Afternoon Classical

Mon - Fri, 3pm - 4pm

Classical favorites personally selected by General Manager Gretchen Gondek.

Wikimedia Commons

Lament, rage, bombast, it's all there in Sir William Walton's First Symphony. Written on the bones of a failed relationship, the first three movements describe a bitter time, one that can only be brought to existence by a powerful love. The final movement, composed after the mess and in the swell of a new love, recalls that instigating feeling. It is performed, here, by the London Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Andre Previn.

So says Death in  Matthias Claudius's poem "Der Tod und das Madchen," the poem that inspired Schubert's song of the same name, composed in 1817. Seven years later the composer would revisit the song, extending the theme and tenor into String Quartet No. 14, D 810. The seven years that passed were not happy ones. Schubert had lost what little of his health remained, and he was without money, thanks in part to Anton Diabelli, the music publisher whose name has been immortalized by Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. 

Holst's The Planets

Jul 28, 2015

Holst would be disappointed with us today as we play his best known work, The Planets. The composer was famously vexed that this work eclipsed all else that he did. Indeed, it set him in a rather curmudgeonly orbit; he would greet fans asking for an autograph with a typed out refusal. And when Pluto was discovered it was of no interest to Holst to revisit this set of pieces for large orchestra. Leonard Burnstein, however, was happy to write something up for the little fellow.

Chopin's Preludes

Jul 27, 2015
Chuck Jones

We take a moment to celebrate one of the great diplomats of classical music: Bugs Bunny. He turns 75 today, and so we begin with Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2. 

Beethoven's Sixth will forever be tied to his Fifth, like twins who seemingly come from different families. These two symphonies were not only written contemporaneously, but they were premiered on the same day in 1808. Where the Fifth stamps its foot down, scattering the birds and clearing the landscape, the Sixth steps lightly along a brook, and it is the environment that crashes, finally, in the form a thunderous fourth movement. We find the composer grateful for the rain in the final movement, however.

Ives's First Symphony

Jul 17, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

Two of the United States's greatest artists made their living selling insurance: the poet Wallace Stevens and the composer Charles Ives. By remaining outsiders, both could follow their muses without concerning themselves with critical or popular reception. The oeuvres of both remain challenging, at times grating, but ever pregnant with new forms. Today we hear Ives's First Symphony. Here the composer leans more heavily on European traditions than he would again - it is a student work, mind you, greatly influenced by a more conservative mentor.

Bach's Musical Offering

Jul 15, 2015
NASA

Professor Carl Sagan understood that to communicate our greatest thoughts, one needed music. In it, logic and beauty can become singular, inseparable. The Voyager missions, which launched the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 into interstellar space, was the professor's most poetic expression of this idea. J.S. Bach, who reveled in musical thinking, was Sagan's kindred spirit. For Bach, The Musical Offering may be the composer's most whimsical expression of the idea.

Toulouse Lautrec

Respighi reworked a few of Rossini's piano pieces to create the whimsical La Boutique Fantasque​, a ballet set in a magical toyshop. Here, a dollmaker crafts dancing dolls that come to life when the shop closes. Two of his dolls, a pair of can-can dancers, are in love but are sold separately: one to an American family, the other to a Russian family. The dolls connive to hide the lovers, keeping them together, to the purchasers' dislike. The resulting kerfuffle ends with the cossack dolls  marching the customers out the door and a celebration dance. 

Bizet's Roma

Jul 8, 2015

Bizet's Roma is a confusing piece of music to discuss. Originally conceived as a symphony, it is often considered to be a suite for orchestra (which is the description we give it today). The composition itself took over ten years, and Bizet was never fully satisfied; thus, it is often described as incomplete. We have today, then, the complete incomplete orchestral-suite symphony, Roma. The Orchestra of Bordeaux Aquitaine performs under the baton of Roberto Benzi. 

Sibelius's The Tempest

Jul 7, 2015

Jean Sibelius's later works, his Seventh Symphony, Tapiola, and, today's featured piece, incidental music for The Tempest, are masterworks. The orchestral textures are rich, dense, frothy, clear, containing pure and contradictory natures throughout, not unlike Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Also not unlike Prospero, Sibelius, at the height his powers and late in life, found himself in a place where his powers languished. He would not write again after these late works, though he would live another 30 years.

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