Classical Breakdown

John Banther takes classical music fans behind the scenes with interviews, deep dives, and analysis. Episodes released bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Produced by WETA Classical in Washington, D.C.


  • The Life of Sergei Rachmaninoff

    The Life of Sergei Rachmaninoff

    Episode 50 October 19, 2021

    Linda and John uncover details about Rachmaninoff's life, like early influences that stayed with him his entire career, his comeback story after a disastrous symphony premiere, and what led to him emigrating to the United States. Plus, we hear some recordings of Rachmaninoff himself at the piano from the early 1900s.
  • What is a Clarinet?

    What is a Clarinet?

    Episode 49 October 5, 2021

    It's a popular instrument, but how much do you really know about the clarinet? Principal Clarinet of the National Symphony Orchestra, Lin Ma, joins John Banther to talk all about the clarinet. Lin tells us everything, from what it's made of, its predecessor, how it was used over time, and he even plays some of his favorite examples!
  • The life of Tchaikovsky

    Tchaikovsky's triumphant Symphony No. 5

    Episode 48 September 21, 2021

    This symphony is one of the most popular and triumphant in the repertoire, and for good reason! It takes us on a journey using a simple melody that appears in every movement, transforming from the opening in E minor to the triumphant E Major finale. John and Bill go through Tchaikovsky's personal correspondence during the months he was writing the symphony, show you what to listen for, and teach you a compositional technique used still today. 
  • The Life of Leonard Bernstein

    The Life of Leonard Bernstein

    Episode 47 September 7, 2021

    How much do you really know about one of America's most treasured artists? There is a lot to explore in his early life in Massachusetts, his meteoric rise to fame in New York, and the unique characteristics we find all over his music.
  • Season 3 starts September 7!

    Season 3 starts September 7!

    August 31, 2021

    It's been a nice summer break, but we are excited to be back with your favorite classical music podcast! We kick things off on September 7 as Matthew Dayton joins John Banther to explore the life and music of Leonard Bernstein. The following episode, September 21, is all about one of the most popular symphonies, the No. 5 by Tchaikovsky. Bill Bukowski and John Banther explore the symphonies insecure origins and what to listen for in the music.
  • New classical albums to listen to this summer!

    New classical albums to listen to this summer!

    Episode 46 June 29, 2021

    We wrap up Season 2 of Classical Breakdown with some recommended recordings for you to explore this summer. These recently released albums feature a diverse range of composers, styles, ensembles, and even world premiere recordings. 
  • The Life of Johannes Brahms

    The Life of Johannes Brahms

    Episode 43 May 18, 2021

    He's considered one of the greatest composers of the 19th century. But can you hum a tune by Brahms? We dive into the life and music of Brahms to better understand what set him apart from others, how his personality affected his music, and how he still appears in popular music and commercials today. 
  • What is a Concerto?

    What is a Concerto?

    Episode 42 May 4, 2021

    Where did the concerto come from and how did it evolve? We explore its origins, development through Haydn and Mozart, some of the most challenging concertos of the 19th century, and a couple of "hidden gems."