A Luminous ‘Aria Code’ Joins a Meager Field of Classical Music Podcasts | Modern Society of USA

A Luminous ‘Aria Code’ Joins a Meager Field of Classical Music Podcasts

A Luminous ‘Aria Code’ Joins a Meager Field of Classical Music Podcasts

Most episodes of “Sticky Notes” are devoted to a single work. With endless enthusiasm and a curious mind, Mr. Weilerstein offers historical context and musical analysis (rarely too technical for outsiders), as well as a wealth of illustrative audio clips; the effect is like program notes for his concerts brought to life.

The works featured aren’t much different from what you’d hear from your local orchestra — which is to say “Sticky Notes” doesn’t stray far from the classical music canon. Occasionally, themed episodes feature, for example, female composers or “degenerate music” suppressed by the Nazis; but the treatment of these topics inevitably feels superficial compared with, say, a recent two-part exploration of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

To be fair, “Sticky Notes” is a humble operation, and Mr. Weilerstein shouldn’t be expected to carry the spread of history on his own. And, up until last year, contemporary classical music had been well represented in “Meet the Composer,” a podcast that ran from 2014 to ’17, also made by the New York Public Radio family that presents “Aria Code.”

Imaginatively produced by Alex Overington and hosted by the violist Nadia Sirota (who now hosts the New York Philharmonic’s Nightcap event series), “Meet the Composer” was devoted entirely to contemporary music; each episode was a vivid portrait, poetic yet informative, of a living composer. The archive is online and worth listening to — revisiting, even, if you’re about to hear a new piece by someone like Andrew Norman or Anna Thorvaldsdottir.

Ever since “Meet the Composer” ended, I’ve been waiting for a new show to fill the niche it left behind. “Classical Chicago,” a podcast by the record label Cedille, is one candidate; its episodes are tied to album releases, like a recent one featuring the violinist Jennifer Koh about the music of Kaija Saariaho. And it was heartening to see that New Amsterdam Records — a wide-ranging and essential label — recently announced it would launch a podcast, not yet titled, in 2019, “giving more people the opportunity to learn about music that is moving and meaningful.”

That mission sounds a lot like “Aria Code,” but the two shows are inherently different. One aims to illuminate great music of the past; the other, of the future. The ecosystem of classical music podcasts needs both.

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