Classical Music Podcasts: 12 to Listen For

The universe of classical music podcasts is expanding. Some of these shows have an educational focus while others specialize in roundtable-style banter. The most sophisticated feature elaborate sound design and narratives; others have a quirky, home-spun feel, with guests veering off-mic and conversations peppered with “um’s.” Here are a dozen to check out, depending on your interest.

All-Around Classical Podcasts

The BBC Music Magazine podcast is a monthly roundtable discussion by the publication’s editorial team, built around music news headlines, recording reviews and summaries of their latest artist interviews. Each episode covers a lot of ground with music clips illustrating key discussion points (disclosure: I’m a regular contributor to the magazine).

Classical Classroom: KING-FM in Seattle has been expanding its slate of podcast content of late. This interview show is hosted by Dacia Clay, a self-described classical newcomer, and features guests including violinist Anne Akiko Meyer, guitarist Sharon Isbin and music critic Anne Midgette. Each episode comes with a “teacher pre-study guide,” though the overall format is not overly didactic.

That Classical Podcast: This series suggests a British version of a commercial radio “morning zoo” format, as two sassy co-hosts – Chris Bland and Kelly Harlock – banter about composers and moments in classical music history. Jingles and occasional sound effects add to the freewheeling tone.

The Music Box: Created by WUOL Classical Louisville,  this highly-produced podcast is intended to be used in the classroom or by parents at home. The first episode looks at the “Golden Record,” the recording traveling on the Voyager spacecrafts (with help from students at Lincoln Elementary School in Louisville). Only four episodes have been produced but it’s a worthwhile listen so far.

Sticky Notes:  American conductor Joshua Weilerstein, who is artistic director of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, tackles individual pieces, periods in music history and, of course, “what does a conductor do?” In lesser hands, the single monologue format would grow tiresome but Weilerstein is an engaging presence on topics like riots in classical music, using Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as a springboard.

The Great Composers: In this well-researched series, Colorado Public Radio dives into “the struggles, aspirations and triumphs of some of history’s most brilliant musicians.” Host Karla Walker and conductor Scott O’Neil are a bit like genial sports announcers, together exploring the biographies of Mozart (season one) and Rachmaninoff (season two).

Piano Puzzlers: In this longstanding feature of APM’s Performance Today,  Bruce Adolphe, at the piano, disguises a familiar tune in the style of a classical composer. A caller tries to guess the theme and the style in question.

Young Artist Podcasts

The Upnote is a new podcast co-hosted by four Los Angeles-based, 20-something musicians:  violist Ryan Davis, trombonist Jared Dickerson, and violinists Wynton Grant and Simone Porter. The first episode is a thoughtful roundtable about building a career and connecting with new audiences.

BBC Young Musician is a newcomer this autumn from the Beeb. The tone is studiously informal and quirky and topics have included stage fright, memorization, image-building and other career-related topics. Guests to date have included trumpeter Alison Balsom, violinist Nicola Benedetti, and sax player Jess Gillam. The latter conversation (and performance) took place on the London Eye.

Opera Podcasts

Indie Opera Podcast: Created in 2011, this is one of the longest-running classical podcasts. The lengthy episodes include opinionated discussions of the opera scene among three co-hosts and interviews with noted composers, singers and directors. Recent guests include Missy Mazzoli, Mark Adamo, Matthew Aucoin and David T. Little.

A newcomer is the Metropolitan Opera’s Met: In Focus podcast, in which the Met’s radio commentator and staff writer William Berger walks listeners through the season’s operas in 10-15 minute modules.

Contemporary Music Podcasts

Colorado Public Radio also offers Centennial Sounds, a podcast spotlighting contemporary classical music performed in Colorado. Hosted by Brad Turner, the episodes weave together interviews with performances recorded at venues around the state. Since its April 2017 launch, the monthly episodes have featured Julia Wolfe, David Ludwig and Caroline Shaw, as well as a number of up-and-comers.

Do you have a classical podcast to recommend? Please share them in the comments below.

Photo: StockSnap/Maciej Korsan

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