Sticky Notes: The Classical Music Podcast
Joshua Weilerstein

Sticky Notes is a classical music podcast for everyone, whether you are just getting interested in classical music for the first time, or if you've been listening to it and loving it all your life. Interviews with great artists, in depth looks at pieces in the repertoire, and both basic and deep dives into every era of music. Classical music is absolutely for everyone, so let's start listening!

For this Thanksgiving week we’re doing another re-upload from the archive! Today we’ll look at Copland’s Appalachian Spring, a ballet that has captured the imagination of listeners worldwide and seems to be the marker of the “American” sound in Western Classical Music. We’ll look at some of the differences between the two versions of the piece, talk about why it sounds so American, and listen to some fascinating rehearsal footage with Copland himself! This is one of my favorite past episodes - please enjoy!

This week I spoke with Harry Christophers, who wears many different hats in his jobs as Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society, and as the Founder and Director of The Sixteen, one of the world's most renowned choirs. I spoke with Harry about A Choral Odyssey, a new program debuting TONIGHT on thesixteen.com. The show explores great choral repertoire while exploring the venues in which it was first created. We also talked about choral conducting vs. orchestral conducting, and much much more.

Mahler on his third symphony: “Just imagine a work of such magnitude that it actually mirrors the whole world—one is, so to speak, only an instrument, played on by the universe. . . . My symphony will be something the like of which the world has never yet heard! . . . In it the whole of nature finds a voice.” As one of the grandest symphonies ever written, Mahler’s 3rd symphony truly does embrace the world of nature in every possible way. This week we discuss the first movement, a 36 minute long colossus!

Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. Her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, language, and social justice, placing her squarely as one of the most relevant interpreters of 21st-century American sound and experience. We had a great conversation touching on her upbringing, improv in classical music, her wide range of works, and much more!

First of all, if you’re American, I hope you’re listening to this while standing in line to vote!  Western Classical Music does not have the reputation for political activism that other kinds of music have, but that doesn’t mean composers haven’t made political statements all throughout history with their music. Today we’ll go through some of the most politically charged pieces in Western Classical Music History, all the way from the music of Joseph Haydn to the music of today. Don't forget to vote!!

This week continues my project of reuploading seasons 1-5 in new and improved sound quality! The opening of Mozart's 40th symphony is one of the most recognizable tunes in the whole repertoire, but to this day we don't know what it is about or even why Mozart wrote it. But even though it can be frustrating to not know these answers, it's also exciting and potentially rewarding to go searching for answers on our own! Today we'll talk all about this dramatic piece, and all of its many twists and turns.

This week I got to cross off a Sticky Notes bucket list item by interviewing the best-selling author and critic Alex Ross. We talked about his incredible new book Wagnerism, discussing Wagner’s influence on just about every artist/thinker of his time and into the future, his anti-semitism, and more. We also talked about how people understood Wagner, and how they understand him today. Talking to Alex Ross allowed me to understand how one composer's music could create so much beauty, and so much destruction.

Today is the beginning of a new project to re-upload older episodes in new and improved sound quality! First up is a story I can't believe Hollywood hasn't told in decades - the story of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Perhaps it’s because of its complex, ambiguous, and unsettled ending, but for whatever reason, it has been a story somewhat lost to history. So today we'll look back at the lives of Johannes and Clara, accompanied by pieces they both wrote during the time that they knew one another.

In one of the most famous reviews in this history of Western Classical Music, Eduard Hanslick torched the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, saying that the violin was "beaten black and blue." This review wounded Tchaikovsky to his core, and he wasn't sure if his concerto would ever see the light of day again. Luckily for him, and for us, the piece continued to get performed, and it is now one of THE most beloved pieces in the whole repertoire. Today we'll talk through this extraordinary concerto - join us!

Bruckner's symphonies are a world unto their own. They are epic works that are also full of a trademark humility that is present in the work of no other composer. Bruckner's 4th Symphony, the "Romantic," has remained one of his most popular and beloved works. We'll talk through the "Bruckner Problem" that has plagued this symphony since it's premiere, but mostly we'll talk through this majestic symphony, from the solo Horn that begins it, to an ending that “rises in solemn quiet above all earthly desiring.”

In 1919, the impresario Sergei Diaghilev came up with the idea of having Stravinsky write a ballet inspired by 18th century music by composers like Pergolesi. The result, Pulcinella, began a transformation of Stravinsky’s music. Stravinsky would later say: “Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible." Today we'll talk through Pulcinella - a brilliant and funny piece that shows Stravinsky in a totally new light. Get ready for a fun ride!

The composer Carl Maria Von Weber called it the work of a madman. Clara Schumann’s father, Friedrich Wieck, called it the work of a drunk. Beethoven’s 7th symphony has been popular ever since its premiere, but as you can see, not everyone loved it. It is a piece that is dominated by a raucous joy that led Wagner to call it "the apotheosis of the dance." But the most indelible memory people have of this piece is often the mysterious second movement. We'll talk all about this amazing symphony today.

William Grant Still was a man of firsts. He was the first African American to to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the United States. In 1931, his first symphony became the first complete symphony ever performed by a major orchestra, and until 1950, that symphony was the most performed American symphony by ANY composer. Still’s music reflects a remarkable breadth of styles, structures, and orchestral colors, and it’s a great pleasure to take you through some of his most emblematic works today.

In 1783, Mozart wrote a letter to his father. He wrote, in part: "On Tuesday, November 4th, I am doing a concert in the theatre here and, as I have not a single symphony with me, I am writing a new one at break-neck speed, which must be finished by that time.” The date of that letter was October 31st. In 4 days, Mozart completed one of his most beloved symphonies, the "Linz." We'll talk all about this brilliant work and how Mozart was able to write such a coherent and beautiful piece in such a short time.

This week I had the huge honour to speak with the composer, vocalist, violinist, and producer Caroline Shaw about her music and her performing career. Caroline is one of the most exciting composers around these days, and it was a special thrill for me to try to get inside of her compositional head in this conversation. We talked about her meteoric rise as a composer, her beginnings as a musician, how it feels for her to have her work performed, and the fascinating connection between speech and song.

I’m sharing today’s mini episode for two reasons - the first is that I wanted to show all of you who are not subscribed on Patreon what I put up there every week. Every Thursday, I do a sort of deep dive on a specific passage that I didn’t have time to get to in the main show. Sometimes its a specific passage or orchestration that I particularly love, or sometimes it’s looking at a specific movement, like today’s episode on the 25th Variation of the Goldberg Variations.  I really enjoy doing these episodes, as they really allow me to get right into the nuts and bolts of how a passage is put together. The second reason I’m sharing this episode today is that I need to make the announcement, the happy announcement, that I am very likely to be beginning to conduct again after a period of 5 months.  In September the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra and I are planning a Beethoven Cycle where we play all 9 symphonies in 11 days, the perfect way to shake the rust off!  But the partial resumption of my conducting schedule means that I will no longer have time to make two episodes a week. SO we’re going to return to the pre-pandemic schedule of a new show every Thursday BUT I’m also going to continue making these mini-episodes, so if you would like to check those out, do check out the Patreon page at patreon.com/stickynotespodcast.

In 1741, Bach published a piece called “Aria with diverse variations.” Little did he know that the piece would become one of the most beloved and nearly mythical works in all of Western Classical Music. The piece I’m talking about is now referred to exclusively as “The Goldberg Variations.” Today we'll talk through these remarkable variations, and as a special bonus, I was joined by Jeremy Denk, Mahan Esfahani, Inon Barnatan, and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein for a virtual panel discussion about the Goldbergs.

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Annik Lafarge, author of “Chasing Chopin,” a book being released Tomorrow, August 11th, wherever books are sold. This is really a wonderful book and you’ll hear in this interview all of Annik’s abiding enthusiasm about Chopin which comes through so beautifully in the book. We talk about Chopin’s pianos, Chopin as a symbol of Poland, the famous Funeral March, Georges Sand, and traveling to places that Chopin lived and worked. In essence, this is an immersion into Chopin and his music, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this fascinating interview - Chopin’s debut on Sticky Notes!  

In February of 1865, Johannes Brahms received a letter from his brother saying: “If you want to see our Mother again come at once.” Brahms rushed off to Hamburg but was two days too late. He had long thought about composing a requiem but this seemed to be the catalyst for him to finally write one. And it is a requiem like no other. Selecting biblical but secular texts himself, Brahms created what he called a "Human Requiem," a piece that is a balm and a comfort to the living as they mourn the dead.

Dalia Stasevska is a wonderful conductor whose career has skyrocketed in the past few years. She is the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony and is the incoming Chief Conductor of the Lahti Symphony in Finland. We had a really great talk about getting into music, learning conducting from two legends in the field, Jorma Panula and Leif Segerstram, and about the sometimes lonely life of a conductor. Dalia is one of my favorite people to talk to in the music world and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this!