Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Live Concert Webcast: Beethoven, Haydn, and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 9PM EDT (GMT-4) the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will present a live concert on its website.  It is also viewable on the SPCO’s app for Apple and Android.  Conductor Thomas Zehetmair and the orchestra will present the following program:

Ludwig van BeethovenRomance No. 1 for Violin (Eunice Kim, violin)

Jean-Féry Rebel: The Elements (this take on the creation of the world includes a movement, Chaos, which is strikingly modern even though it was written in 1737).

Claude Vivier: Zipangu

Franz Joseph HaydnSymphony No. 95 in C Minor

Here’s the link to watch the concert.

The concert will be added to the on-demand concert library thereafter (great collection, check it out), which is available on the website or via the SPCO app.


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Haiku Wednesday: Chopin on Period Pianos

Frederic Chopin
What would Chopin play
If given the choice today:
By Erard, Pleyel,
A Broadwood, Buchholtz, or Graf?
Or would Chopin choose
A Bösendorfer,
A Steinway D, or maybe
A Fazioli?
We’ll never know, but
We can hear his music on
Antique pianos.

Today’s post was prompted by a livestream of the 1st International Chopin Competition on Period Instruments presented by the Chopin Institute.  The institute will hold international competitions using period instruments once every five years.  You can read about the pianos hereYou can see a recording of the first stage, AM session here and you can see the PM session here.  The early stages of the competition will also include pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach.  Videos of the entire competition will be made available on the Chopin Institute’s YouTube channel and its Facebook page, and, if you’re on the go, via a free app for iOs and Android.

Watching people play 19th century instruments on a cell phone.  Surreal.

Performances from previous years’ competitions (on modern pianos) may also be viewed on the institute’s YouTube channel.

It’s an interesting concept, and I am curious to see how competitors may tailor their performances to the different responsiveness of period instruments.  Will they coax from these more delicate instruments a sound similar to what Chopin might have heard as he played?  Will they select a piano with two foot pedals…or with four?  The pianos also vary in the number of keys on the keyboard, varying from 6-1/2 to 7 octaves (a modern piano has just over 7, a Bösendorfer Imperial has 8).

You will certainly enjoy hours of piano music.  The last phase of the competition will feature performances with an orchestra.

Here is a video of a performance of Chopin’s Fantasy Impromptu on Chopin’s own piano, an 1848 Pleyel.


Image attribution:  Drawing of Chopin by Maria Wodzińska (Own work copied by Nihil novi) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,

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Some Moosic from Edvard Grieg

A Cow, photo by Dave Wild (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo by Dave Wild.

I was driving through the countryside the other day, and saw some cows grazing in a field.  I was reminded of Edvard Grieg’s Cattle Call, a solo piano piece I had played a long time ago.  Grieg has always been a favorite of mine.  I particularly enjoy the little vignettes he creates in his solo piano miniatures, in particular, his Lyric Pieces.

When I went to look it up again, I remembered that there was more than one Cattle Call.  There are four pieces known as Cattle Call, or Cow Call, or Cow Keeper’s Tune.  Op. 17 No. 22 and Op. 66 No. 1 were written for solo piano.  Op. 63 No. 2, which expands on the first Cattle Call, was written for a string ensemble.  And there is a song called Cow Call from Op. 67.

Each of them evokes a peaceful, bucolic, restful end-of-the-day feeling.  This is music to make you say ahhhh.  I think we all could use that sometimes.

Here are some lovely performances of Grieg’s Cattle Call pieces.

Op. 66. No. 1

Cow Call from Op. 67

Op. 63 No. 2 for strings

(It would seem from these videos that cows also enjoy moosic, in these cases, the cello and harp)


A footnote for musical completeness (‘cause that’s how I roll).  The Cow Call from Op. 67 is not part of the published Op. 67.  Grieg set a number of poems from Arne Garborg’s poem cycle Haugtussa.  The published music includes eight songs.  But Grieg wrote 12 others that were not included (these are designated EG 152), including Cow Call.  Information from

Image attribution:

“A Cow”, photo by publicenergy [Dave Wild,], 2007, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

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Free Concert Webcast: Vaughan Williams, Gounod, Dvorak, and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has just added a new concert to their free on-demand concert libraryYou can see the concert here.  Here is the program:

Charles GounodPetite Symphonie for Wind Instruments

Lembit Beecher: The Conference of the Birds

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for Strings

While you’re there, check out other performances in the library, which you can browse by composer, genre, nationality, conductor, or performer.



To the Sun:  Classical Music and an Exciting NASA Mission

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

Many composers have written music to evoke the mood of seeing the rising sun, and I thought I’d bring some of this music to you today because an exciting new scientific mission is about to begin.  Early Saturday morning, NASA, the American space agency, is sending an unmanned spacecraft closer to the Sun than ever before to study its many mysteries.  It is the Parker Solar Probe.

NASA has wanted to implement this mission since the dawn of the space age, but it is only now that the technology is available to make it possible.  Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield will withstand temperatures of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1377 Celsius) while the measuring instruments in its shadow will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

You can see live coverage of the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, named for pioneering scientist Eugene Parker, at starting at 3:00 AM EDT (GMT-4) on Saturday, August 11, 2018 (the launch window begins at 3:33 AM).

And now to the music.  We must start with an excerpt of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, iconic sunrise music if there ever was any.

You can see Gustavo Dudamel conduct the entire piece with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra here.  And here is an audio recording of Richard Strauss conducting his own piece in 1944 with the Vienna Philharmonic.

For a calmer start to your morning, I suggest Grieg’s Morning Mood.

Here is the beautiful and haunting On the Nature of Daylight (Entropy) by Max Richter.

You may also enjoy Aulis Sallinen’s Sunrise Serenade, Op. 63 for two trumpets and orchestra.  And here is Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Op. 17.

Reaching back in time, here is Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in B flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4 “Sunrise.”

Finally, here is the oldest surviving music about the sun, nearly the oldest surviving written music, the Hymn to the Sun by Mesomedes of Crete, second century CE.

Wishing NASA the best of luck with its pioneering mission, and wishing all of you sunny days ahead!


Previous space-related posts you may enjoy

Haiku Wednesday:  Beyond–Bach in Interstellar Space

Beethoven’s Cavatina–The Universe in the Palm of Your Hand

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Free Music Scores and More

flying stick figure trailed by music staff

Benjamin Franklin, colonial America’s Renaissance man, said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  I’m here to save you a few pennies today.

The Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester has made a wealth of music scores and books from the Sibley Music Library available on the web.  The digitized items may be downloaded for your reading and playing pleasure.

Here is a link to the Sibley Music Library digitized collection, where you can search for the topic of your choice.  A search on Beethoven will yield hundreds of music scores and 83 books, as well as theses and other analytical works.  The books are older and in the public domain, but then, Beethoven hasn’t written any new letters lately (the previous link is for a biography containing letters translated into English.  You can read Beethoven’s letters in German here).  As always, verify that the works are indeed in the public domain in your country (laws vary).

And since we’re being frugal, I thought it would be appropriate to present Beethoven’s Rondo e capriccio Op. 129, which is commonly called Rage Over the Lost Penny.  Enjoy!

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From Machaut to Micro SD

micro SD card on a finger

The picture above shows a micro SD card on my fingertip.  It is the size of the fingernail of my smallest finger.

It holds my entire digitized music library, classical and pop, with room to spare.  This is a 128 gigabyte card, but these cards also come in the “supersized” 256 gigabyte variety (and higher), also the size of a fingernail.

You can install a card like this in a smartphone (except iPhones) or tablet.  I was going to say “easily install” but they are tiny and easy to fumble, not to mention the fact that the slots into which they are installed are frequently spring-loaded.  Which means, if you don’t click it in completely, your device may shoot the card across the room like a watermelon seed (about the same size and color).  I strongly suggest installation in an obstacle-free environment, preferably with a light-colored floor.  With an adapter, you can also plug it into the USB port of a computer, DVD player, or television.

I’m currently pairing this card with a FiiO X1 portable MP3 player, which is about the size of a deck of cards.  I chose it because at the time it was one of the only players that handled the FLAC format (a lossless form of MP3—if this terminology is unfamiliar to you, you might want to take a look at my post on digital music formats).  It also can transmit music wirelessly via Bluetooth or be plugged directly into a stereo receiver as an audio input.  It can accommodate a micro SD card of up to 256 gigabytes.

This all means that I can walk around with a representative sample of 1000 years of music in my pocket and play it even when there is no internet connection or electricity (at least until the battery runs out; solar rechargers exist though).

I can’t help but find this amazing.  My mother had a Steelman blonde-wood console stereo record player (to which you could also connect other devices—revolutionary!) that, with the speakers, was slightly smaller than a Fiat 500.  It did make a mighty sound though–I’ve written about it before.

But to make music, you also needed vinyl records, which took up a sizeable amount of shelf space.  My computer’s music library currently contains something like 1000 albums from physical CDs, LPs, or born digital files.  This would, I estimate, require about 15 linear feet of shelving for vinyl.  Oddly, the width of a standard CD case is equivalent to 2 LPs, so they would actually take up more linear feet; but due to their shorter height, they can be arranged more densely.

All of this now fits on a fingernail.  This blows my mind.

I can’t conclude without some music for you.  So, I think I’ll reach way back into the archives, and give you music that I carry around on my little card.  Here is the Kyrie from Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Notre Dame, written before 1365.