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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!
60 Episodes
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Dalia Stasevska is a wonderful conductor whose career has skyrocketed in the past few years. She is the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony and is the incoming Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony in Finland. We had a really great talk about getting into music, learning conducting from two legends in the field, Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstram, and about the sometimes lonely life of a conductor. Dalia is one of my favorite people to talk to in the music world and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this!
Beethoven once said, “No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo which man desires to hear.” Beethoven poured these sentiments into his 6th symphony, one of his most beloved and vividly orchestrated works. But in terms of composition, he actually used a lot of the same techniques he employed in his 5th symphony, a piece with a diametrically opposed character. How did Beethoven portray the sounds of nature, birds, and merry folk dances? Come find out!
I had the great pleasure of speaking with my friend Yundu Wang about her doctoral thesis exploring the connections between language and music. This research gets into thorny questions about the relationship between national origin and the way we interpret music, and also into questions of identity, stereotyping, and prejudice. I find this research particularly compelling and fascinating, and I hope you will too! Yundu's wonderful blog can be found here: https://blog.yunduwang.com/2020/05/12/an-introduction/
Mahan Esfahani is a world-renowned harpsichordist who has said that it is his mission to rehabilitate the harpsichord as an instrument for modern audiences. In this conversation, we talked about Beethoven, playing modern music on the harpsichord, and nearly starting a riot over the music of Steve Reich! We also discussed the battles WITHIN the early music movement over performance practice. Mahan is one of the most fearless and outspoken voices in classical music so I think you'll really enjoy this one!
Albert Camus once wrote: “when I describe what the catastrophe of man looks like, music comes into my mind—the music of Gustav Mahler.” The last movement of Mahler 6 is a symphony within a symphony. It is a difficult movement to understand, and even the way it ends is full of the emotional complexity that marks Mahler’s music. I'll take you through this movement today, through its peaks and valleys of ecstasy and despair all the way to the hammer blows that cut our hero down as he strives ever upward.
There are few controversies like the ones surrounding the order of the inner movements of Mahler 6. Musicologists and conductors battle with each other about what Mahler meant and what his wife knew, and they also are at each other's throats about which order WORKS better logically in the symphony, regardless of Mahler's intentions. There's an answer to the first part, but not to the second, and that's just one of the things we'll explore today as we look at the inner workings of these remarkable movements.
Ryan Bancroft is a conductor who has seen a meteoric rise ever since winning the Malko Competition for Conductors in 2018. In this conversation, we talked about programming post-pandemic, and also about our common entry into the conducting world, and all of the pressures and joys of that kind of rocket boost to your career. At the end of the show, we discussed the absolutely amazing and underrated Negro Folk Symphony of William Levi Dawson. This was a such a fun conversation and I hope you enjoy it!
Mahler's 6th Symphony is one of his most complex and ambitious pieces, though it retains a firmly classical structure throughout. It has notorious performance problems such as the order of the middle movements, and the symphony within a symphony final movement. It is also one of Mahler's most emotionally profound pieces, embracing life, death, and the struggles between these two forces. In the first movement, Mahler sets up the stakes for the battles to come and it's this movement we discuss today.
Eric and Colin Jacobsen are co-founders of the The Knights. The orchestra has claimed a spot over the last 10 years as one of the most dynamic and adventurous orchestras in the world. Colin and Eric are some of the most interesting people in classical music and so we talked about a lot of things, including founding an orchestra, what they felt was missing in the classical world, what it means to play chamber music in an orchestra, and of course, the current situation and what it means for the future.
Saint-Saens considered his 3rd symphony his greatest work: “I have given all that I had to give. What I have done I shall never do again.” Later in his life, Saint-Saens would be known as an arch-conservative, but at the time he was writing the Organ symphony, Saint-Saens was enamored with the formal and structural innovations of the music of Liszt. Today we’ll explore the dualism between the piece’s Romantic aspirations and Classical grounding, plus of course, the role of the organ in this Organ Symphony.
I had a chance to sit down with the award winning duo of organist Alcee Chriss and filmmaker Stacey Tenenbaum for a fascinating interview about the organ, competitions and more. We talk about Chriss' experience at the Canadian International Organ Competition, the pressures of performing and whether Jazz works on the organ, and I got a chance to pepper Tenenbaum with some questions on filmmaking, and her process of understanding the organ from the point of view of a total outsider. This is a fun one!
Beethoven’s Triple Concerto might be his most heavily criticized work. Musicians look down on it, critics always complain about it, conductors hate conducting it, orchestral musicians hate playing it, and yet it still gets performed fairly regularly. But I’m here today, thanks to Brooke who sponsored today’s show on Patreon, to say that I think all of this criticism of this much maligned piece is totally unfair. I love the Beethoven Triple Concerto, and I think I can convince you to as well.
John Heiss teaches composition, flute, and music history at the New England Conservatory. I first encountered Mr. Heiss in his legendary Schoenberg/Stravinsky class at NEC and have been an admirer of his ever since. Mr. Heiss spearheaded visits to NEC from composers such as Milhaud, Messiaen, Stravinsky, Lutoslawski, and Ligeti, the subjects of today's conversation. You'll notice I don’t say much - today is like coming to class with a master teacher, an experience I'm so glad to be able to share with you.
Just a glance at a biography of Le Chevalier should have every movie producer salivating. He was the son of a 17 year old slave and her white owner. He was an expert athlete, known as the greatest fencer in all of France. He led a legion of black troops to fight during the French Revolution. On the musical side, he was a virtuoso violinist and wrote some truly wonderful music that is only recently being rediscovered by mainstream institutions. Join Sticky Notes as we explore his remarkable life and music.
First, I want to let my listeners know that Thursday will begin a new commitment to exploring the works of minority composers. It's long past time to begin doing that. For today, please enjoy this thoughtful and deeply entertaining conversation with the great pianist, composer, and writer Stephen Hough. Hough is one of the great pianists of our time and is also a deep thinker about classical music of yesterday and today. I had so much fun with this conversation, recorded about three weeks ago. Enjoy!
1.Please consider donating to the ACLU or any other organization fighting systemic racism. 2.Bartok's 44 Violin Duos are a triumph of Bartok's devotion to the folk music of Eastern Europe. 42 of the 44 are based on field recordings Bartok collected in his travels, many of which you will hear today. The social duoing project, where I played all 44 duos with 44 violinists from around the world, was started as a result of the pandemic, but was also made possible by this forced pause in travel and work. Enjoy!
Jan Swafford was such a fantastic guest last time that I thought we had to have him back on! During these past two weeks, we discussed how so much of the revolutionary music in the history of classical music was influenced by storytelling, whether it was Monteverdi, Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, Debussy, Ives, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg. This week, on Part 2, we discuss the final 4 composers, including one of the most beautiful descriptions of Ives I've ever heard. Don't miss this episode! You won't regret it.
Sibelius' 7th Symphony is a piece that is barely a symphony at all, and yet it carries symphonic logic throughout. It's only 20 minutes long, in one movement that never stops evolving, with a form that has sparked many debates, and with an ending that is as shocking as any in the Western Repertoire. Simply put, it is Sibelius at his best, and so today we’ll take apart this incredibly complex piece, talking about its form, its stunning metric modulations, its inspiration, and of course, its abiding emotion.
Jan Swafford was such a fantastic guest last time that I thought we had to have him back on. This week(and next week), we discussed how so much of the revolutionary music in the history of classical music was influenced by storytelling, whether it was Monteverdi, Beethoven, Berlioz, Wagner, Debussy, Ives, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg. This week, on Part 1, we discuss the first 4 composers on the list, trying to understand the chicken or the egg question of which came first? The story? Or the revolution?
Respighi occupies a strange place in musical history. He is almost never considered to be one of the “greats,” though his mastery of orchestral color is never doubted by anyone. Today on this Patreon sponsored episode, we’ll look at his Pines of Rome. We’ll talk about Respighi’s extremely detailed program notes, his Strauss like gifts at portraying real life in his music, and the fact that Respighi, for all his innate conservatism, was actually the first composer to use electronic music in one of his works.
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Comments (14)

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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