The Forum or Palais theatres are often regarded as Melbourne’s most famous and beautiful live venue gigs, but one venue that's comparatively only in its infancy could top them both...if not in history, certainly in beauty.
On the corner of Southbank Boulevard and Sturt Street you’ll find the Melbourne Recital Centre.
The Recital Centre is known for its amazing acoustics and has been home to a host of Australia’s best classical orchestras over the years, including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It’s added another layer to Melbourne’s vast, rich and iconic music culture.
Also arising out of the Melbourne Recital Centre is the podcast Classical Uncovered with Graham Abbot, a podcast that is “designed to demystify corners of the classical music world”. A podcast that is not just for classical music fans, but also those with just a passing interest in classical music, or those hoping to discover more about a genre they know little about.
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This writer is in that later category, and I have to admit Classical Uncovered must have had some impact on me, listening to Mozart as I write this. For lack of a better term, some of this music really slaps.
To those in the know when it comes to classical music, Graham Abbot, our host, would be a familiar name. He is a producer and conductor with a long history in the Australian classical music industry. He has been Conductor-in-Residence at the Elder Conservatorium of Music Adelaide, Musical Director of the Adelaide Philharmonic Chorus, Associate Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Musical Director of Melbourne Chorale. So, when he is explaining the finer parts of classical music, you know you are in good hands.
Abbot is clearly passionate about classical music, and you can’t help but get sucked in by his rather soothing voice. I found myself greatly enjoying the episodes even though I have little knowledge of classical music. This may be due to the episodes’ easy to digest lengths, rarely spanning longer than 20 minutes. There can be a little bit of jargon that not everyone will be familiar with, so I’m sure the podcast is slightly more engaging for those who are already fans of classical music, but it really didn’t take too much away from my enjoyment.
The latest episode, ‘What makes Mozart ‘great’?’ was the last of a four-episode arc that also looked into classical musicians Brahms, Schubert and Beethoven. The sound quality was spot on, with Abbot’s voice projecting crystal clear. I was surprised that there was no musical accompaniments for the episodes though, not even background music.
The first half of the episode was a dive into the history and background of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and was packed with interesting details about the prodigal talent. The look into his history discussed his family – he had a sister of nearly equal talent, who in a different day and age may have been as well renowned as her brother – about how he only ever wrote for commission, composing as a job only and how he spent much of his adult life flirting with the poverty line before passing away at only 35-years of age.
The final half of the episode spoke more directly about his works and what made him “great”. It was a more technical eight or so minutes, but it was still laced with interesting information. With Abbot talking on Mozart’s two biggest strengths, piano concerto and opera, in which his talents “almost defied description”. Abbot also touches on how we hear classical music now, compared to how we heard it when it was produced.
As well as the episodes looking at other big names in classical music, the back catalogue also houses ‘What is?’ episodes that look into classical music basics like chamber music, key and form as well as episodes dedicated to the different musical eras. This makes Classical Uncovered a really good starting point for those hoping to learn more about the genre.
Classical Uncovered with Graham Abbot is a good podcast to sink your teeth into for both seasoned classical music vets and the uninitiated. Its short run time and interesting content keeps you engaged and likely wanting to come back for another taste.
You can learn all about your concertos and the difference between C-Majors and D-Minors with Classical Uncovered with Graham Abbot on all major streaming platforms. Find it here.