Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Haiku Wednesday:  Hands

Six foot six Sergei
Rachmaninoff’s hands were huge,
With enormous span.

Do not ask “Can you
Reach a tenth?” Ask “Can you reach
The listener’s heart?”

I was doing some research on Rachmaninoff because there’s going to be a free online concert this weekend (June 9, 2019).  Anytime you start looking, you’re going to come across at least one article on Rachmaninoff’s hands.

Basically, the guy had huge mitts.

And I was going to write about comparative hand sizes of famous musicians, and flexibility, and speed, and blah, blah, blah.  It’s all been written before.

And I didn’t want even one of you to say, “well, I have small hands, that’s never going to work, so why bother.”  Or stiff hands, or slow hands, or whatever.

Nonsense.  Whatever you love to do, go for it!  You don’t have to be Rachmaninoff, or Rembrandt, or Robert Frost.  Or whoever.  Enjoy what you can do.  And you might surprise yourself if you keep at it.

If you don’t play an instrument and love music, you don’t have to be a specialist to share the music and help someone to hear what you hear and enjoy.

Here is a video of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G-Sharp Minor, Op. 32, No. 12, performed by Wael Farouk.  Dr. Farouk, director of piano studies at Carthage College and a faculty member of the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University, was told that he would never be able to be a concert pianist because of shortened ligaments in his hands.  He has performed all of Rachmaninoff’s solo piano works.

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Image attribution:  Sergei Rachmaninoff, 1936 or earlier, photographer unknown, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARachmaninoff_plyaing_Steinway_grand_piano.jpg.

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Live Concert Webcasts: La traviata, Bruckner, Brahms and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Today, May 24, 2019, at 19:00 CET (2 PM EDT, UTC -1), OperaVision will present Verdi’s La Traviata from the Icelandic OperaYou can see it here.

Tomorrow, May 25, 2019 at 8PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3Kent Nagano will conduct, and the program will feature pianist Beatrice RanaYou can see it here.

On May 31, 2019 at 10:45 AM (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Brahms’s Symphony No. 4.  Also on the program is Webern’s Passacaglia, and Haydn’s Concerto for Two Horns.  You can see it here.


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Haiku Wednesday: Not Your Typical Prelude and Fugue

American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein

Prelude, Fugue and Riffs
Leonard Bernstein conducting
Hang on tight; listen.

As usual, looking for something else, I happened upon this great 1955 video of Leonard Bernstein conducting his composition Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs.  It’s a wild ride, and not what you’d typically think of when you hear “prelude and fugue.”

At the same time, I found another video of the same piece, this time by the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.  An equally good performance, but perhaps a bit more …controlled? Refined?  I enjoyed it just as much, and I hope you will too.

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Image attribution:  Leonard Bernstein, by Jack Mitchell [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leonard_Bernstein_by_Jack_Mitchell.jpg


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Free Concert Webcast Tonight: Vivaldi!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Tonight, April 27, 2019 at 8PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a Vivaldi-rich concert webcast.  Nicholas McGegan will conduct.  You can see the concert here.  The program also includes a concerto by Anna Clyne.  Here is the program:

Vivaldi: Concerto for Strings, RV 114

Anna Clyne: Concerto for Mandolin and Strings, “Three Sisters”

Vivaldi: Concerto for Mandolin, R 425

Vivaldi: Concerto Grosso, RV 565 (from L’estro armónico)

Vivaldi: Gloria, R 589


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Mourning for Notre Dame de Paris

The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame de Paris

It is heartbreaking to see the flames soaring above Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.  Such beauty destroyed, centuries of work by countless architects, artists, and craftsmen, consumed.  It is the cradle of Western polyphony.  It is where Perotin, Leonin, and other anonymous medieval composers heard their music sound against the stone walls, changing Western music forever.

Here is Perotin’s Beata Viscera performed by The Hilliard Ensemble.

You may also wish to see my post Christmas 1198.

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Image attribution: The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame, Paris.  Photograph by Oliver J. Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AThe_north_transept_rose_at_Notre-Dame_de_Paris.jpg


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Free Concert Webcast: Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Currier

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will feature pianist Hélène Grimaud performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.  Also on the program are Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, and a new work, Divisions, a commemoration of World War I, written by Sebastian Currier.  Ludovic Morlot will conduct.  You can see the concert at www.dso.org/live or on Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/detroitsymphony).


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One of Those Weeks, Illustrated

Stick figure on a unicycle on a tightrope juggles a sword, flaming stick, and chainsaw while crossing water filled with sharks, alligators, and snakes while beavers, woodpeckers, and a fire-lighting camper try to destroy the supports for the tightrope. Oh, and a rainstorm is coming--with lightning.

Did you ever have one of those weeks?  One for which the word “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it?  Yeah, one of those.

Words failing me, I attempted to depict one of those weeks in the illustration above.  And to go along with it, I’ve selected some music:  Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1.

If you’re having one of those weeks, I wish you calmer days ahead.  And to accompany them, Grieg’s Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt Suite.