1000 Years of Classical Music

1000 Years of Classical Music


Podcast by ABC Classics


Keys to Music: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5  

Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony, written in 1888, is a work which arouses hugely divergent opinions. Many people love it dearly, and the famous horn solo in the second movement is often cited as an example of how to write a beautiful melody. Many others can't stand it, finding it over-emotional, over-sentimental, and repetitive. What gives? Tchaikovsky's fifth is one of the standard works of the repertoire, a core symphony which is played regularly all over the world. But maybe familiarity has bred contempt. For me, ABC Classic FM's Graham Abbott, writing this program forced me to confront a work I had avoided for years. I love the fourth and sixth but confess I have for most of my life found the fifth hard to take seriously. During this process I have come to see it afresh and, I'm happy to say, have started to love it again. My time away from it (I haven't listened to it for more years than I can remember) has helped me grow up and to take its "message" (whatever that is) seriously. In this program I'll take you on a guided tour of Tchaikovsky's fifth, using the 2007 live recording featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Oleg Caetani.

Keys to Music: Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.4  

Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony ranks as one of the most popular symphonies ever written. It must also rank as one of the most misunderstood symphonies ever written. It has been common practice for more than a century (it was written in the 1870s) to regard the fourth as growing out Tchaikovsky's supposed self-loathing after his marriage and subsequent attempted suicide. This homophobic and inaccurate scenario was put forward during the Soviet era when much documentary evidence was out of reach of western scholars. Post-glasnost research has indicated quite a different turn of events entirely. In this podcast, we explore this controversy and of course look at Tchaikovsky's glorious and innovative music. The piece is so well-known we sometimes forget how ground-breaking it is, from the unique use of sonata form in the first movement to the pizzicato ostinato of the third. It's a symphony which deserves its fame.

Keys to Music: Beethoven's Diabelli Variations  

The Keys to Music podcast continues its survey of Beethoven’s music by exploring the Diabelli Variations. The thirty-three "Diabelli" variations on a waltz by the Viennese composer and publisher Anton Diabelli (1781-1858, pictured) make up what many people regard as Beethoven's greatest work. It's certainly the most visionary and exciting set of piano variations of the 19th century. Beethoven called the variations "Veränderungen" which can mean "transformations" as much as "variations", and herein perhaps lies the key to this piece. Far from being a clever but predictable set of variations on a precictable and not-terribly-clever tune, Beethoven created thirty-three miniatures which each take one aspect or another of Diabelli's waltz as an evolutionary springboard for a completely new piece. The result is one of the most challenging and unusual piano works from any era. This program uses the 2010 recording made in Sydney by Gerard Willems.

Keys to Music: Beethoven's String Quartets  

The Keys to Music podcast continues its survey of Beethoven's music with the string quartets. Beethoven's seventeen string quartets span the traditional "three periods" of his life. The six Op 18 quartets come from the early period, the three "Razumovsky" quartets and the "Harp" and "Serioso" quartets come from middle period, and the five late quartets and the Grosse Fuge are among his very last works. As a whole, these works form one of the great chapters in the history of music and the chamber music repertoire would be unthinkable without them. In this program, part of our ongoing survey of Beethoven's major works, we'll cast our eye over all of them to get an overview of this part of Beethoven's incredible legacy. The recordings used will feature Australia's own Goldner String Quartet, who have recorded the complete Beethoven quartets on ABC Classics.

Keys to Music: Beethoven's Piano Sonatas, Part 2  

The Keys to Music podcast continues its survey of Beethoven's piano sonatas by looking at the last eleven, starting with Op 54 in F, written in 1804. The later sonatas of Beethoven were regarded right from their first publication as vital, ground breaking additions to the piano repertoire. And the last five, in particular, are still regarded as something of an Everest for pianists, not only technically but also emotionally. This program uses performances recorded on ABC Classics featuring the pianist Gerard Willems.

Keys to Music: Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, Part 1  

Our survey of Beethoven's piano sonatas begins with the dazzling sonatas written when the composer was just 12 years old. Known as the "Electoral" sonatas because they were dedicated to the Elector of Bonn, these are not numbered among the traditional 32 piano sonatas. But recently they have been included by many organisations and performers as an invaluable addition to the canon. Despite not having an opus number, these sonatas were published during the composer's lifetime and they are important to an understanding of his development as a composer. This podcast goes as far as the famous "Waldstein" sonata of 1803, and all the recorded examples are drawn from Gerard Willems' landmark series of recordings on ABC Classics.

1785 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.21  

The Times newspaper is first published in London, Benjamin Franklin invents bifocal glasses, and Mozart – aged 25 – writes his Piano Concerto No.21.

1725 and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons  

Jonathan Swift completes Gulliver’s Travels, wallpaper and gin become popular in England, and Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons are published in Amsterdam.

1570 and Tallis’ Spem in Alium  

Ivan the Terrible commits the brutal Novgorod Massacre, the first atlas is published, and Thomas Tallis composes his 40-part motet Spem in Alium.

1721 and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos  

Rifles are introduced to America by Swiss immigrants, snuff is rife amongst the European elite, and the Brandenburg Concertos are written by Johann Sebastian Bach.

1610 and Monteverdi’s Vespers  

Galileo discovers the moons of Jupiter, ‘allegory’ and ‘victim’ enter the English language, and Venetian composer Monteverdi publishes the Vespers for the Blessed Virgin.

1788 and Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony  

The First Fleet arrives in Botany Bay, Robert Burns writes Auld Lang Syne, and Mozart composes his final symphony.

1791 and Haydn’s Surprise Symphony  

The world’s first Sunday newspaper is published, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is completed, and Haydn pens his Surprise Symphony.

1799 and Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata  

George Washington suffers a bloody death, France introduces the metric system, and Beethoven writes his Pathétique Sonata.

1824 and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony  

Charles Dickens is 12 years old, Emmanuel Kant sets out a manifesto for the Enlightenment, and Beethoven changes music forever with his Choral Symphony.

1819 and Schubert’s Trout Quintet  

The Industrial Revolution is in full swing in England, Singapore is developed as a trading post, and Schubert laments the death of a fish in his Trout Quintet.

1837 and Chopin’s Nocturnes  

The telegraph is patented in the US, Queen Victoria takes the throne of England, and Chopin – living in Paris – writes his Nocturnes Op.32.

1859 and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde  

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species is published, as is the first self-help book, and Wagner completes his opera Tristan and Isolde.

1878 and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto  

The phonograph is patented, Stalin is born, and Tchaikovsky writes his Violin Concerto.

1894 and Mahler’s Second Symphony  

The first commercial film is shown, Oscar Wilde writes The Importance of Being Earnest, and Mahler composes his epic Symphony No.2.

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