Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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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.


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Street Piano

Red Steinway piano in Munich airport with sign "Just Play a Steinway"

Surfing the net on this overcast day, I found a video of an infectiously cheerful, driving boogie-woogie piano performance.

The sun came out.

Ok, it’s not classical music, but this is a big tent, so come on in and listen to Henri Herbert making some folks’ day at St. Pancras Station in London, and now, thanks to YouTube, everywhere.  You can find the video here.

And that video led me to another.  if you have some time, you might enjoy Street Piano: Instrument of Change, a documentary on a program that restores pianos that might otherwise end up in landfills and installs them in public places for people to play and enjoy.  It highlights the experiences of some people whose lives have been changed by public pianos.

Do you play piano? Yes? If you see a piano in a public place, sit down, commandeer it.  Play until they make you stop.  Don’t worry about making mistakes, just go for it!  It will certainly make your day, and probably other people’s too.

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Image attribution:  Photograph by Eric Fischer [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Just_Play_a_Steinway_-_Red_public_Steinway_piano_in_Munich_Airport_terminal_(2015-05-23_17.29.42_by_Eric_Fischer).jpg


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Beethoven or Mahler?  Your Choice—Live Webcasts This Saturday

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.  The program will also include Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, featuring violinist Yoonshin SongRafael Payare will conduct.  You can see the DSO concert here.

Also on Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will present pianist Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.  The program will also include Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, and Watermark, a Concerto for Piano by Caroline Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. Watermark is one of five piano concertos commissioned by the SPCO and Biss to coordinate with Beethoven’s piano concertos (read more about the Beethoven/5 concerto commissioning project here).  You can read the composer’s comments on Watermark hereMischa Santora will conduct.  You can see the SPCO concert here.

Wherever your weekend takes you, I hope you will find some time to enjoy music!


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John Cage: The Apps

Photograph of composer John Cage, 1988, photo by Rob Bogaerts, via Wikimedia Commons.

While doing background research for the most recent free concerts post, I stumbled upon these John Cage apps.

These apps were developed by the John Cage Trust and can be found at the official John Cage website.

iPhone users can download the 4’33” app.  With this app, users can capture the ambient sounds in their environment and upload them (in three movements).  You can also listen to other people’s contributions from a variety of locations around the globe.  Sorry, no Android version available.  Though the website says it is free, it is $0.99 at the App Store.

iPhone and Android users can download the free Prepared Piano app.  The iPad and Android tablet versions cost $0.99 each.  With this app, you can play samples of a piano prepared with various bits of hardware placed under and between the piano strings.  You can record your own performance, using nine sampled notes at a time (free versions; the tablet versions have 36 prepared notes), and share it.  It is noted that these are the actual materials used by John Cage in his Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.

You might want to explore the Cage website, which includes a recording of his work Empty Words.  In this piece, Cage reads from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau, leaving out randomly-selected sentences, phrases, words, and syllables in the four movements (lasting over eleven hours), sometimes yielding an effect similar to listening to Beowulf in Old EnglishEmpty Words runs continuously on the site, so you will come in at a random spot in the piece.  If you arrive at a moment of silence, wait, or come back at the randomly-selected time of your choice.  Perhaps in four minutes and 33 seconds.

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Image attribution:  Photograph of John Cage by Rob Bogaerts / Anefo, 1988, Fotocollectie Anefo. Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, nummertoegang 2.24.01.05, bestanddeelnummer 934-2728, via Wikimedia Commons [Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication], https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Cage_(1988).jpg.


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Free Concerts: Haydn to Cage

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Here are three great live concert webcasts to choose from, with music ranging from Haydn to Bernstein to Cage. 

On Friday, February 22, 2019 at 8:00 PM EST (GMT -5) Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will present works by John Cage, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, and Kristin Kuster.  You can see the concert at https://www.dso.org/live.  Here’s the program:

Kristin KusterDune Acres (world premiere)

John Cage: 4’33” (after talking about this piece in a recent post, you get to see it live!)

Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto

Leonard Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs

Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and other selections

But wait, there’s more!  You’ll have to make a choice:

On Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00 PM EST (GMT -5) Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present “Maximum Minimal”, featuring music by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Adams.  You can see the concert here.  Here’s the program:

Steve Reich: Clapping Music

Philip Glass: Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra

John Luther Adams: Become Ocean

Also on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00 EST (GMT -5), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), conducted by Tito Muñoz, will present “Reflections on Home”.  You can see the concert here.  Here’s the program:

Felix Mendelssohn: Sinfonia No. 10 in B Minor for String Orchestra

Maya Miro Johnson: wherever you go, there you are (world premiere)

Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96, The Miracle

Lembit Beecher: Say Home (world premiere)

If you’re not available for the SPCO concert, it will be available for on-demand viewing later at the SPCO concert library website.  Detroit Symphony Orchestra webcasts can be viewed at a later date with a subscription to their Replay program (a benefit of a tax-deductible contribution to the DSO).

Whatever you decide to watch, I hope you will enjoy it!