Ludwig Podcasts- A Beginner's Crash Course to Classical Music - All 10 podcasts smashed into one article

October 20, 2021, 3:40 AM · Recently, Primephonic went offline, permanently. Well, there was a big merger with a massive corporation, but I am not here to talk about business. There was a series of podcasts called Ludwig and, as of now, there are no traces of them anywhere in the new home of Classical Music.

For those of you who don’t know, Ludwig was a sort of a Crash Course in the history of Western Classical Music- from its birth to the present (it was so present, the Pandemic was included in it). And for those who skipped it and were waiting for a later time to listen to them, only to watch them slip out of your hands, ears rather, or want a revision or just want to know what it was, I will be trying to summarize all the ten podcasts here. But please do not expect the exact same words- for the sake of preserving intellectual property, among other things.

The podcasts were narrated by Guy Jones, the Head of Curation at Primephonic, and certainly expected to be at a similar post once everything is sorted. With his British accent, he started with the very definition of Classical Music, specifically Western Classical Music, and all its different names. The different eras and their signature qualities, the various forms of music and which instruments are used to play them and the similarity in compositions of two very contrasting composers and the difference of the same composer in his or her lifetime overall covered the first podcast called ‘Prelude’. The second podcast was about Hildegard von Bingen, well-known for having visions of God telling her what to do, even compose. With the invention of the Printing Press by German inventor Johannes Gutenberg and music being a physical property by then with new instruments being born every day back then, music started spreading across Europe, marking the birth of Classical Music in the Renaissance era. Johann Sebastian Bach was most of what Mr. Jones talked about in the 4th episode called the Baroque Era, from his journey to see Danish organist and composer Dieterich Buxtehude, on foot might I add, to composing the most revered Violin works after the untimely death of his first wife, and rightly so. Bach’s works went on to be the Holy Grail for composers who succeeded him and for someone like me, trapped my soul in this genre of music. The genius of Antonio Vivaldi, the later life of George Frederick Handel and the revolutionary establishment of concerti along with operas all made their way into that very episode, somehow. The Classical Era (my personal favourite) started with the emergence of symphonies, which replaced the Concerti Grosso, all thanks to Franz Joseph Haydn, which rightly attained him the title “The Father of Symphonies”. Also, he was considered as “The Father of String Quartets”. Also, he was generously fatherly. A pupil of Haydn and a child prodigy, the mischievous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with his stunted mental growth and premature death was the middle in this episode, all while achieving new levels of erudition with each composition. The end was dedicated to Ludwig van Beethoven, with his voyage that started at an ungrateful, ill-tempered student of Haydn, halted at a near-suicidal point and concluded, very much like one of his (and the) most famous works of all time, the 4th movement of his 9th Symphony, triumphantly forgiving, gloriously kind.

Beethoven also opened the doors to the Romantic era, which is anything but romantic. It is pained, scarred, heartbroken, forbidden, obsessive, twisted, tormented, and anything but romantic. And the podcast started with a retro Hollywood-movie like love story-ish of Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. Scrub further back in time, Robert Schumann himself admired Brahms, deservingly, and as they say, put him on the map, or in his case, his published journal. He reportedly died of syphilis after being driven mad by multiple psychological illnesses which made him hallucinate the ghosts of prominent musical figures of that time like Felix Mendelssohn and persistently hear the note ‘A’, and the actor who will play him in that imaginary movie will certainly get the Oscar for the best Supporting Actor (that death scene will be traumatizing, mark my words). Gustav Mahler with his under-ratedness then, and even now, indicated the end of the Era, and the episode, with his final notes of his final symphony (the ill-fated number 9) fading into silence, the feelings elicited being exactly opposite to those by Beethoven 9.

Then the First World War happened.

Not mentioned in the podcast, a good, few composers (and I am sure, even non-composers) went into depression. But we don’t care about them (sorry). We care about Claude Debussy. Having his inspiration sparked by the chimes of the traditional Indonesian bells, for me, Debussy is the instance of how inspiration can stem from literally anywhere or anything. By the time the Second World War started, many Jewish folks had immigrated to a freer United States, one of which was Eric Korngold, the most influential figure for Hollywood Original Scores. Jazz had a particular influence on Classical Music for some composers, most notably, Maurice Ravel, who preferred Jazz to Grand Opera. He also died in a very cruel manner (well, speaking of composers who came with a time difference between them and now of more than an average human life expectancy, one really must prepare themselves with death and illness before delving into their history, should’ve said that earlier). Igor Stravinsky’s sensational works like ‘The Rite of Spring’ and ‘Petrushka’ ignite debate of what’s inappropriate and what’s not, even decades after the works were first premiered. Arnold Schonberg and then his student John Cage and their contemporaries tried and tested anything that could to create more music, more new music. The former, on this expedition, earned himself the nickname of “the Bogeyman of Classical Music” and the latter is the most famous for 4’33”. There was so much to talk about in that saga that dishearteningly (and false relieving-ly), Dmitri Shostakovich’s harrowed life didn’t make the cut.

Here we are, in the 21st century, and quite a few composers are keeping Classical Music more than alive today. With operas being written on an internet infatuation to the more, tradition-based orchestral works, transcribing an instrument’s legendary artistry for another, playing and studying the evergreen accomplishments of those who came before us, it seems like Classical Music is here to do much more than just stay. It is here to live. And with musicians and composers (and youtubers) finding more and more innovative ways to connect with their ever-growing audience who are curious and hypnotized and dedicated, I’m sure Classical Music will outlive us, too.

P.S.: To quote Mr. Jones, this is just an entry point. There is so much to discover in Classical Music. There are the likes of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Frederic Chopin (who were mentioned), Jean Sibelius, Niccolò Paganini, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev and Franz Liszt (who weren’t mentioned) and so, so many more that I even don’t know of. But if you are beginner like I once was and looking for a starting point, my advice is to start. Just start. Don’t be intimidated by the opus numbers or the key signatures or the movement names and what nots. Given the sheer quantity of Classical Music, it won’t be a surprise that one might run into a disastrous mess, but the chances of that happening are quite astronomical. Test the waters and dive right in if the temperature’s right for you, I promise you, you won’t regret it.

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