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John Banther takes classical music fans behind the scenes with interviews, deep dives, and analysis. Episodes released bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Produced by WETA Classical in Washington, D.C.
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Classic Breakdown!

Classic Breakdown!

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An audiobook narrator who just can't focus on the job in hand. His digressions take him further and further off-piste. Now including the complete and unabridged The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it. And now we're engaged in a tug of war between Chapters of Dracula by Bram Stoker and 1984 by George Orwell. gregwagland.substack.com
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We enjoy a full performance of the Enigma Variations at the end of the episode, but first, we get into the people and places depicted in colorful detail in Elgar's masterpiece. John Banther and Evan Keely uncover hidden clues in the music, the types of people Elgar depicts, and what the Enigma could possibly be (but isn't). Support Classical Breakd…
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Real and fictional characters come to life in this incredibly challenging work for piano that also includes musical puzzles. John Banther and Linda Carducci explore all the characters and how Schumann depicts them in music, the ciphers, discarded movements, and more. plus we enjoy a full performance of it by Sergei Rachmaninoff! Support Classical B…
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She might have been the most influential person in music of the 20th century, and few would argue with you. John Banther and Evan Keely explore her life, music, and incalculable influence, but also some of the criticism her legacy has faced in the 45 years since her passing. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/…
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We've come to know the concerto as a work showcasing a single soloist with (or sometimes against) an orchestra, but what if a work has not 1... but 4 soloists at the same time? And what if it is also bringing in ideas from the symphony? John Banther and Evan Keely take a look at one of the defining works in the genre, show you what to listen for, a…
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It's one of the most common musical instruments, but where did it come from and how did we get here? John Banther and Linda Carducci go on a journey through time to trace the evolution of the piano and its various forms. Plus, why is it so fun to see pianos fall from high places?? Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudi…
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There aren't that many examples of a "concerto" for orchestra, and in Joan Tower's, it's an electrifying world of rhythm, motion, and even deception! John Banther and Evan Keely explore this concerto by one of the most successful and recorded American composers. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for …
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Have you ever wondered how to record an orchestra but were too afraid to ask? Critically acclaimed recording engineer Charles Lawson spends his days recording the National Symphony Orchestra at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He tells us how it all comes together, philosophy, and near disasters! Support Classical Breakdown: http…
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We'll enjoy his Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" at the end, but first we look at his influential and controversial time in the United States, itself a journey that began decades prior. Join us to learn how he was discovered, his musical styles, and some pretty funny stories! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.…
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We celebrate the music of living Black composers with 6 recommended works spanning violin and piano to the full orchestra! Go to the show notes page at classicalbreakdown.org for more information on these composers, links to recordings, and links to resources. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for pr…
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The sounds of Hollywood are found throughout this enduring concerto. John Banther and Evan Keely show you moments in the music to listen for, how Korngold does things differently, which movies ended up in this concerto, and discuss why this concerto has remained so popular! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/l…
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We have a full symphony by Mahler to listen to after we enjoy highlights from the past 99 episodes! Let's take time to experience again the musicians who demonstrated their instruments, fascinating insights from guests, and our favorite moments from over the years. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener f…
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Few countries have elevated a composer like Finland and Jean Sibelius. John Banther and Evan Keely look into his breakout success, symphonies, dramatic life events, and how he incorporates Finnish culture into music. Plus, what do Sibelius, Gilmore Girls, and Lord of The Rings have in common? Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm S…
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You may not recognize the composer or piece, but this is a work that deserves your attention! John Banther and Evan Keely explore the poem and how it comes to life in the music, which operatic composer she's invoking, and why sea monsters have such short musical motifs. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/liste…
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Feeling dramatic? Opera has you covered! John Banther and Linda Carducci go on a journey through time on the origins, evolution, and dramatic moments of this enduring musical art form. Plus, recommended listening for each time period along the way. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy inform…
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It's one of the more familiar works in the repertoire, but how well do you know the 3 major themes and Shakespearean connections? John Banther and Shakespeare enthusiast James Jacobs show you what to listen for, how much Tchaikovsky loved Shakespeare, theatrical elements in the music, and more! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm…
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She was a pioneering French composer who helped shape the sound of France's music post World War I, but she also faced extraordinary challenges. John Banther and Evan Keely explore her music, life events, give you 5 recommended works to listen to! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy informa…
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How easily can a genre of music be defined? John Banther and Linda Carducci explore the origins of the Nocturne and how it evolved from its simple defining characteristics over the next 200 years. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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Respighi is our tour guide as we explore 4 different scenes in Rome inspired by their iconic Stone pine trees. John Banther and Evan Keely explore his cutting-edge use of technology, how he uses ancient musical references, how he achieves some of these unique timbres, and more! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.c…
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He was a composer who seemed to fit some of the "tragic artist" stereotypes of the Romantic period, he was prolific, had unrequited love, and died tragically young. John Banther and James Jacobs explore Schubert's life, his unrivaled gift for melody, efficiency with composing, his arrest, and more! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/dona…
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Unforgettable melodies, rich harmonies, and technical fireworks encompass this concerto which is also one of the great musical comeback stories! Join us to learn what to listen for as we examine the music, personal letters, and even a recording of the composer himself at the piano. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystud…
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So here is another portion of Dracula read with a singular lack of preparation or skill. As I say, it’s an acquired taste. Members of my own family don’t listen to it, so let that stand as some sort of warning to you. It’s recorded not on a wax cylinder but using the less than stellar (Stella!!!!) headset mic by audio technica which purports to hav…
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Why do bats suddenly appear Every time you are near? Poor old Lucy! Always wanting to leave the windows open and somewhat averse to the garlic baguette that Van Helsing brandishes before her pallid fizzog. She’s arguably, in the words of 1950s magistrates, asking for it, fang-wise. But she’s certainly a fighter and submits to her arduous toilet twi…
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Once again we return to the land of Bram Stoker. I was tinkering with the Audio Technica headset mic., as if you wanted to know that and then was playing with the Studio One software which is less than user friendly imo. Trying to make a stack or plugin chain that tamed the whole thing. It’s noisy and a bit echoey, and NOT my usual studio or equipm…
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Discover new favorites as John Banther showcases 4 recent releases that deserve your attention this summer! Go to the show notes page at ClassicalBreakdown.org to find out where you can listen to or purchase these albums. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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It might be one of the oldest ideas in all of music (of any kind!), but, how did it develop in our Western classical music tradition? John and Evan explore what makes a theme and variations, 4 specific types to listen for, and a modern example using a theme you wouldn't expect! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.c…
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Enjoy a performance of one of Haydn's iconic concertos at the end of the episode! We talk about Haydn's hardship to stardom life, and why he ended up writing all kinds of music, from symphonies, and concertos, to music for clocks. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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We unravel the secrets and beauty of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor," hailed as a masterpiece in the piano concerto repertoire. We explore the complexities of the music, the unusual circumstances behind its creation, and what to listen for! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy inf…
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This charismatic Italian has become one of the most sought-after conductors for both orchestras and opera houses. John Banther and Gianandrea Noseda discuss early musical experiences, preparing familiar works, the importance of recordings, ways to relax, and much more! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listen…
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One of the more original first symphonies from a composer, Gustav Mahler's entry into the symphonic world was initially misunderstood. John Banther and Evan Keely break down what made this symphony different, what to listen for, and why the journey is worth the test of patience! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.…
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Go on a journey through time with us as we explore a genre of music called the Fantasia! John Banther and Evan Keely discuss how the genre started, evolved, and captured our hearts and imaginations for centuries. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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She persisted and created her own success in defiance of the sexism faced at home and abroad. We explore her life, works you need to hear, and even hear a 122-year-old recording of Chaminade herself! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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We explore in detail 6 works by 6 different living composers for a variety of instruments like solo cello, a string quartet, a piano concerto, and more! Visit the show notes page for more information on these composers and resources to find more. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy informat…
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There are a lot of questions and considerations when it comes to writing a piano concerto for a single hand. John Banther and Evan Keely explore the origins of this masterpiece and all the ways in which Ravel makes it sound larger than its parts. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy informat…
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Well, look: I was in a comfy chair and that's perhaps why this episode is a little lacklustre. There is literally nothing to recommend it. Perhaps making Seward a bit more estuary is enjoyable for me, but makes little sense. You can't really imagine the Westenras having him over to shoot or hunt, but who knows? Lucy does sound like she plays the fi…
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Greetings All. We continue in our halting attempt to drag ourselves through Bram Stoker's classic work and we've got to the section where Lucy Westenra is getting a little bit anaemic. Who knows why? And Wilhelmina Murray berates herself for using a big safety pin near Lucy's neck. Safety pins can be dangerous! So, we press on! And as Spring ushers…
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If there was a "most interesting man in the world" it would be Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. He wasn't just a virtuoso violinist, composer, and conductor, he was also one of Europe's greatest fencers, and a military man who led a legion in the French Revolution. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com…
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No matter how many times you've heard this work, there is much to discover! John Banther and Evan Keely examine letters from his final year, musical examples, and fascinating compositional techniques in search of answers to this enigmatic symphony. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy inform…
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We're on the high seas on board the ill omened Demeter. There are some funny boxes below decks with some rather innocent contents (according to Turkish Customs) and lots of disappearances at night. The crew is made up of Russians and Roumanians. The Captain has lashed himself to Tenille and there's something a bit rum about the rum. Recorded with t…
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Did a volcano erupt when he was born, what illness plagued his priesthood, and why did he write so many concertos? Join us to learn all about Vivaldi's life and appreciate the composer from a new angle. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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Well, Happy New Year 2023! Apparently and this is according to the stats, (so we're all fully on board with their likely veracity, aren't we?), I am now followed by a dozen regular listeners. Fair dinkum. I didn't get into this podcast game for popularity: I was only ever motivated by narcissism. However, we push on because of reasons. I don't like…
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This work for choir and orchestra might become your new holiday favorite! Bonds' takes us on an evocative musical journey with more in the story than meets the eye. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.על ידי WETA Classical
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He's one of history's most famous composers, but how much do you really know about Handel? Join us to learn about his life, music, and desire for fame; plus 3 things about him you didn't know before! Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.…
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This symphony takes its inspiration from the blues in the 1920s, which were much different than the blues we typically hear today. Join us to learn how Still uniquely brought different styles of music together, new instruments in the orchestra, and his motivation. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener fo…
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Doctors at one time prescribed playing the saxophone for certain ailments?! Learn all about the saxophone's invention, development, and all the genres it's hopped to along the way. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.על ידי WETA Classical
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Coming to you from our email inbox, here's an episode of music requested by you the listener! These three works are iconic, but leave your preconceived notions at the door and prepare to hear them in a new way. Plus, we also do a little Q&A at the end of the show. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener fo…
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Was he an impressionist, symbolist, or something else? John Banther and Evan Keely dive into the life and music of Debussy while giving you 4 points to hear his music in a whole new way. Support Classical Breakdown: https://weta.org/donatefm See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.על ידי WETA Classical
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