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 and Music of Amy Beach, an American pioneer

    The Life and Music of Amy Beach, an American pioneer

    Episode 16 March 10, 2020

    She was America's first woman composer to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra and the first American composer fully educated in the United States. She was praised and recognized but her journey to success was an uphill battle with obstacles and challenges.
  • Haydn's final London Symphony

    Haydn's final London Symphony

    Episode 15 February 25, 2020

    Let's go on a musical deep dive of Haydn's final symphony. With musical examples we can breakdown Sonata Form, hear influences of other composers, and folk song!
  • What is a Symphony? Part 2

    What is a Symphony? Part 2

    Episode 14 February 11, 2020

    Beethoven changed all ideas and expectations about the Symphony. Bill Bukowski joins me as we figure out what happened to the symphony after Beethoven through the 21st century.
  • The life of Mozart

    The life of Mozart

    Episode 13 January 28, 2020

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life was kind of complicated. His childhood as a musical prodigy was filled with practicing, writing music, and performing for royalty throughout Europe. He later struggled at times finding suitable employment and wanted to find his own path. It was a life lived under the watchful eye of his father, Leopold Mozart, and cut short at the age of 35.
  • The Planets by Holst

    The Planets by Holst

    Episode 12 January 14, 2020

    Discover music by Holst that was inspired by the gods our planets are named after in our solar system. This seven-movement orchestral suite includes the terrifying sounds of war, the comfort of peace, jollity, and so much more.
  • Tchaikovsky's The Seasons

    Tchaikovsky's The Seasons

    Episode 11 December 31, 2019

    Get into the new year with a work that has music for every month! Tchaikovsky's The Seasons also includes poetry and gives us a glimpse into Russian life, month by month in 1876.
  • What does a conductor do?

    What does a conductor do?

    Episode 10 December 17, 2019

    Waving a baton is just a small part of being a conductor. Michelle Merrill tells what it's like to prepare a concert with an orchestra, from the year before to the downbeat of the concert.
  • What is a Symphonic Poem?

    What is a Symphonic Poem?

    Episode 8 November 19, 2019

    Discover one of the more colorful genres of classical music, the Symphonic Poem, which can depict animals, landscape, literature, and even football players!
  • The Abeo Quartet performs Moonshot

    The Abeo Quartet performs Moonshot

    Episode 6 October 22, 2019

    The Abeo Quartet performs Moonshot, a new work by Alistair Coleman. Alistair talks about the inspiration for this piece, and after the performance, we talk with the quartet about putting this piece together, new playing techniques, and space travel!