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What It's All About

In response to the 2021 lockdown, I decided to give a weekly Zoom talk based on the ABC Classic FM annual top 100 countdown. The topic was ‘music you can’t live without’. 

I started with the most popular and continued until restrictions eased, 15 weeks later. This series, in three parts, gives the historic background to each piece and composer, and an analysis of the music. 

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Covid Concerns ~ Part One

Part Three

The Emperor Concerto

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No5 in Eb Major op 73 was written between 1809-1811 in Vienna and dedicated to Archduke Rudolf. The ‘Emperor’ is one of the most accomplished of all piano concertos, with a striking opening movement and a glorious rondo finale, but it is the beauty and serenity of the hymn-like adagio which makes it one of Beethoven’s best. In this class we will be exploring the history of this piece and looking at what makes it quite so special.


Beethoven Symphony Number Nine

The nineth symphony is one of the greatest works in the classical repertoire, regarded as the pinnacle of Beethoven’s achievements and a culmination of his genius. Written between 1822-1824, it is remarkable not only for its grandness of scale but also being the first composition from a major composer to use voices, the Ode to Joy from Friedrich Schiller.


Vaughan Williams – 
The Lark Ascending

Vaughan Williams is one of the great English composers. Rooted in the past, he believed that it was essential to understand one’s own national music; its traditions and melodic development in making a personal style. The Lark Ascending, written in 1914, was inspired by a poem by George Meredith where the violin becomes both the bird song and its flight.


Vivaldi – The Four 

These are a group of four violin concerti each giving musical expression to the seasons of the year. Composed around 1718, they were a total revolution in musical conception. Included with each concerto is a sonnet which is represented musically, line by line, including flowing creeks, singing birds and barking dogs.


Elgar – The Enigma 

Although Elgar is regarded as a typical English composer, most of his musical influences were not from England but the Continent instead. The genesis of his Enigma Variations began when he was tinkering on the piano imitating various friend’s characteristics. The unveiling of each of these friends was one of the enigmas..although there are other ‘enigmas’ as well.


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Covid Concerns ~ Part Two

Handel – Messiah

In 1741 Handel was sent the libretto for a new oratorio based on the Messiah. Completing it in just 24 days, it was a great hit when it was first performed in Dublin but not so when it was then performed in London. By the time of his death in 1759 it was his most performed oratorio.


Dvorak 9th Symphony 

Antonin Dvorak was a highly successful nationalist composer in his home of Bohemia. He was one of the first Czech composers to gain worldwide recognition, using folk music of Moravia and Bohemia in his music. In 1892 he was invited to America where he was commissioned to write his 9th Symphony. This piece is usually called the ‘New World’ indicating it is about America but is actually called “From the New World” where he looks back at his native Bohemia from distant America.


Bach – Cello Suites

Bach wrote the Cello Suites between 1717-1723 while in Cothen. These pieces are remarkable for many reasons. One is that music for solo instruments was almost unheard of at the time except some for solo violin, with the cello was only seen as an accompanying instrument rather than soloistic. It is hard to understand the boldness of this composition from a 21st century standpoint. In it, Bach entered uncharted waters and gave the cello a new role in the musical world.


Mozart – Clarinet Concerto K622

Although named a Clarinet Concerto, this piece was actually written for a Bassett Clarinet, a longer instrument with a chocolaty lower range. This was Mozart’s last completed composition. Two months after its premier, he was dead. This concerto, whichever instrument it is played on, if often considered the greatest concerto written.


Holst – The Planets

Written between 1914-17, this piece displays the full range of Holst’s musical background; from the English plainsong tradition to the sophistication and cosmopolitanism of contemporary ideas and influences from the German, Austrian and Russian composers. Holst always denied that this suite had any connection to the Zodiac but still the music conjures up images of the mythological deities.


Part Three

Part One

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Covid Concerns ~ Part Three

Morricone – The Mission

This talk gives an overview of how music and film came together. It then looks at how Morricone changed the sound of cinema forever in his more than 400 scores for television and film. The Mission from 1986 has some of his most memorable themes.


Spiegel im Spiegel

Estonian Part is an extraordinary musician. His music is among the most frequently performed of all contemporary composers. This piece looks easy on paper, but its transparency makes it one of the most difficult in most soloist’s repertoire.


Saint Saens –

Symphony No 3

Saint-Saens wrote this symphony, commonly known as the Organ Symphony, at a time when the form was under attack. This was not only in his native France but throughout Europe. In writing this piece, he wanted to prove that the symphony was in fact not a dead genre.


Allegri – Miserere

The Miserere we know, with its soring top C in the boy soprano and its exquisite Renaissance polyphony bares only a small amount of similarity to what Allegri actually wrote in 1638. This talk explores how it changed over time.


Rachmaninov – 
Piano Concerto no 2

This concerto premiered in Moscow in 1901 with Rachmaninov at the piano. It was an astounding success marking the moment where he returned from years of severe depression, establishing himself as an international celebrity and his music lauded all over the world.


Part One

Part Two

Series 13
15 Episodes
The Em . . .
Episode 1
Beetho . . .
Episode 2
Vivald . . .
Episode 4
Elgar -  . . .
Episode 4

Covid's Countdown Concerts

In response to the 2021 lockdown, I decided to give a weekly Zoom talk based on the ABC Classic FM annual top 100 countdown. The topic was ‘music you can’t live without’. I started with the most popular and continued until restrictions eased, 15 weeks later.

Learn More

Here's What You Need To Know

Date & Time

All classes are held once a month and last for 1 and a half hours starting with coffee and cake.


Locations are the Eastern suburbs or North Shore. They are easily accessable by public transport.


Classes may be conducted elsewhere and can be customised to fit your specific group.

Classes & Groups

Classes must be taken as a series of 6. A minimum of 5 people is required to join a class.


Address will be supplied upon enrolment.

Join Coffee Cake & Culture

Courses do not necessarily follow the term calendar. Organise a group of friends for private classes or join in an existing group.

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