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Explore the Symphony

A classical music podcast. Join the National Arts Centre Orchestra's Marjolaine Fournier and one Canada's foremost music journalists, Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer, as they explore the symphonic form from Haydn to Shostakovich.

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Episode 43: Mahler Symphony No. 4

In the first of the 2015-16 season's "Explore the Symphony" podcasts, the NAC Orchestra's assistant principal double bass Marjolaine Fournier and one of Canada's foremost music journalists Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer discuss Mahler's Symphony No. 4.


30 Sep 2015

Rank #1

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The Music of George Gershwin

By far the bulk of Gershwin’s output is devoted to songs – more than five hundred of them, most of which come from his more than four dozen works for the musical stage. Two of these stage works are operas – the short Blue Monday Blues and the full-length Porgy and Bess. Gershwin also wrote music for four films (Shall We Dance is the most famous), a few piano pieces and a handful of concert works: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Cuban Overture, Concerto in F, Second Rhapsody and Variations on “I Got Rhythm.” Gershwin’s style is derived from the American soul and spirit. “Epitomizing the Jazz Age in every pore of his suave being,” writes critic Alex Ross, “Gershwin was the ultimate phenomenon in early-twentieth century American music, the man in whom all the discordant tendencies of the era achieved sweet harmony.” Many of Gershwin’s works are infused with jazz, and if he can be said to have made one single overriding accomplishment in his life, it was to create a bridge between jazz and the concert hall. - Robert Markow


20 Nov 2015

Rank #2

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Episode 21: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4

The first of the 2011-12 season's "Explore the Symphony" podcasts examines the 4th Symphony of Tchaikovsky. From the quiet plucking of the strings to the bombastic brass in the finale, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, declared “semi-barbaric” by the New York Post in 1890, will leave you breathless.

1hr 7mins

3 Nov 2011

Rank #3

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Episode 17: Mozart Concerto 23 for Piano and Orchestra

In the sixth of the 2009-10 season's "Explore the Symphony" podcasts, the NAC Orchestra's assistant principal double bass Marjolaine Fournier and one of Canada's foremost music journalists Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer discuss Mozart's Concerto 23 for Piano and Orchestra.


20 Apr 2010

Rank #4

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Episode 25: Carmina Burana

Marjolaine and Jeans-Jacques explore Carl Orff; his life in early 20th century Germany and his seminal work, Carmina Burana.


7 Jan 2013

Rank #5

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Episode 34: Schoenberg

In this Explore the Symphony, Marjolaine Fournier and Jeans-Jacques van Vlasselaer talk about the life of Arnold Schoenberg and his string sextet, Verklärte Nacht.


20 Mar 2014

Rank #6

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Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade

This work opens many doors to wonderful and exciting musical study. It is a fine example of Orientalism and our perception of “the other”. Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer and Marjolaine Fournier talk about who Rimsky-Korsakov was, his 19th-century influences from Mendelssohn to Wagner, and his contributions to the music of the 20th century.


16 Feb 2018

Rank #7

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Brahms’ and Schumann’s first symphonies

Marjolaine Fournier and Jean Jacques van Vlasselaer compare Brahms’ and Schumann’s first symphonies. They explore the relationships between the two composers and Clara Wieck. Schumann was alive in an extraordinary and explosive decade, Clara was nine years younger and a remarkable pianist, and Brahms, a generation apart, grew up in an entirely different environment. How was their first encounter? How do the two masterworks compare? The NAC Orchestra will perform Schumann’s first symphony on February 13 and 14, 2019, and Brahms’ first on May 1 and 2, 2019. Join them in this wild goose chase!


30 Jan 2019

Rank #8

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Episode 35: Fauré

In this episode, Marjolaine and Jean-Jacques delve into Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem, once called, “a lullaby of death” and “a Requiem without the Last Judgment” for its gentle nature and sublime choral writing.


6 May 2014

Rank #9

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Anton Bruckner’s eighth symphony with the TSO

Bruckner scholars seem to focus on psychoanalysis rather than closing their eyes and listening to the music. To listen to Anton Bruckner’s eighth symphony is to listen to the summit of his music. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs this work with conductor Peter Oundjian on May 7, 2018. Listen to Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer and Marjolaine Fournier talk about Bruckner’s eighth symphony.


13 Apr 2018

Rank #10

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Episode 29: Sibelius

Marjolaine Fournier and Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer discuss Jean Sibelius, his life, his struggle with depression, alcoholism, and his 3rd Symphony.


5 Mar 2013

Rank #11

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Episode 14: Beethoven Symphony No. 8

In the third of the 2009-10 season's "Explore the Symphony" podcasts, the NAC Orchestra's assistant principal double bass Marjolaine Fournier and one of Canada's foremost music journalists Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer discuss Beethoven's Symphony No. 8


12 Nov 2009

Rank #12

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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Symphonies no. 5 & 6

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer of the late-Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. Tchaikovsky was honored in 1884, by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension. The Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was composed between May and August 1888 and was first performed in St Petersburg at the Mariinsky Theatre on November 17 of that year with Tchaikovsky conducting. The Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, Pathétique is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's final completed symphony, written between February and the end of August 1893. The composer entitled the work "The Passionate Symphony", employing a Russian word, Pateticheskaya, meaning "passionate" or "emotional", that was then mistranslated into French as pathetique, "evoking pity", yet the mistranslation survived subsequent productions in every country but Russia. - Wikipedia


18 Nov 2016

Rank #13

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Episode 31: Hector Belioz

Marjolaine and Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer sit down and discuss Hector Berlioz and his Symphonie Fantastique.


26 Nov 2013

Rank #14

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Episode 28: Shostakovich

Marjolaine and Jeans-Jacques discuss Shostakovich, his life in the Soviet Union, and his 9th Symphony.


15 Jan 2013

Rank #15

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Episode 22: Sibelius Symphony No. 4

Jean-Jacques and Marjolaine give Sibelius's Symphony no. 4 the, "Explore the Symphony" treatment.


7 Jan 2013

Rank #16

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Episode 41: Maurice Ravel and his two Piano Concertos

Join Marjolaine Fournier and Jean-Jacques Van Vlasselaer for an intriguing look into Maurice Ravel's life and his two piano concertos.


23 Mar 2015

Rank #17

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Episode 2: Dvořàk Symphony No. 9

Discover one of classical music's best-loved symphonies, Dvořàk's 9th Symphony, in the context of the composer's life and times.


29 Nov 2007

Rank #18

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Richard Strauss - Also sprach Zarathustra

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don Juan, Death and Transfiguration, Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben, Symphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire. Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (Thus Spoke Zarathustra or Thus Spake Zarathustra) is a tone poem by Richard Strauss, composed in 1896 and inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche's philosophical novel of the same name.The composer conducted its first performance on 27 November 1896 in Frankfurt. A typical performance lasts half an hour. The work has been part of the classical repertoire since its first performance in 1896. The initial fanfare – titled "Sunrise" in the composer's program notes – became particularly well-known after its use in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. - Wikipedia

1hr 8mins

24 Jan 2017

Rank #19

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Sibelius’ Symphonic Poems

Jean-Jacques van Vlasselaer and Marjolaine Fournier present part two of their 2017-2018 podcasts on Sibelius. In this episode, hear them trace the trajectory of Sibelius’ six symphonic poems, all performed by the NAC Orchestra during the 2017 Ideas of North festival. Composed between 1896 and 1927, they delineate the “itinerary of Sibelius, the young composer who wanted to express Finnish worlds.” Drawing from the myths of Northern countries, he “moved from the creation of the world [with the first symphonic poem] to the end of his musical writing.”


27 Oct 2017

Rank #20