December 25 - 29, 2017
London, The Music of, Part 1 – Join Bill for a two-week musical history tour of London. We will listen to medieval chant, folksongs, court composers and more. Bill will stroll the South Bank, now a rejuvenated part of London, but in the past home to brothels and bear fighting arenas, plus Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Artists of all times and disciplines wandered this district, with a bird’s-eye view of St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster. During the English Reformation, Anglican Chant developed with the decree that all chants were to be in English, adhering to the cadence of the spoken word. We will listen to Thomas Tallis, court composer to Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth, hear Purcell and Elgar carry his English sound into their compositions, and Vaughan Williams’Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, based on a psalm that starts, “Why fumeth in fight.”
December 18 - 22, 2017
Holiday Celebration – All around the world, winter holidays are celebrated, and their music is wonderful to hear, regardless of which tradition you observe. Bill gets us started with Nova Stella, medieval Italian Christmas music with a very early staging of the nativity. We will enjoy Christmas in Paris with music from Debussy, Charpentier and Poulenc and a Polynesian traditional hymn, Anau Oia Ea, plus an excerpt from Amahl and the Night Visitors from the original television production. Bill plays us one of his favorites from Ernest Bloch, Sacred Service. On our final day we will listen to Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols, and this week’s celebration will end with more holiday cheer from David Bowie and Bing Crosby.
December 11 - 15, 2017
Don't Shoot the Piano Player – He is doing the best he can. -Oscar Wilde
Starting with the earliest piano trios from Joseph Haydn, Bill will present the best of chamber music that includes the piano— piano trios, quartets, quintets, and more. The piano is a versatile instrument in the chamber music world. Pianists can be members of an established group or featured guests, and composers add them to compositions as the “glue” that joins instruments together. Mozart, Dvôrák, and Brahms all wrote chamber music and then played "musical chairs” to fill the empty seat to join in on the fun. Chamber music written to include the piano continues through the 20th century with Bartok and Messiaen, and on to today with Joan Tower and her colleagues. Bill just touches the surface of this world, and will return to it in the future, so please, take care of our piano players!
December 4 - 8, 2017
Invitation to Dance, Part III – This third installment of our series on dance music will center on the charmed life of George Balanchine, the chief choreographer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Born in St. Petersburg, Balanchine became a dancer and accomplished pianist, and we will listen to the music that inspired him to choreograph his iconic dance movements. We will listen to music by Bach, Ravel, Tchaikovsky and Balanchine’s longtime friend, Igor Stravinsky.
November 27 - December 1, 2017
Tchaikovsky, Part 2 – This week, we’ll continue our exploration of Peter Tchaikovsky, focusing on the latter part of his life, including his symphonies, ballets, and life at the Moscow Conservatory. Bill picks up in 1876 with Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op.33 for Cello and Orchestra and we close the week with his Symphony No. 6 in b minor, Pathetique, written in 1893 and premiered just days before his death. This week, Bill tells the story of Tchaikovsky’s failed marriage and his unusual relationship with his patroness Nadezhda von Meck.
November 20 - 24, 2017
Tchaikovsky, Part 1 – Bill launches into the first part of a two part series on the Russian Romantic composer Peter Tchaikovsky. Though shunned by some other Russian composers as sounding “too Western”, Tchaikovsky was loved throughout the world as a great Russian composer. Caught between East and West, he created his own sound— a sound that to this day is still treasured and that Russians are proud to call their own. Bill starts with Mikhail Glinka, who broke from the Italian school to create the Russian school of music, and ends with excerpts of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Don’t miss this week and next, where we continue with the music of Peter Tchaikovsky.
November 13 - 17, 2017
Beethoven and that Danged Metronome – The metronome is a device which indicates the exact tempo of a piece of music – it marks time by producing a clicking sound. Beethoven was notorious for marking his scores with metronome timings, and this week we learn the significant role those little numbers played. The tempo and interpretation affect the emotional impact of a composition, thus changing its entire character. We'll also take a brief detour and examine how other composers, like Bach, Handel, and Shostakovich, worked with tempi in their music.
November 6 - 10, 2017
Viola – This week we’ll celebrate some of the exquisite music written for this “inner voice”. The viola is the middle sister of the stringed instruments, sitting between the violins and the cellos, and playing in a clef written devised just for her. The viola is often misunderstood and mistaken for a “larger violin” or sometimes either forgotten about or made the butt of jokes. But, the viola sings with a dark richness that composers loved! Mozart, Brahms, and Dvorak, to name just a few composers, played the viola, and oh, Hindemith did too. And these composers, plus many more figured out how to let this instrument have her day in the sun with concertos, tone poems, and orchestral solos. Listen and you too will fall in love with this instrument.
October 30 - November 3, 2017
Triple Play – It’s trios on Exploring Music! Piano trios, string trios, operatic trios and many others. Trios have their own set of challenges for composers and performers, and this week Bill will demonstrate on the piano pointing out to us through their complex structure of voice harmonies. We will hear Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, the trio from Act III of Der Rosenkavalier and, finally Bill will play a wonderful treat from Porgy and Bess performed by the Bill Evans Trio. Join us for a delightful week of music for three, where the odd man is not left out.
October 23 - 27, 2017
Les Cinq Plus – This week’s theme: French composers from the generation before Les Six (Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, et al), and we are fondly calling our composers Les Cinq Plus. Like Les Six, our composers did not have a great deal in common, and the way they all have been grouped is an historical accident — artists who happened to inhabit a particular locale at a given time. A few of these composers shared some characteristic traits, but they were incidental, and the artists didn’t even care much for each other. Unlike Les Six, Les Cinq Plus grew up listening to the art songs of the 1800s, and each in their way, carried this romantic torch forward. Chabrier, Massenet, Duparc, Chausson, Dukas, and perhaps Satie as “L’Autre.”
October 16 - 20, 2017
Unfinished Symphonies – Schubert wasn’t the only composer who passed from this earth with an incomplete symphony on his shelf. Elgar, Mahler, Bruckner and other symphonists left fantastic but tantalizingly unfinished music that we’ll explore this week.
October 9 - 13, 2017
Venice: The Glories of – Exploring Music focuses on sounds of the city, water, and love in Venice. Bill opens this week with, “Why Venice?”, the magical city that inspired music of the late Renaissance, Baroque, and the beginning of Italian Opera. Monteverdi, Palestrina, Vivaldi, Palestrina and Verdi will be featured.
October 2 - 6, 2017
Nadia Boulanger – “Every town in the United States had a five-and-dime and a Boulanger student,” Virgil Thomson once said, and he wasn’t far off. Nadia Boulanger taught and influenced an entire generation of musicians, from Aaron Copland and Ástor Piazzolla to Philip Glass and Quincy Jones, and this week we’ll hear some of her compositions and performances alongside those of her prolific students.
September 26 - 29, 2017
The Big Five II: The New York Philharmonic, Part II – We continue to look at the unique history of the New York Philharmonic. Just think about the audiences who were there before you: from Walt Whitman's “silent sea of faces and the unbared heads” listening to the funeral march from Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony as Abraham Lincoln laid in state at City Hall, to the orchestra’s televised tribute to JKF led by Leonard Bernstein, and later still, the premiere of the John Adams On the Transmigration of Souls,commissioned by the Philharmonic to remember the victims of September 11, 2001. In celebration and in mourning, the New York Philharmonic has been there.
September 18 - 22, 2017
The Big Five II: The New York Philharmonic, Part I – Bill begins a two-week series on our oldest orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. Their doors opened December 7, 1842 and Bill plays several pieces the Philharmonic included in its opening season— the overture to Weber’s Oberon and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. This orchestra was conducted and cultivated by Franz Liszt, Richard Strauss, and Gustav Mahler, and their influence along with many other musicians is still heard in every note the orchestra plays. Many of the works they premiered have become standard orchestral literature. Bill interviews musicians, explores the orchestra’s archives, and features some of its most memorable performances.
September 9 - 15, 2017
Symphony, part 11 – Join us as we continue our journey exploring the symphonic form. In this week you'll hear familiar pieces from Copland, Prokofiev, Hindemith, and Piston, as well as intriguing works from some of their contemporaries who may have slipped under your radar. Please let us introduce you to American works by Carpenter, Cowell, and Hanson; Finnish symphonies by Madetoja, Melartin, and Merikanto; the Austrian composers Gál, Schmidt, Toch, and Zemlinsky; and other symphonists from England, France, Russia and Spain. We'll even sample some works from the conductors Wilhelm Furtwängler and Otto Klemperer, who wrote 9 symphonies between them.
September 4 - 8, 2017
Merrie England – Ready your passport! We’re travelling to Merrie Old England. Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Dowland, all wrote music based on the folk tunes in the country pubs, the pageantry of Royal Albert Hall and Covent Garden, and the images of their beautiful countryside. Come open your ears and walk with us through the pathways of England. Greensleeves, Turtle Doves, and Janet Baker. Rule Britannia! Britannia rules the waves!
August 28 - September 1, 2017
How Strange the Change from Major to Minor, Part II – When our listener wrote asking Bill to describe the different scales and modes in music, he said a week ought to do it. Bill quickly realized that a week ought NOT to do it, and two weeks were better! So, this week we continue listening to music change from major to minor, plus harmonic surprises that composers add to their music. This same listener goes on to say, “What classical music buff wouldn't find that interesting and entertaining, and what classical music neophyte wouldn't find that enlightening?” He’s right! Come listen with fresh ears to Schubert and Mahler symphonies, plus our favorite folk songs and jazz standards.
August 21 - 25, 2017
How Strange the Change from Major to Minor, Part I – This two-week series comes from a listener who wrote asking about the different scales in Western music. You may know of major and minor scales, and hear the change of mood that composers can achieve by transitioning between them, but there are five other scales, or modes, we hear all the time. You can hear modal shifts in works by Monteverdi and in the late symphonies of Beethoven, Schubert, and many more. Come with us and explore the vibrant palette of colors that composers can use to set and change moods. How strange the change?
There's no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor. ‑ Cole Porter
August 14 - 18, 2017
Beethoven at Parnassus, Part II – In the second part of a two-week series, we'll take an in-depth look at this music of a master reaching the pinnacle of his abilities. Bill starts with Missa Solemnis and Consecration of the House and ends in the rarified atmosphere of Mt. Parnassus as we take in Opus 135 performed by the Guarneri Quartet. Robert Schumann said, “[Beethoven’s quartets] stand...on the extreme boundary of all that has hitherto been attained by human art and imagination.” In 1977 his quartets were added to the Time Capsule of Humanity and sent into space in Voyager 1.
August 7 - 11, 2017
Beethoven at Parnassus, Part I – This is a festival of the late music of Beethoven, music from the last ten years of his life. Parnassus refers to the great mountain in Greece that towers over Delphi and is the home of the Muses. In these years from 1816 to 1826, Beethoven soared to almost mythological heights with some of his greatest works—the Ninth Symphony, last four piano sonatas, Missa Solemnis, and his final string quartets. All of these compositions still sit at the top of Mt. Parnassus.
July 31 - August 4, 2017
You the Night and the Music – Novelists who have built their plots around great music. Join us as we step inside the minds of authors groping for the words to describe the feelings and emotions of the music. We begin with an inspiring mandolin, and the letters of T.S. Eliot. In Thursday’s program Bill tells the story of a violin maker and part-time sleuth with a nostalgic longing for Bach. Dvorák falls in love and an author reminisces about his father’s final journey with Beethoven. We end our travels through literature and music with a dream of the devil and E.M. Forster’s vision of Beethoven from Howard’s End.
July 24 - 28, 2017
American Masters, Part V – The American Masters series examines composers who forged our Nationalist identity in the 20th century, and who continue to energize and influence classical music today. While we have had other series dedicated to Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and Duke Ellington, American Masters is our opportunity to spend time with a more diverse collection of composers. This fifth installment of the series focuses on composers born in the years before the First World War, musical trailblazers, such as Henry Brant, Lukas Foss, Robert Russell Bennett, Peter Mennin, George Perle, Ned Rorem, and Jerome Moross.
July 17 - 21, 2017
From this Mighty River: Music of the Children of J.S. Bach – Music flowed from the Bach family in a seemingly never-ending torrent for generations, and the three sons of Johann Sebastian are no exception. This week we’ll listen to the music of Wilhelm Friedemann, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and Johann Christian Bach as they continue their father’s legacy into the Classical era.
July 10 - 14, 2017
Artists in Exile, Part II – Bill continues to reflect on artists in exile, beginning with music from Paul Hindemith. In his escape from Nazi Germany, Hindemith traveled to Turkey, England, and Switzerland before coming to America. We will listen to his Symphony for Concert Band and When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d. Bill then considers the plight of composers who faced deportation from America because of their political views. We finish this two-week series with composers from Asia and Latin America. Glorious music from Chen Yi and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as Tan Dun’s title song for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
July 3 - 7, 2017
Artists in Exile, Part I – Our two-week series titled Artists in Exile pays homage to Joseph Horowitz’s book that focuses on "how refugees from 20th-century war and revolution transformed the American arts.” In this program, you will hear stories of appreciation for a new country, but also of terrible loneliness that comes from being forced from one's home by political strife. Bill begins this week with a vacationing artist, Antonín Dvořák, before playing music from Serge Prokofiev, who fled the Soviet Union. This week will end with Hungarian Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, written in America.
June 26 - 30, 2017
Musical Landscapes – This week Exploring Music paints landscapes with music. We start in an outdoor café, listening to Placido Domingo sing Augustin Lara’s song about the Andalusian city Granada. Then our tour walks through the gardens with Manuel De Falla and rides the sea's waves with Debussy. We'll climb the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains to listen to Pepe Ramero play Francisco Tárrega's Recuerdos De La Alhambra. And this is all just in the first hour! Landscapes are a wonderfully rich subject in music which we will return to many times, so just slow down and take in the sights and sounds of our musical travels.
June 19 - June 23, 2017
The Four Seasons – From the boundless majesty of the summer sun in Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten to the frosty snow and shivering winds of Vivaldi’s Winter, this week is dedicated to music inspired by the changing seasons. Come and find out how something as natural and routine as the seasons and the changes between them can inspire a wide variety of music.
June 12 - June 16, 2017
Igor Stravinsky – By his early thirties, Igor Stravinsky had captured the world stage with The Firebird, dazzled audiences with Petrushka and incited riots with The Rite of Spring. Before the First World War, he had earned his place as a seminal figure of the 20th century. We’ll explore this fascinating life and sample his works.
June 5 - June 9, 2017
Edward Elgar – There’s much more to Edward Elgar than graduation marches and the Enigma Variations. A composer of equally masterful symphonies, oratorios, chamber music, and concertos, he led a renaissance in 20th century England that firmly reestablished its musical identity. Don’t miss the last installment of the week when Bill features the “English Rose”, Jacqueline Du Pre in her legendary performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto.
May 29 - June 2, 2017
American Masters, Part IV – This is the fourth week Exploring Music has spent exploring American composers well known and otherwise. Come join Bill for a trip to the music library and sample everything from Carpenter's wonky ballet, Krazy Cat, to Randall Thompson's choral takes on Frost.
May 22 - 26, 2017
Piano Concertos – The piano concerto is one of the most beloved genres of the concert hall. After all, it was the thundering virtuosity of some of the great composer/pianists that gave rise to music's first superstars! To name just a few of our stars we'll explore their world and the great music of Mozart and Rachmaninoff.
May 15 - 19, 2017
Outward Bound – Afoot and lighthearted Bill takes to the open road with the world before him. In the steps of Walt Whitman he explores the relationship of man to nature as expressed in music. Works include Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, Strauss' Alpine Symphony, and Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras. Join us on this musical path.
May 8 - 12, 2017
To the Finland Station, Part II – “The theme of my fifth symphony is the making of man.” —D. Shostakovich. In 1949, Dmitry Shostakovich traveled for the first time to New York to play his 5th Symphony on the piano, to 30,000 listeners at Madison Square Garden. The shy Shostakovich traveled and performed this concert at the request of Joseph Stalin. Making of mankind was a theme of many artists in the 30’s. These artists used creativity to reply to tumultuous political times, sometimes writing complete symphonies in a matter of weeks, and because of the current political environment, the public didn’t hear these works for decades. This week is the second part in our a two-week journey into the hidden phrases and chords that these Russian musicians used to express their inner thoughts and creativity on this historical path. Bill will feature composers from both sides of the Iron Curtain.
May 1 - 5, 2017
To the Finland Station, Part I – “I have spoken Russian all my life. I think in Russian, my way of expressing myself is Russian. Perhaps this is not immediately apparent in my music, but it is latent there, a part of its hidden nature.” — Igor Stravinsky, Russian born, naturalized French, and then American, spoke these words in a emotionalvisit to his homeland after an almost fifty-year absence. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of Vladimir Lenin's return to Russia, arriving at the Finland Station in St. Petersburg, and changing the course of history. For the next two weeks, we will follow the lives of some of our favorite Russian musicians, and how the revolution changed them and their music. Starting a decade before the Revolution, we will then spend a little time on the period 1918 to 1924, Lenin’s reign, featuring all sorts of avant-garde composers and poets and playwrights, and then plunge on into the era of Stalin, with the music of Shostakovich and many others. We will pay attention to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which featured Rimsky-Korakov, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Rachmaninov among others. The latter three remained in the West after the revolution, and Prokofiev returned to the USSR in the Thirties. Hop on this train!
April 24 - 28, 2017
Musical Cryptograms – Musicians have long been told that their minds are similar to those of mathematicians. This week we'll discover and decipher codes, messages and meanings that have been hidden within pieces of classical music over the centuries. Some of these messages were encoded for the fun of the puzzle, while others held deep painful meanings.
April 17 - 21, 2017
Symphony, Part IX – In this next chapter in our survey of the symphony, we will turn to Germany, Austria, and France during the turbulent years after the Great War. Bill will introduce us to symphonies by Hans Pfitzner, Albert Roussel, Franz Schmidt, and we will also hear a wonderful performance of Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin’s My Ship, sung by Dawn Upshaw.
April 10 - 14, 2017
Schubertiade Part II – The title refers to a type of “home-made” music making that became popular during Schubert's time, chamber music. This week we continue to hear chamber music compositions by one of the foremost composers and namesake of this intimate genre, Franz Schubert himself!
April 3 - 7, 2017
Baltic Music – Who knows what it is that makes the music of the Baltic region so recognizable and compelling? Many of us know and love the work of Sibelius, Finland's greatest musical export, but the countries around the Gulf of Finland have given us a wealth composers, some better known than others. In this week of shows we will explore music from a land of lakes & islands, isolated, self-contained, and full of beauty. Composers like Erkki Melartin, Leevi Madetoja, Jonas Kokkonen, Heino Eller, and Arvo Pärt, working in the long shadow of Sibelius, created violin concertos, symphonies, tone poems, choral works, and chamber works. So what is it that fascinates us about this distant northern region? Perhaps we will sum it up best with a fantastic piece by Uuno Klami's called “Aurora Borealis.”
March 27 - 31, 2017
Rachmaninoff, Sergei – The finest example of late Russian Romanticism. This Russian composer held on to being a romantic composer well into the twentieth century, a time when his fellow composers like Stravinsky and Prokofiev were forever reinventing classical music. We will dedicate this week to explore the private life and music of this lyrically gifted pianist and composer. Rachmaninoff once said, “If you want to know me, you must know my music."
March 20 - 24, 2017
Virtuoso, The World of – What distinguishes a virtuoso from a merely great musician? This week we feature these musicians who had it all. We start in the 16th century with the development of violin and keyboard instruments that brought the rise of the virtuoso. Composers created music for artists who claimed these instruments as their own. Generations of musicians forever challenged and one-upped those who led the way, playing concertos to delight us. Join Bill as he follows his ear through the centuries from Sephardic composer Thomas Lupo, played by violinist Andrew Manze, through Niccolò Paganini performed by Michael Rabin, to the present day with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing The Octet for Wind Instruments by Igor Stravinsky.
March 13 - 17, 2017
Music for the Masses – No, we're not talking about the proletariat--this is music set to the great Latin Masses, which expand over 800 years from the earliest of composers to the most modern.
March 6 - 10, 2017
Russian Five: The Mighty Handful – Five prominent composers; Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Cui, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov all worked to help form the Russian National School of Composers, which later was named The New Russian School. These five composers, led by Mily Balakirev, all lived in Saint Petersburg and collaborated from 1856 to 1870. Throughout these programs Bill will research each of these composers and demonstrate some of their most prominent works.
February 27 - March 3, 2017
Family Matters: All in the Family – Musicians, are like that proverbial apple, they too do not fall far from the tree. With musicians marry musicians their children are bound to be musical. This week features composers and their kin, including the Bachs, Scarlattis, Schumanns and others.
February 20 - 24, 2017
Soundtracks – Since the beginning of cinematography, classical music has been there to enhance the narrative and drama of the silver screen. For the next five days we will listen to the soundtracks composed for the films E.T., Zorba the Greek, and Robin Hood, plus many more great musical scores.
February 13 - 17, 2017
Yin and Yang, the Play of Opposites, Part 2 – This week we continue to hold on to the dragon’s tail listening to the pull of musical opposites. Starting with Samuel Barber and Francisco Tárrega, only Bill knows where this week's musical yin and yang will end! Heaven, Earth, or the abyss!
February 6 - 10, 2017
Yin and Yang, the Play of Opposites, Part 1 – The idea for this two-week exploration came from a listener who suggested we explore music of "great calm", music which seems to gently pick us up and float us away from this earth. Bill liked the idea very much and immediately started sketching a week of the Romantics, from Berlioz to Mahler. But as he went along, he started to feel a tug in the opposite direction — what about music that picks up and drives us like a mad coachmen, hurtling us toward conclusion or chaos, music of sound and fury and joy and lots of noise? And so, here we are: The Play of Opposites. Think of Frost's Fire or Ice, or Eliot's Bang or Whimper. Opposites, it seems, may contain the whole.
January 30 - February 3, 2017
Grieg and Sibelius – We’ll explore the lives and music of the two Scandinavian greats: Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius. Music spanning almost one hundred years includes a number of chamber works, Grieg’s Peer Gynt, the Norwegian Dances and several Sibelius symphonies.
January 23 - 27, 2017
Mozart Piano Concertos – This week we will explore Mozart’s piano concerti and all of the relationships that influenced him, especially his one with Johann Christian Bach. While exploring various sounds, the teenage Mozart was so heavily inspired by J.C. Bach's writing that he made it his own. Bach and Mozart bonded over music, as well as over tricky keyboard games.
January 16 - 20, 2017
Aaron Copland – For some, Aaron Copland conjures images of covered wagons and endless frontiers. For others, he evokes Olympic athletes, astronauts and fallen heroes. From waves of grain to stars and stripes, Aaron Copland defined the soundtrack to everything American. This week, we’ll trace his trek from the heart of Brooklyn to the heart of a nation. Featured works include Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man and Billy the Kid.
January 9 - 13, 2017
Haydn Symphonies – Dear old Papa Haydn, as he was known in 18th century Vienna, was a fatherly figure to the finest musicians of his day. He is also the father of the symphonic form. This week we’ll sample some of his 104 symphonies, following their development from modest orchestral pieces to expressions of wit, humor, and drama.
January 2 - 6, 2017
Listeners’ Choice III – Your emails arrive in our comment box with wonderful musical requests! This week Bill features your email comments with music that you asked to hear. This includes a festival overture from a little-known Australian composer, fun transcriptions and original works for trombone, plus more. Monday never sounded better!
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