Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Elaine Annable
Features Writer
5:06 PM 29th March 2021

Review: Primephonic's Ludwig

Have you ever wanted to learn about classical music, but not known where to start? Ever wondered what symphonies, concertos and sonatas actually are? Well, look no further, Primephonic has recently launched 'Ludwig', a 10-week cultural self-improvement course designed to turn the fledgling classical music lover into a certified aficionado.

An innovative new approach to learning about classical, Ludwig is 99% listening and just 1% reading. Combined with a flexible curriculum (1-8 hours per week) that allows you to study whenever and wherever you like, students can build their knowledge in a way that suits that suits their lifestyle.

Many people see classical music as music of the past and rather intellectual and difficult to get into, but it is just like any other kind of music.

As Duke Ellington said: “there are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.”

Guy Jones, Primephonic’s ‘Head of Curation’, has created Ludwig to tell the world about classical music and address some misconceptions.

He says: “The purpose of the course is to give a basic foundation in how this music has changed and grown over time, a tour of the very best music of the last 1500 years and to allow you to discover for yourself what you like.”

A personable guide, he divides musical history into periods - usually one per episode - and in ten podcasts of around 30 minutes in length tells the story of music’s evolution at the hands of the great composers.

The first episode is basically a whistle stop tour through the musical genres: solo instrumental music; chamber music; orchestral music; concertos; ballet music, opera etc, during which he lays the groundwork for future episodes by covering a few basics and key terms.

These are then explored in more detail over the following weeks starting with the Baroque period and continuing through the Classical; Romantic; 20th Century (two episodes); and 21st Century. The Medieval and Renaissance periods are left to the end of the course, presumably when the student will be more than ready for the unique sound world of Early Music.

Each podcast starts with an encounter between composers and musicians or influential figures of the time. Used as an entry point to explore the music of each era, it cleverly captures the listeners’ interest. Well chosen musical excerpts illustrate the different musical forms of that period and these are heard in full in a playlist at the end of the podcast.

In the week following the podcast students also receive three short email lessons - usually no more than 3 paragraphs - that are intended to help the serious beginner better understand the key events and trends in classical music history. Fascinating snippets of information are accompanied by short playlists on genres and composers which are surprising and fun. Indeed, it is impossible to predict what is coming next: one day you can be listening to a Concerto for Turntables by Gabriel Prokofiev and the next learning about Franz Liszt - the original rockstar.

The final podcast rounds off the series nicely by looking at the classical music industry of today and discusses how musicians and ensembles actually operate in the 21th century.

Guy Jones is the first to admit that he can only scratch the surface of all there is to hear, but hopes he can inspire his students to explore further.

Primephonic CEO Thomas Steffens says of classical music: “To ensure the genre’s survival amidst the digital revolution, we also need to make it more accessible for those with less knowledge about the genre, especially since the education system has dramatically lowered coverage of classical music in its curriculums.”

Primephonic is certainly having a good crack at this. I am not aware of any other streaming service that is currently offering a similar course and I think that this new initiative will be very popular with new listeners. Aimed principally at people who aren’t already using Primephonic, it acts as an ideal introduction to its app and catalogue.

Guy Jones says: “After completing the course, the serious beginner should understand the key periods, composers, and works throughout the genre’s rich history. More importantly, they will have the confidence to explore and discover the music that they like among the hugely varied world of classical music.”

Ludwig is priced at £17.99 - £5.99 a month (paid over three months) with full access to Primephonic’s main site.