Dr. Magdalena Stern-Baczewska [pron. BaCHEVska]

Grand Piano Series

The focus of this course is on some of the most beloved masterpieces of Western art music in their historical and cultural contexts. The main purpose of this course is to derive pleasure from listening and thinking about music. The specific goals of the course are to awaken and encourage active, critical, and comparative listening practices, to give you the tools to respond to a variety of musical idioms in the Western tradition, and to engage you in the issues of various debates about the character and purposes of music that have occupied composers and musical thinkers since ancient times.


The course begins with the fundamentals of musical concepts and vocabulary in order to develop a shared level of discourse in the class. We will then look at the changing genres and styles of music, examining composer’s choices and assumptions, as well as those of their patrons and audiences, as we move chronologically (though not by connecting the dots—this is not a history course) from the Middle Ages to the present. Your critical perceptions and responses to the music will be a vital part of the class. No musical background is presupposed.

No textbook is required for this course. The primary texts of this class are pieces of music. As a part of guided listening, you will be asked specific questions about each piece. Class participation is essential.


The purpose of the course is to help you get accustomed to speaking about music. Although for many of you it might feel foreign and unnatural at first, everyone is encouraged to take part in the discussion.




CLASS 1: Elements of Music / Medieval music


READ: 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music. Do you have your favorite 5 minutes of classical music that you wish to share with everyone? Think about what about the music that makes you feel this way.


WATCH: Pauline Oliveros’ lecture The difference between hearing and listening.


- Hildegard von Bingen: O viridissima virga (plainchant, 12th c.)
- Perotin: Viderunt Omnes (organum, 13 th c.)
- Machaut: Douce dame jolie (chanson, 14 th c.)


Sacred, secular music, musical textures, metered and unmetered rhythm, Gregorian chant, Notre Dame school, courtly love.


CLASS 2: Renaissance


- Josquin: Ave Maria (motet, c. 1485)
- Weelkes: “As Vesta was from Latmos Hill descending” (madrigal, 1601)


Motet, madrigal, imitative polyphony, word painting.


CLASS 3: Baroque


- J. S. Bach:
- Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 847 (Well-Tempered Clavier, Bk. I, 1722) performed on each of these keyboard instruments: Clavichord / Modern piano / Organ / Harpsichord
- Handel: Messiah (oratorio, 1742)
- Purcell: Dido and Aeneas, Dido’s Lament (1689)


Recitative, aria, opera, oratorio, prelude, fugue, Baroque keyboards.


CLASS 4: Viennese Classicism: Mozart, Haydn


- Mozart: La ci darem la mano (duet from Don Giovanni (opera buffa/dramma giocoso, 1787)
- Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453 (1784)


Opera, concerto, symphony, string quartet, changing role of the artist in society.


CLASS 5: Viennese Classicism continued: Beethoven


Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in C minor (symphony, 1808) - 1st movement only (0:00-8:00)
Beethoven: a selected piano sonata. If you have a favorite and would like to cover it in class please email
Milana by Thursday, 10/22!

Sonata form, symphony, motivic unity, extramusical concepts in Beethoven’s music.


CLASS 6: Early Romanticism: Schubert and Berlioz


- Schubert: Erlkönig (Lied, 1815)
- Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique (program symphony, 1830) - excerpts


Program music vs. absolute music, Lied, idée fixe, Romanticism


CLASS 7: Romanticism continued: Chopin and the Schumanns


Clara Wieck-Schumann (1819 – 1896): Nocturne op. 6 no. 2
Fryderyk Chopin (1810 - 1849):

- Mazurka op. 24, no. 2
- Mazurka op. 56, no. 2
- Nocturne in C-sharp minor, op. potshumous

Character piece, nationalism in music, Romantic style


CLASS 8: Opera: Bizet and Wagner


G. Bizet: Carmen (opera, 1875)
- Ouverture (starts around 1:15)
- Habanera
- Seguidilla
- Toreador (start at 2:02)
- Final scene
The Ring of the Nibelung (cycle of four operas 1876)
- The Ride of the Valkyres - Die Walküre from Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (drama/opera, 1876):


Leitmotive, Gesamtkunstwerk, opera and drama, opera comique
Wagner’s Ring Cycle: where to start


CLASS 9: Modernism in Paris and Vienna: Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg


Debussy: Voiles, from Preludes for Piano, vol. 1 (character piece, 1909)
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring (ballet, 1913) - excerpts
Schoenberg: Pierrot lunaire (expressionist song cycle, 1912): 18. Der Mondfleck


The Velvet Revolution of Claude Debussy, Musical Expressionism, the emancipation of the dissonance,
polytonality, polyrhythm.


CLASS 10: Modernism in the United States/Jazz


John Cage
Cage: Sonatas and Interludes Prepared Piano (1946-48): Sonata V (character piece)
John Cage: 4’33’’

Ragtime, Blues, and Jazz
Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag (character piece 1899)
Oliver/Armstrong: West End Blues (blues, 1927)
Ellington: It Don't Mean a Thing
Parker: Ornithology


Jazz, blues, ragtime, improvisation, swing, bebop. What is music?



I like classical music, but I don't know much about it. Is this series right for me?

Yes, absolutely! This lecture series is designed for people interested in but who might not have had a lot of exposure to classical music. It will help you get familiar with the language of different styles of music and periods.


I am very interested, but I am self-conscious about participating.

Can’t I just listen?

Of course! No one will force you to speak if you are uncomfortable. Magdalena is such a positive and supportive teacher; you might be surprised how easy it is to participate and how much you have to offer. Just review our clip presenting the masterclass she did with us, and you will understand.


What music will we listen to?

You'll hear a wide range of music: early keyboard and vocal music, Symphonies, and Operas; Chopin compositions and Jazz compositions. Please be sure to check out our syllabus online and see a detailed description of the course. Click here to view the syllabus.


Who is Magdalena Baczewska?

Polish-born pianist and harpsichordist MAGDALENA BACZEWSKA [ba-CHEV-ska] has enjoyed a multifaceted career as concertizer, educator, recording artist, producer, and administrator.


Director of the Music Performance Program and Lecturer in Music at Columbia University in the City of New York, Baczewska has been acclaimed as a "world-class" musician (The American Record Guide), lauded as "eloquent & technically flawless" (The Washington Post) and "highly sophisticated and truly admirable" (The Weekend, New York) in her "taste and admirable sensitivity" (Palm Beach Arts Paper). Read Full Bio.


Okay, we know, she is scary smart. Just as important as all that, she is a truly warm and friendly instructor. Again, check out our masterclass video. She makes learning fun, and everyone leaves with a smile.


When I visited your website, I noticed there are two sessions - Adult and Youth. Please tell me more!

We have created two different groups one is for Adults (October 1 - December 10) and another for Youth (October 3 - December 12). Both programs present similar material, but the adult program relies more on verbal communications and less on the use of technology to make it easier for all to participate.


What is the age group for the Youth session?

The youth course is designed for kids that are in Middle and High School.


How many participants will be in each group?

We will have a maximum of 25 participants per session. This will give you a chance to ask questions and engage in meaningful discussions with Magdalena and other participants if you wish. 


When does the series begin?

Adult session starts on October 1 and ends on December 10.

Youth session starts on October 3 and ends on December 12.


No sessions during Thanksgiving week.


My child is interested in music, but we can't afford to take the course. Do you have any scholarships?

Yes, please don't let the price keep you away from signing up your child for this experience. Please reach out for more information on how to apply for a scholarship.


What happens if I can't make it to one of the classes and miss a session?

All sessions will be recorded, and you will have a chance to listen to the music, discussion, and explanation at your convenience later.


Are there any tests?

No tests. No textbooks. No homework. The only requirement is to be curious and open-minded about the experience.


How much does the series cost?

"Enjoyment of Music" is a series of 10 lectures, and the cost is $200 per person for the full series.



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Grand Piano Series does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, parental status, or disability in any of its programs, services, employment, or activities.​

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© 2016 by Grand Piano Series. Site designed & maintained by Milana Strezeva