Afternoon Classical

Mon - Fri, 3pm - 4pm

Classical favorites personally selected by General Manager Gretchen Gondek.

The University of South Carolina

The founder and de facto leader of the Might Handful, Mily Balakirev's influence on musical history is maybe more famous, more discussed, than his music. But his music is very enjoyable. Today we hear his Symphony No. 1, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Eugueni Svetlanov. 

Beach's "Gaelic" Symphony, the first American symphony composed by a woman, came about at a time when composers and critics were beginning to ask what "American" music should be. Dvorak offered the most stirring solution with his New World Symphony, which found inspiration and material in Native and African-American music. Beach, thoroughly of New England stuff, felt that an American music of the "North" should reach into the music traditions of England, Ireland, and Scotland - the Gaelic traditions.

Chopin wrote his Second Piano Concerto, the first that he wrote, as an ambitious young man of 20. Still living in Poland, the composer desired the fortune and notoriety of a traveling virtuoso, something he would find later in life, though the notoriety would be more for his compositions. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. It was in Poland that he composed this work, and it was composed, too, for a matter less materially ambitious: Chopin was in love with a young lady, though that young lady would not find out until much later when she was being read FC's biography.

By their beauty or depth, many symphonies may be said to have saved a life. Shostokovich's Fifth Symphony, however, saved the composer's life quite literally. His opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District received acclaim and ran successfully for two years, but its run was curtailed following a negative review in the State mouthpiece, Pravda​, which many attributed to the pen of Stalin himself.

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.