December 26 - 30, 2016
Bach Christmas Oratorio – An exploration of the six cantatas performed in Leipzig’s St. Thomas and St. Nicholas churches in December 1734. These six Bach cantatas were written to correspond with the days of the Lutheran church year, and are collectively referred to as the "Christmas Oratorio". We start the week with Cantata No. 1 (For the First Day of Christmas) and we will end with Cantata No. 6 for Epiphany.
December 19 - 23, 2016
Music from the Magic Box – What happens when your favorite classical music radio host tackles spring cleaning? We reap the benefits of his discoveries! Bill was digging deep into the back of his hall closet when he spied a mysterious box. He wondered, he reached, he opened, and he found a treasure trove of wonderful recordings from years past: Andras Schiff playing Beethoven Op. 111 and the Diabelli Variations, Martha Argerich playing Mozart Concerti with Claudio Abbado, and many, many more. And we'll get to discover them all, right along with Bill. We've borrowed the title from one of our favorite albums of the Palladian Ensemble, playing consort music of the Elizabethan and Restoration periods.
December 12 - 16, 2016
A Little Night Music – As we approach the winter solstice, the nights grow longer and the moon becomes so bright that the sky seems to sparkle in its glow. Night sounds also become clear and close in the cold winter air. Composers love capturing these sounds and reflecting them in their music. This week, in an homagé to Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon, voices fade away into the musical dreams of a winter night.
December 5 - 9, 2016
Haydn and Mozart Quartets – Mozart's six "Haydn" Quartets were dedicated and lovingly handed to Joseph Haydn, like a father entrusting his sons to a friend to protect and guide them. When Haydn first started composing for the string quartet, the first violinist was the star, actually standing in front of the other three players. Ninety-nine Haydn string quartets later, the form had evolved into four equal voices. Bill will share with us the brief time in history when Mozart and Haydn enjoyed each other’s company, playing and composing string quartets together.
November 28 - December 2, 2016
The Big Five, Part 1: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra – We’ll reach back into the history, growth and development of one of America’s great musical institutions, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We will touch on the composers, conductors, patrons, and musicians who all had a hand in making this orchestra a vital and thriving world treasure.
November 21 - 25, 2016
Enescu, Georges – This week Exploring Music is featuring the Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor, and all around great guy Georges Enesco.
Georges Enesco’s family was steeped in the rich folklore and oral traditions of Romania. When he was just a young boy, his parents hired a gypsy violinist to teach him the violin by ear— note by note, phrase by phrase. And by the age of seven, Enesco was sent to the Vienna Conservatory to formalize his musical studies. Enesco as a mature musician traveled the world, never forgetting his Romanian roots. Romanian folk tunes were woven throughout his music, and his creative, warm, and giving musicianship was treasured by all. Come join Bill as we listen to Enesco’s story, hear his music, and watch him pass the torch to the young Yehudi Menuhin.
November 14 - 18, 2016
Symphony, Part IV – The symphony at its Romantic apex. We start the week featuring the Austrian composers Anton Bruckner, and Gustav Mahler, and then cross the English Channel to Britain to listen the music of Edward Elgar.
November 7 - 11, 2016
I Hear America Singing – As our nation turns our minds and hearts to vote we here at Exploring Music celebrate America's unique voice in music. Bill takes on the music and poetry of America, from Walt Whitman to Aaron Copland.
October 31 - November 4, 2016
Nationalism – Nationalism on its own is a dangerous force, but it has led to a number of wonderful bits of music. This edition of Exploring Music examines what happens when a powerful pride in national identity winds its way into a composer's head. This week we cover music from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania on Monday; Hungary on Tuesday; France on Wednesday, and then rounding out the week with music from Scandinavia (Thursday) and Russia to Albion (Friday).
October 24 - 28, 2016
Demons, Spooks, and Other Things That Go Bump in the Night – Darkness descends on Exploring Music as we investigate composers' fascination with ghosts, goblins, Mephistopheles, and other phantasmagoria. We will listen to Malcolm Arnold leading a pair of drunken bassoonists through a dark foggy peat bog, Henry Cowell conjuring a banshee from the piano, and Paganini flirting with the devil. Beware, this week will put you in the mood for Halloween.
October 17 - 21, 2016
American Masters, Part III – Our series celebrating American composers continues with more innovative works from the 20th century. We'll start with Franz Waxman’s duet Four Scenes of Childhood, and end this week listening to the irrepressible Morton Gould.
October 10 - 14, 2016
Verdi, Giuseppe, Part II – Join us for the second part of our two-week series featuring Verdi with more of his operas and other works, both iconic and underappreciated. Verdi takes on Italian painters, Egyptian princesses, and composes perhaps the grandest requiem ever written. Rumor has it that at Verdi's funeral a hundred thousand voices rose in song as Arturo Toscanini conducted the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” from his opera Nabucco.
October 3 - 7, 2016
Verdi, Giuseppe, Part I – This week we begin a two-week survey investigating the life and music of Giuseppe Verdi, a towering figure in Italian art and perhaps the greatest composer of 19th-century opera. We'll explore the nooks and crannies of Verdi's repertoire, including a trip to Medieval Spain, Shakespeare's Scotland, and even France! Despite Verdi being known for his work in opera, an art form intimately connected with language, his music transcends words. And, as Bill would say, "Man, that boy wrote a lot of music!”
September 26 - 30, 2016
Symphony, Part I – In the beginning, there were Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, or so we thought. That’s until we uncovered a whole world of instrumental music so varied, so wonderful and so woefully unknown, we decided to spend some time in that glorious place. Starting with a Sinfonia by Biaggio Marini from 1618, we slowly make our way through the seventeenth century, the eighteenth century and finish at the brink of the Romantic era with the Second Symphony by Beethoven.
September 19 - 23, 2016
Distant Neighbors – This week we’ll explore the music of Mexico and Central America. Though we share a very long border with Latin America, we live in two very different worlds. Their history is thousands of years old, and ours is younger. Come on this journey with us to the deep and rich musical history of our neighbors to the south.
September 12 - 16, 2016
The Gathering Storm: Music from the Great Depression to WWII – “Brother, can you spare a dime?” To ask this question is begging for money, but to sing these words expresses the deep personal hardships of the Great Depression.
With the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression settling in, orchestras and record companies closed their doors, composers stopped getting commissions, and musicians joined the unemployment lines. Interestingly, during these hard times millions of people had a radio and they couldn’t get enough of the free entertainment. CBS, NBC, and many other stations acquired the bankrupt recording companies and started employing musicians in big bands, operas, and orchestras. Governments, seeing music as a healing force for the good of the people, stepped in by hiring composers to express this time in history. This unique twelve years ended with the start of WWII and Shostakovich composing his 7th symphony dedicated to the city of Leningrad. This week on Exploring Music we will hear composers like Benjamin Britten, Samuel Barber, and Aaron Copland express these hard times.
September 5 - 9, 2016
Antonin Dvorak – A five-part biography on the life of Bohemia’s most celebrated composer. We start with a look at Dvořák's early life and works, as well as music from one of Dvořák's first influences, Bedřich Smetana, and continue with his travels to America where he helped define our early musical identity.We will hear works such as Symphony No. 7, Requiem, and New World Symphony.
August 29 - September 2, 2016
Music in 19th Century Paris: Waterloo to Bismarck – Music in Paris during the middle of the 19th century was dominated by one supreme composer and a stellar supporting cast whose works remain in heavy rotation to this day. Join us to explore the Parisian scene from roughly 1813 to 1870, the period between the fall of Napoleon I and the start of the Franco Prussian War. We'll look at Hector Berlioz, as well as Bizet, Cherubini, Faure, Gounod, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, and Saint-Saëns. We'll also visit with some of the foreigners who flocked to Paris to make their own contributions: Bellini, Chopin, Donizetti, Liszt, Paganini, Rossini, Sarasate, Wagner, and more. It was an era of great artistic change which brought Realism and Naturalism to the novels of Hugo and Flaubert, and led to impressionism in painting. And it's where we go this week on Exploring Music.
August 22 - 26, 2016
Claude Debussy – Claude Debussy, who once said he learned more from poets and painters than from the music conservatory, is considered the figurehead of Impressionist music (though he would vehemently argue against it). Influenced by Bach's arabesques and the romantic Chopin, the Frenchman made his mark in music with his otherworldly compositions, beginning with "Danse Bohemienne". While we listen to his compositions Bill reflects on Debussy's peculiar upbringing, studies in the Paris Conservatory, and his Prix de Rome win.
August 15 - 19, 2016
Under the Hood, Part II – Back by popular request, Bill takes us through the inner-workings of five great symphonies by Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. Thus allowing us to understand some of the deeper meanings hidden in these symphonies.
August 8 - 12, 2016
Wind Quintets – We’ll explore some of the glorious music written for the popular chamber music combination of flute, clarinet, oboe, horn and bassoon. Bill will also focus on each instrument alone so we can identify the sound and character that makes it unique.
August 1 - 5, 2016
Ports of Call, Part II – This week Exploring Music continues traveling with composers around the world. We will be listening to them express the sounds of their native land and paint musical pictures of their travels around the globe.
July 25 - 29, 2016
Ports of Call, Part I – Many years ago, Gustav Mahler and another composer were traveling by train across the Alps when Gustav turned to his friend and said, “Don’t bother looking at the view; I have already composed it.” Music from around the globe varies as much as languages do, and many of us can identify the country where a composition was written before we can name the composer who wrote it. You can’t separate the composer from his background. For the next two weeks Exploring Music will present sounds from composers' backyards and hear their journaling voyages to distant lands: from the bird calls in the Amazon jungle expressed by Brazilian composers, to the distant bells ringing as a composer approaches a safe harbor. Listen, for example, to Italian composer Ottorino Respighi's famous Pines of Rome, and then travel with him to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he wrote Brazilian Impressions, an orchestral suite with strange and beautiful sounds.
July 18 - 22, 2016
Arias and Barcarolles – Taking a cue from President Eisenhower's famous remark to Leonard Bernstein, this week is a sampling of arias, overtures, barcarolles, and other melodic delights that deserve more time on the airwaves. Bill will spin tunes like Lawrence Welk’s “Bubbles in the Wine” and Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians performing Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” This is a week to just sit back and enjoy.
July 11 - 15, 2016
Symphony, Part 06 (French) – The symphony has been fertile ground for composers throughout history and around the world. This week, we'll follow its development in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Your listeners will enjoy Georges Bizet’s well-liked Symphony in C through to the lesser-known Symphony in C of Paul Dukas.
July 4 - 8, 2016
Roaring 20's – In the 1920s, concert halls rocked with everything from jazz to airplane propellers and radio became a multi-billion dollar industry. Art and literature flowed like bathtub gin. Sampling music from “The Roaring 20s” in New York, Paris, and Berlin. We’ll start this week in New York with the 1926 Metropolitan Opera premiere of John Alden Carpenter’s ballet Skyscrapers,and end the week in the then-troubled city of Berlin with the early works of Kurt Weill.
June 27 - July 1, 2016
American Masters, Part I – The first week in our series exploring great but lesser-known American composers from 1920s, 30s, and 40s. We’ll focus on the compositions and musical influences of Howard Hanson, Walter Piston, and William Grant Still, plus many more.
June 20 - 24, 2016
Anton Bruckner – The latest installment in our series of composer biographies presents the 19th century Austrian titan Anton Bruckner. We'll explore his work and his life, from his childhood in a small farming village outside Linz to his final decades in Vienna. Bruckner was a devoted Roman Catholic who spent years as a chorister at the Monastery of St. Florian, and later served as the cathedral organist in Linz, where he established a reputation for his improvisatory skills. He composed dozens of choral settings of masses, requiems, psalms, and a Te Deum, in addition to his nine symphonies, plus numerous sketches and revisions. Lots of revisions! But Bruckner worked during a period of changing musical tastes and styles, and while his music was indebted to the traditions of Schubert and Beethoven, he increasingly was drawn to the "new" music of Wagner and Liszt. He was often dragged into the wrong side of critical debates on the evolving course of music, and in his lifetime his status never rose to the level it has today. Join us as we explore his works from new perspectives, and consider for yourself Bruckner's place in the classical music canon.
June 13 - 17, 2016
A Green and Pleasant Land – With William Blake’s famous words as a stepping-off point, we’re traversing the pastoral musical landscapes of the British Isles
June 6 - 10, 2016
Carl Nielsen – A week-long look at the life and music of Carl Nielsen, who rose from humble beginnings to become Denmark's greatest composer. We will hear Nielsen's folk tunes, his first symphony, and Danny Kaye singing Wonderful Copenhagen!
May 30 - June 3, 2016
Keyboard Smorgasbord — It’s a lot more than just pianos. We’ll follow the story of the musical keyboard, from the ancient Greeks all the way to synthesizers, examining music for many different types — clavichords, harpsichords, fortepianos, organs, harmoniums, accordions, dulcimers, cimbaloms, melodicas, and mallet instruments from Java to jazz. This is a large and interesting family!
May 23 - 27, 2016
Pastoral Symphonies – The show will feature music inspired by bucolic nature scenes, including Pastoral symphonies from Beethoven and Vaughan Williams, as well as R. Strauss’ Alpine Symphony. We’ll also feature readings of the American naturalist John Muir.
May 16 - 20, 2016
Richard Wagner – "The greatest genius that ever lived," proclaimed WH Auden, while Rossini said that Wagner had "beautiful moments but awful quarters of an hour." Love him or hate him, Wagner is an undeniable force who stretched tonality and orchestration to their utmost limits. This week we celebrate over 200 years of Wagner in grand style with programs filled to the brim with his music.
May 9 - 13, 2016
I Hear A Rhapsody – We've borrowed our title from the 1941 jazz standard, but what is a rhapsody? In music, Grove defines a rhapsody is "an episodic instrumental composition of indefinite form." The word originates in the epic poetry of Ancient Greece, although the musical origins are traced back only as far as humble ballads in 18th century Hausmusik. Rhapsodies came to be based on popular and folk melodies, and composers in the 19th century began writing Rhapsodies for chamber music and large-scale nationalistic orchestral epics.
There are Hungarian Rhapsodies, Slavonic Rhapsodies, Blue Rhapsodies, Rhapsodies of Fire, and Bohemian Rhapsodies. Spend a week with us as Bill riffs on rhapsodies, and together we'll explore what it is about this "indefinite form" that has attracted composers from around the world and across the centuries.
May 2 - 6, 2016
The Symphony, Part 08 – Continuing our massive series in examining the symphony, widely considered one of the most important forms of classical music. Our exploration this week continues with music from composers born around 1880. Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Vaughan Williams will be featured.
April 25 - 29, 2016
Orpheus in the New World – With communications and travel offering cultural exchange like never before, today’s composer draws from an enormous palette, giving voice to the amazing era in which we live. You’ll find tonality and melody are most decidedly in style, while originality and diversity reign. From Schwantner and Adams to Neikrug and Beach, we'll listen to and celebrate their music.
April 18 - 22, 2016
Hidden Gold, Pt. II – Have you ever had a friend steer you toward terrific music you’d never heard before? This week, Bill has solicited suggestions from a number of radio friends for great pieces of music that almost never get played. Join us for a Celtic Symphony by Bantock and lesser known pieces by Mahler, Wagner, Rodrigo. Get ready to discover your next favorite piece of music!
April 11 - 15, 2016
Music of Scandinavia – Traditionally, Scandinavia means three countries — Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The lighter these northern lands are in the summer just means the darker the winters will be, and these dark winters are in the living tissue of every Scandinavian. Their movies, orchestral works, poems, and paintings are comfortably at home expressing these deep dark emotions. Exploring Music has featured the works of Grieg and Nielsen but there’s a great deal of wonderful material we’ve never touched. This week Bill will introduce composers Wilhelm Stenhammar, Per Nørgård, and Lars-Erik Larsson, plus many more, and we will hear this music performed by many of the great Scandinavian artists of today.
April 4 - 8, 2016
Families of Instruments – This week we will explore the sections of the modern orchestra: instruments that are hit, plucked, blown through, fingered, and bowed. Bill will point out the unique sonic colors that are achieved by each instrument and the never-ending combination of sounds from the strings, winds, brass, percussion, and keyboards.
March 28 - April 1, 2016
Clowning Around – This week's focus is musical buffoonery! Music is a language, and like all others it has its jokes, witticisms, and puns. For composers, clowning around with music takes the same skills as writing a great symphony. And, these fun, charming works show the genius of the composers who have written them.
March 21 - 25, 2016
Slipped Through The Cracks – Slipped Through the Cracks is the eleventh episode in our ongoing series of symphonic voyages. In over a decade of exploring the symphonic form we've found plenty of rare gems to share with you, and in this episode we hope that you, too, will be delighted to discover the English composer Arnold Bax and the Swedish composer Hugo Alfven. Join us as we explore symphonies by composers from Scandinavia, to Central Europe and England, and then sail across the pond to hear works from the New World
March 14 - 17, 2016
Autumnal Masterpieces – Mature composers often add new discoveries to enhance their defined voices and styles, thus creating new sounds. Both Mozart and Brahms fell in love with the clarinet late in their lives and created unparalleled masterpieces, and with Brahms you have the feeling that the clarinet actually gave a new purpose to his art. This week will evoke feelings of sadness, but only because these great artists are creating their final works and taking their last bows
March 7 - 11, 2016
Beethoven and the Piano – 200 years after the composition of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, they’re still the giants in the repertoire. Join us for a concerto a day, plus some of his more intimate works for the instrument.
February 29 - March 4, 2016
Portraits in Black, Brown and Beige, Part II – Bill's exploration of the music of African-American composers continues this week. We will hear Bill conduct a work by Anthony Davis, plus music composed by Bill's friend Jeffrey Mumford. Our two-week celebration ends with a poem from Langston Hughes as well as music from Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Michael Jackson.
February 22 - 26, 2016
Portraits in Black, Brown and Beige, Part I – This two-week celebration, named in honor of Duke Ellington's jazz symphony, will explore 400 years of African-American composers and performers. Starting with Call and Response, and Shouts, from the first Africans to arrive on this continent, Bill will introduce us to art songs, symphonies, and traditional spirituals that have become a large part our American musical identity.
February 15 - 19, 2016
Rimsky-Korsakov and His Pupils – Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral voice spun thousands of exotic sounds and colors, much as Scheherazade did in her tales. He left not only his musical mark on the world, but also his creative mark on all his students, by teaching them the fundamentals of orchestration and encouraging them to express their own imaginations.
February 8 - 12, 2016
It Was a Lover and His Lass – We start every hour of this week with a "hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino" from the incidental music in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Bill rounds out each day with many different composers' works influenced by all aspects of love.
February 1 - 5, 2016
Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms String Quartets – This week we open to one of the most delightful and storied chapters of the string quartet's history, centering around the works of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.
January 25 - 29, 2016
Schubertiade, Part I – What a scene in Vienna: business owners, intellectuals and scholars offering a home for a concert, a meal, a place to sleep or a room with a piano—all to support the friend they loved and admired, Franz Schubert. It was a Bohemian life, rich with music and conversation. This week, we’ll dip into those legendary house concerts for an enchanting week of music.
January 18 - 22, 2016
American Masters, Part II – The second in a multi-week series celebrating American composers from the first half of the 20th century. Bill starts with an American Impressionist, Charles T. Griffes, who admired Ravel, Scriabin and other fin de siècle composers. Bill ends this week with an entire hour devoted to the works of David Diamond. In the 1930s, Diamond was a student of Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and was introduced to Maurice Ravel and James Joyce. Composing for over 70 years he influenced entire generations of American musicians.
January 11 - 15, 2016
Symphony, Part II – Part II of our series examining the concept of the symphony, widely considered the most important form of classical music.
January 4 - 8, 2016
Respighi – There's much more to Ottorino Respighi than Pines of Rome and Fountains of Rome. This week we'll hear his connections with the music of Brazil, touch on his experiences in war-torn Europe, and see how this intriguing violinist, composer and musicologist artfully moved Italian music into the 20th century.
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Thanks to Oxford Music Online, the home of Grove® Music Online and the access point for other Oxford online music reference subscriptions.