Either written or spoken while the work is playing. I feel like there’s layers and layers that’s just passing by me. For example, Ebert’s commentary for Citizen Kane was like a revelation for me in movie watching and for seeing that film for how monumental it was. Is there anything similar for concert/classical music?
Leonard Bernstein delivered a number of lectures on the structure of classical music. Some of these are available on YouTube. My favorite one was on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, if you can find it.
You might investigate the works of Peter Schickele. He was a composer and music educator who worked tirelessly to make classical music approachable to modern Americans. A brief google search showed no convenient way to listen to his now long defunct radio show “Schickele Mix”. If anyone can post an appropriate link then I would greatly appreciate it.
Apparently I forgot to complete a post I began earlier today. I was suggesting this live commentary during a performance of Betthoven’s Fifth.
I understand there are multiple copyright issues with that wonderful and educational show. Each half-hour used a handful of clips from widely-scattered (in space and time) sources, and was originally licensed for PBS radio only. Apparently, as has so often happened, no one thought about other outlets or venues, or perhaps it was too costly to consider. Schickele has said that clearing up the copyright issues would be prohibitably expensive and maybe impossible. I wrote him once, offering to assist, as I have a little experience in the field, but never received a reply.
But I do have his autograph in a book, so there’s that. I also have two off-air audio recordings. I wonder what would happen if I posted those publicly.
There are some large torrents that have a couple seeders each. Though we should always keep looking for legal ways to appreciate these artists and presenters.
I found the lectures of Robert Greenberg especially helpful. In his Beethoven series, he spent two lectures on the Fifth Symphony, and they were full of insights I had never heard before. And his series on Verdi was especially riveting. His lectures are available on Audible.
If you go to a classical concert, there are often program notes in the concert program. These are texts about the music.
I used to write program notes.
Around 25 years ago, Microsoft produced a series of CD-ROMs, each of which focused on a particular composer and piece. The one on Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, for instance, played the music as animation showed the structure of the music. It was really well done. I have the CDs here somewhere, but I doubt they would work in a modern PC. These titles were produced when the concept of “multimedia software” was new and were useful as a demonstration of what was possible.
There’s also a handful of introductions to specific works that he recorded for the Phoenix Symphony, available here on YouTube. But these, and some of the other responses in this thread, while good, are not exactly what the OP is asking for (commentary that accompanies the entire work itself while it’s playing).
“Was?” He’s still with us, and has appeared in public as recently as September.
On his third PDQ Bach album, Report From Hoople, there’s a track called New Horizons in Music Appreciation. It’s a performance of Beethoven’s 5th with play by play and color commentary.
Another suggestion; here are some lessons from Khan Academy on various classical pieces.
The San Francisco Symphony has a series of podcasts that cover the standard repertory as well as a few pieces outside of it.