VPR Classical

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In the Romantic Era, composers were no longer employees of the aristocracy; they composed for the people. This freedom was doubled-edged. Although it allowed the artistic genius of Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner to flourish, it also spawned a generation of composers who happily wrote crowd pleasing, disposable works for commercial success. Composers like Frederic Chopin rejected this “popularization” of music altogether by retreating from public performance and refusing to compromise his emerging artistic style. Ironically, Chopin’s music became (and has remained) extremely popular.

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For the first 50 years after his death, the majority of J.S. Bach’s music remained unpublished and unperformed.  The 19th century saw an unprecedented return to his music in what we call “The Bach Revival."

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Felix Mendelssohn had natural artistic talent to spare. He was a painter, poet, pianist and composer who not only left the world an impressive body of work but also helped revive the music of the past for generations to come.

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Hector Berlioz was passionate about music, love and literature. He was brash and opinionated, isolating others and ultimately himself. Although he was unappreciated during his lifetime, today he stands as the quintessential French Romantic composer of the 19th Century.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur/Times-Argus

March's Student Composer Showcase is Colin Desch. The Montpelier High School ninth grader already has a recent Vermont Symphony Orchestra premiere under his belt.

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Franz Schubert lived to be only 31 years old, but he left behind more than a lifetime’s worth of music. Schubert wrote over 600 songs, numerous chamber and symphonic works. Even his unfinished 8th symphony has become a staple in our modern concert halls, quite impressive for a composer who had very little exposure while he was alive.

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Italian opera was in severe decline in the first decade of the 19th Century. However, thanks to the works of composers like Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini, a new golden age was about to dawn. The brightest star of this new operatic style was Gioachino Rossini.


Join Reuben Jackson, host of Where Have We Met Before, for his second annual pre-Academy Awards program. The show features selections from memorable Hollywood film scores by David Amram, Bernard Herrmann, Duke Ellington, Terrence Blanchard, and many others.

Broadcast Saturday 2/20 at 11 a.m. and Monday 2/22 at 8 p.m.

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Beethoven loomed so large in early 19th Century Germany that other composers are often overlooked. One prime example is Carl Maria von Weber, a founder of the Romantic Movement.

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The last decade of the 18th century was a time of incredible change in the western world. The technological advances of the industrial revolution, the wars and upheaval of the enlightenment and the rise of scientific rationalization had eroded old certainties within the collective consciousness.

In other words, when you question or change all of the old rules of society, technology, politics and religion what are you left with? You’re left with yourself – at least that’s answer the Romantics gave.

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Composers were not the only ones who shaped the course of music. Sometimes a librarian influences the future in ways that no one could ever imagine. Baron Gottfried van Swieten is a name that isn’t too familiar in the musical world today but his work, energy and encouragement touched a generation of composers.

Musicians have been sampling other artists' songs for decades. Though some get into hot water when they blur the lines between homage and theft, when pop culture borrows a tune from classical music, it's usually more flattery than fines.

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The years 1813 to 1816 were a dry period for Beethoven. He was wrestling with his health and with his family.

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At the dawning of the 19th century, Beethoven had not given up hope that his doctors would find a treatment to reverse his hearing loss. His condition was not only affecting his musical output but also his social life, which was very important to him.

Ludwig van Beethoven has been called the most admired composer in all of music history. His legacy stands as a monument for the entire 19th century and beyond.

Billy Reed / Flickr

With the holiday season come performances of Handel's Messiah

Know of a Messiah performance or sing-along not listed here?  Tell us about it! 

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The word "symphony" is one of the most iconic musical terms, but what makes a piece of music a symphony? The term itself is a compound word with Greek roots meaning “sounding together."

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Franz Joseph Haydn is a towering figure of the Classical era. He didn’t just mimic the changes of the late 18th century, in a large way, his music was the change. He forged new genres. 


December's Student Composer Showcase features Erik Heitsmith, a 7th grader at Black River Middle School in Ludlow. Erik's pieces begin with a musical germ inspired by "an everyday activity. Like brushing your teeth, or eating breakfast.”

Broadcast Monday Dec. 7 at 11:30 a.m.; Wednesday Dec. 9 at 8:30 a.m.; Friday Dec. 11 at 4 p.m.; Saturday Dec. 12 at 9 a.m.

Ken Howard/Metropolitain Opera

Launched in 1931, the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday matinee broadcasts are the longest-running continuous classical music program in radio history. Find information about these productions here.

Listen Saturday afternoons during the Met season at 1.