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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!
98 Episodes
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Beethoven often gets the reputation of being a composer of extreme seriousness, shaking his fist at the heavens while dealing with a litany of medical ailments and heartbreak, and there is some truth to that as well. But the 4th symphony, a very strange and mysterious introduction aside, is a piece of almost unadulterated joy. It is another side of Beethoven: bouncy, funny, silly, and quite simply, happy. How and why did he write such a happy symphony? How does music become “happy?” Join us to find out..
Two of the most famous chords in classical music propel us into this revolutionary, wild, and remarkable symphony. At the time, the Eroica symphony was the longest symphony ever written. At the time it was definitely the loudest symphony ever written! It delved into emotions that symphonies had studiously avoided in the past. Simply put, it changed the musical world forever. So how and why did Beethoven conceive of such a huge work? Is the piece really all about Napoleon? Join us to learn the story...
We continue the Beethoven cycle this week with his underrated 2nd symphony. Written at the height of Beethoven's despair over his increasing deafness, you might think that the symphony would be a dark and stormy one, but instead Beethoven writes one of his most relentlessly cheerful pieces. He even invented a whole new type of movement called a scherzo (joke) to heighten the mood. How do we account for this incongruity between life and art? We'll talk about all this and more as the journey continues..
Today begins a pretty massive project for Sticky Notes - a complete Beethoven cycle over the next few weeks! We start of course with Beethoven's 1st symphony. Some people tend to think of Beethoven’s 1st as a cautious foray into the symphonic world, but I couldn’t disagree more. It is a bold, confident leap into the genre, a genre that Beethoven would end up changing for good. All of the elements that make Beethoven's symphonies so fantastic are already present in this symphony, so let's begin the journey!
Imagine compressing a 3 or 4 hour opera into 8 minutes of music. You’ve just imagined an overture! Overtures are an integral and beloved part of the opera and concert experience, and the best overtures live on as separate pieces from the work they are attached to. These overtures feature music so wonderful that they become immortal miniature masterpieces. So today I'll take you through 10 of my favorite overtures, from William Tell, to Don Giovanni, to Candide, to Romeo and Juliet, and many more. Enjoy!
Bach Cello Suites

Bach Cello Suites

2021-04-1550:41

Bach's Cello Suites are now an indispensable part of the cello repertoire, but this wasn't always the case. After Bach's death, they were forgotten. But starting in the 1890s, a cellist named Pablo Casals began playing the Suites, and the rest is history. Bach left very few clues on how to play these suites, and so many cellists interpret the Suites extraordinarily differently. Today we're going to take a look at 6 cellists and talk about how they interpret these enigmatic, sacred, and inspiring pieces.
Have you ever wondered how music gets from the manuscript to the printed page? Today we’re talking about Haydn, and a project by Henle Publishers to reissue all 55 of Haydn’s piano sonatas with fingerings from 55 different pianists! I talked with the editor in chief at Henle, Norbert Müllemann, and also the brilliant pianist Stephen Hough, one of the 55 pianists chosen for this project. We talked about editing, putting fingerings in, and how interpretation is affected by these decisions. This is a fun one!
Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Monteverdi. These are some of the biggest names in the history of Western Classical Music, and they were all writing in one of the most innovative periods in musical history - the Baroque Era. Spanning from ca.1600 to ca. 1750, Baroque music is truly the bedrock of the Western Classical Music tradition all the way through the Romantic Era. We'll discuss the earth-shattering impact of this, along with all of the composers who led the way to a new way of thinking about music.
Acts III and IV of the Marriage of Figaro are complicated in many ways. They are difficult for the singers, for the conductor, and especially for the director. So in honour of the many experiments that have been made with the second half of this opera, I’m going to try an experiment as well. I’m going to take a performance of the opera, and play you the entire 3rd and 4th acts while doing live, unscripted commentary on it. Think of it as opera meets ESPN. Make sure to check out Part 1 first and enjoy!
Frederica Von Stade needs no introduction. She is one of the legends of our time, and one of the most beloved singers in the world. She has made over 60 recordings and has appeared with all of the world's great opera companies. She is also spearheading a new project called The People's Choir of Oakland, focusing specifically on the homeless population. We talked about the People's Choir, and also touched on her career, including her experiences with Bernstein, Karajan, Abbado, and more. This was a blast.
In the late 16th century, a new art form emerged, borne out of a desire to re-engage with Greek dramas of the past. This art form was incredibly ambitious; it would involve music, words, and dance, all written to entertain court patrons and their subjects. Soon, this new idea had a name: Opera. Today, we’ll do a brief overview of how opera developed all the way up until Mozart’s time. Then, I’m going to take you through Acts I and II of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro, my desert island piece. Enjoy!
There are indelible images associated with the musical Renaissance period. This 200 year era saw an astonishing growth in productivity, an expansion of education, both musical and otherwise, and repeated religious upheavals. The music of this period existed both as a catalyst and as a reaction to all of these momentous events in history. We’ll talk all about this fascinating 200 years of musical history in the 2nd of this ongoing series of each of the periods of Western Classical Music in 60 Minutes.
William Dawson is not a household name to classical music lovers. But for one week in 1934, he was the talk of the classical music world. The legendary Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra had chosen to program a new symphony by Dawson entitled "Negro Folk Symphony." It was broadcast nationwide and the audience reaction was ecstatic. But the piece soon disappeared and it is only in the past few years that it is performed more often. Today, I'll take you through this absolutely amazing symphony.
Clayton Haslop might not be a name that is familiar to all of you, but I bet you anything that you've heard his playing. He has appeared as concertmaster on over 1000 TV Shows and Movies, such as Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, The Matrix, Ratatouille, Star Trek, The incredibles, UP, and others. His story took on an extra resonance when he began suffering from Focal Dystonia. Taking a cue from the guitarist Django Reinhardt, Haslop relearned the violin with just two fingers. In this conversation, we talk about studying with Nathan Milstein, Neville Marriner, and Haslop's journey back to playing.
It might surprise, or even shock you, to learn that a piece that crackles with joy and excitement like Bartok's Divertimento was written in November of 1939. But the circumstances of the Divertimento are among the most unusual in the history of 20th century music. Bartok's Divertimento is a perfect amalgam of his style; a wholehearted embrace of folk music, old forms, and in the slow movement, a large dose of terror. This is a truly underrated piece that allows us to explore Bartok from every angle. Enjoy!
When we hear Medieval music performed live, it speaks to us in a different way than almost any other music. It seems to have just appeared, as is, from the earth itself. Medieval music was originally passed down by oral tradition but soon a desire for standardization led to musical notation, rhythmic notation, and the seeds of so much music to come. Medieval music might be the most mysterious of all the eras of classical music, so let's dive right in, with Medieval Music in (almost) 60 minutes.
December 23rd, 1806 should have been one of those dates etched into musical history; it was the premier of a new violin concerto by Beethoven, performed by one of the great soloists of the day. But the performance was a relative failure, and the concerto languished in obscurity for decades. Why did it fail? How did it get re-discovered, and how did it slowly become one of the most beloved pieces ever written? We'll explore all that today as well as every nook and cranny of this remarkable concerto!
Symphonie Fantastique, which was written just 3 years after Beethoven’s death, redefined what music could portray. Its color, fire, narrative arc, vulgarity, descriptiveness, and drug-induced hysteria put it in a class of its own in the classical music world. As Leonard Bernstein said: "Berlioz tells it like it is. You take a trip, you wind up screaming at your own funeral.” Today we’ll get to know the story behind Symphonie Fantastique, and also talk about this piece and all of its brilliant innovations.
Welcome to Season 7 of Sticky Notes! I'm often asked: “I want to get into classical music, but where do I start?” Today is my attempt to answer that question! Western Classical Music is an umbrella term that stretches over 1500 years of music, and there is an infinite variety to choose from. Today, we'll take a quick look at all 6 "periods" of classical music, from the Medieval, to the Renaissance, to the Baroque, to the Classical, to the Romantic, and the Contemporary. This episode is meant for beginners as well as lovers of classical music!
The pianist Andras Schiff on Schubert: “There is a folk song like simplicity in Schubert’s Music; his music is never crowded. He does not want to impress you or overwhelm you. He tells you a very simple story and invites you by very simple means to come and join him and share his thoughts.” It's hard to describe an hour long piece as simple, but Schiff's description applies to this massive, majestic, and yes, simple(in the best way) symphony. This week, we'll talk all about this mesmerizing symphony.
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Comments (16)

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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kiana h

love this! I got every information I need to know about this and I thought I'm alone at not liking the von karajan Interpretation of 5th symphony so much. keep it up!

Dec 15th
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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
Reply (1)

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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