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!
Ives, "Three Places in New England"
In 1929, the conductor Nicolas Slonimsky contacted the American composer Charles Ives about performing one of his works. This was a bit of a surprise for Ives, since he had a checkered reputation among musicians and audience members, if they even were familiar with his name at all. In fact, he was much more famous during his lifetime as an extremely successful insurance executive! Ives mostly composed in his spare time, and his music was mostly ignored or ridiculed as that of a person suffering from a crisis of mental health. Most of his music was never performed during his lifetime, and even today, he is thought of as a great but extremely eccentric composer, and orchestras and chamber ensembles often struggle to sell tickets if his name appears on the program. But for those who love Ives, there is an almost evangelical desire to spread his music to the world. I’m one of those people, and I’m finally fulfilling a pledge to myself to do a full show devoted to a single work of arguably the greatest and most under appreciated American composer of all time, Charles Ives. The piece I chose to talk about today is Three Places in New England, or the New England Symphony, a piece that is a perfect amalgam of what makes Ives such a spectacular composer - his radical innovations, his ahead of his time experiments, his humor, his humanity, his warmth, and the staggering creativity that marked all of Ives’ great works. We’ll start with a little biography of Ives in case you’re not familiar with him, and then we’ll dive into Three Places in New England, and by the end, I hope , if you’re not already, that I will have converted you into an Ives fan for life! Join us!
Louise Farrenc Symphony No. 3
In the mid 19th century, the way to make yourself famous in France as a composer was to write operas. From Cherubini, to Meyerbeer, to Bizet, to Berlioz, to Gounod, to Massenet, to Offenbach, to Saint Saens, to foreign composers who wrote specifically for the Paris Opera like Rossini, Verdi and others, if you wanted to be somebody, especially as a French composer, you wrote operas, and you wrote a lot of them. But one composer in France bucked the trend, and her name was Louise Farrenc. Farrenc never wrote an opera - instead she focused on chamber music, works for solo piano, and three symphonies that were in a firmly Germanic style. Writing in a style that was not en vogue in her home country, along with the obvious gender imbalances of the time, meant that you might expect that Farrenc was completely ignored during her life. But that’s not the case. She had a highly successful career as a pianist, a pedagogue, and yes, as a composer too. But after her death, her music was largely forgotten. Bu in the last 15-20 years there has been a concerted effort at bringing Farrenc’s music back to life, part of a larger movement to rediscover the work of composers who were unfairly maligned or treated during their lifetimes and after. One of Farrenc’s greatest works, and the one we’re going to be talking about today, is her 3rd symphony in G Minor. On the surface this is a piece in the mid-to-late German Romantic symphonic tradition, with lots of echoes of Mendelssohn and Schumann, but there’s a lot more to it than that. So today on this Patreon sponsored episode, we’ll discuss how Farrenc’s music fit into French musical life, how a symphony was a still expected to sound in 1847, and of course, this dramatic and powerful symphony that is only now beginning to find its rightful place on stage. Join us!
Saint-Saens, The Carnival Of The Animals
In 1922 a review appeared in the French newspaper Le Figaro: “We cannot describe the cries of admiring joy let loose by an enthusiastic public. In the immense oeuvre of Camille Saint-Saëns, The Carnival of the Animals is certainly one of his magnificent masterpieces. From the first note to the last it is an uninterrupted outpouring of a spirit of the highest and noblest comedy. In every bar, at every point, there are unexpected and irresistible finds. Themes, whimsical ideas, instrumentation compete with buffoonery, grace and science. ... When he likes to joke, the master never forgets that he is the master.” You would think that this review came after a triumphant performance for Saint-Saens, and that he basked in the glory of the major success of what would become perhaps his most well known work, the Carnival of the Animals. But it just wasn’t the case. In fact, this review appeared after a performance of the piece given after Saint-Saens death, and there was a reason for that. Saint-Saens, after 3 private performances of the piece, forbade it from being performed publicly during his lifetime. Why? Well, he was concerned that this lighthearted piece would diminish his standing as a serious composer. Even in the mid 1880s when this piece was written, Saint-Saens began to evince the conservatism, musical and otherwise, that would mark his later career, to the point that he wanted Stravinsky declared insane and said this about Debussy: "We must at all costs bar the door of the Institut against a man capable of such atrocities; they should be put next to the cubist pictures." Why was Saint-Saens so opposed to modernism? Why was he so concerned with his reputation as a serious composer, to the point that he suppressed this wonderfully creative piece? And just what makes the Carnival of the Animals so fantastic and so much fun to listen to, as well as being so vivid in its portrayals of the animals it represents? Join us to find out!
Brahms Symphony No. 4
Welcome to Season 9 of Sticky Notes! We're starting with a bang this season with Brahms' incomparable 4th symphony. This symphony takes the listener on a journey that unexpectedly ends in a legendarily dramatic and stormy way. What would compel a composer like Brahms to write an ending like this? Was it a requiem for his place in music? For Vienna? For Europe? Or was it the logical conclusion to a minor key bassline he stole from a Bach Cantata? This is the eternal question when it comes to Brahms - logic or emotion? Well, usually the answer is a bit of both, and today we're going to go through this remarkable piece with all of this in mind. Join us!
Mozart, The Music, The Myth, The Legend, w/ Jan Swafford
"I think Mozart just really loved people." - Jan Swafford.
For the Season 8 Finale, I had the great pleasure of welcoming back Jan Swafford, the great writer on music, who has written a spectacular new biography of Mozart. In this conversation, we talked about who Mozart really was as a person, some of the myths that defined him during his lifetime and into the present day, and of course, the incomparable music that Mozart was able to create, sometimes on a whim or in a single afternoon. This is a conversation about a man who understood people perhaps better than almost any composer, and a musician who scraped and struggled during his life while achieving immortality through his creations. Please note that this will be the last episode of Season 8 and Season 9 will begin on September 8!
The Life and Music of George Gershwin
George Gershwin’s story is like the story of so many American immigrants. His mother and father, Moishe and Rose Gershowitz, were Russian Jews who came to New York City in the 1890s looking for a better life and to escape persecution at home. Soon they became the Gershwines, and in 1898, Jacob Gershwine was born. Later on he changed his name to sound just a little bit more American, and the name George Gershwin was on its way to immortality. In just a few short years, the Gershowitz’s had become the Gershwins, and the story of George Gershwin was beginning to be written. On today’s show we’ll talk about some of Gershwin’s greatest works, including his Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, and Porgy and Bess, but we’ll also talk about the collision between Classical and Pop music, a Russian Jew imbibing the purely American form of Jazz, and Gershwin’s place in the modern classical and jazz repertoire, and in America. Join us!
A great, in depth, and fun source of insight for classical music!
These podcasts usually focus on a particular piece, though sometimes cover a particular composer, and go into wonderful depth. Joshua Weilerstein is very approachable in style, highly knowledgeable and his lectures never bore. They cover structural and motivic details as well as the composer’s innovations at the right level, giving insights into each piece without going into excessive detail that would require a score. Highly recommended.
Hands down the best classical music podcast around, and one of the best music podcasts ever. Lots of interesting and lesser know insights shared and many composers and pieces discussed that aren’t very well know either.
The Carnival of the Animals episode, complete with the poetry of Ogden Nash, is stellar! What a treat!