Classical Breakdown

WETA Classical

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.

  • 22 minutes 38 seconds
    Recommended listening; 4 new albums to listen to this summer!

    Can you believe it that summer is already here? This is the final episode of Season 5 and I have 4 recently released albums you need to listen to wherever the summer takes you!

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    25 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 1 hour 1 minute
    What is a cello? Star cellist Amit Peled tells all!

    Who doesn't love the cello? But, where and when was it invented, and how did it evolve over the centuries? Amit Peled, cello soloist and professor at Peabody, tells us everything and performs music by Bach and Bloch!

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    11 June 2024, 4:00 am
  • 1 hour 19 minutes
    Elgar's Enigma Variations, a portrait of friends, life, and love!

    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).

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    28 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 1 hour 1 minute
    Robert Schumann's Carnaval: A solo piano brings a masked ball to life!

    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!

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    14 May 2024, 4:00 am
  • 46 minutes 27 seconds
    The Life of Nadia Boulanger: A Lasting Impact from Bernstein to Sesame Street

    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. 

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    30 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 28 minutes 44 seconds
    Haydn's masterpiece for 4 soloists and orchestra, the Sinfonia Concertante

    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, and discuss why Haydn might have written it in the first place

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    16 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 51 minutes 26 seconds
    The Evolution of the Piano: A Thousand Year Journey!

    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??

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    2 April 2024, 4:00 am
  • 29 minutes 22 seconds
    Joan Tower's Concerto for Orchestra, an adventure in color, illusion, and rhythm!

    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. 

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    19 March 2024, 4:00 am
  • 1 hour 3 minutes
    The secret life of a classical recording engineer: Meet WETA's Charles Lawson

    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!

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    5 March 2024, 5:00 am
  • 1 hour 33 minutes
    The life and music of Antonin Dvořák; from humble beginnings to stardom!

    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!

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    20 February 2024, 5:00 am
  • 33 minutes 51 seconds
    6 recommended works by living Black composers!

    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.

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    6 February 2024, 5:00 am
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