evaluate himself as he never had before.
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