Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Emanuel Ax Plays Beethoven:  Live Webcast Today

Today, November 9, 2018 at 8 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live webcast featuring pianist Emanuel Ax playing Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto.  Cristian Măcelaru will conduct.  You can see the concert at  Here’s the program:

DvořákCarnival Overture

BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 1

Andrew NormanPlay


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Free! Live! Bach!  St. John Passion Webcast

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On November 4, 2018 at 2:00 CST (UTC-6) (that’s 3:00 PM for US East Coast folks), The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will present a live webcast of Bach’s Saint John Passion.  The performance will have a stellar cast of soloists, featuring Nicholas Mulroy, Matthew Brook, William Berger, Joélle Harvey, Tim Mead, and Nick PritchardJonathan Cohen will conduct.

You can see the webcast at this link.

If you can’t watch at that time, you can catch it (and much, much more!) later on demand in the SPCO Concert Library.

US readers: remember to set your clocks back one hour tonight, or you’ll be super-early to the concert.

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Free Concert Webcast: Sibelius and Grieg

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live concert webcast on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 8:00PM (GMT -4).  Santtu-Matias Rouvali will conduct, and the program will feature pianist Víkingur ÓlafssonYou can see the program at  Here is the program:

SibeliusLemminkäinen’s Return

GriegConcerto for Piano

Sibelius: Symphony No 5



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Haiku Wednesday:  Name That Tune—the Quodlibet

music note with laughter emoji inside
A quodlibet is
Music that quotes others’ works;
So, it’s a mashup.

It goes back to Bach
And probably before that
‘Cause that’s what we do:

Humans match patterns,
And we disrupt those patterns
Just to get a laugh.

(“Cabbage and turnips
Have driven me away” is
Part of Bach’s Goldbergs?!)

A quodlibet is a musical composition that quotes other works, usually several at a time, to show that two disparate items can be combined.  It can be like a musical joke.  That was certainly the case in the 17th and 18th centuries.

It’s said that the Bach family loved to perform quodlibets for each other for entertainment.  Variation 30 of Bach’s Goldberg Variations is a quodlibet.  It brings together two German folk tunes: “Ich bin so lang bei dir nicht gewes’n” [“I haven’t been with you for so long”] and “Kraut und Rüben, haben mich vertrieben” [“Cabbage and turnips have driven me away.”  The whole line is “Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, if my mother would have cooked meat, I would have stayed longer”].  You can find a more technical discussion of this variation here.

Here is Variation 30.

It’s pretty, but if you don’t know the tunes it refers to (understandable; it has been several hundred years), it won’t get a laugh.  Though you might get a chuckle out of the fact that at least one of the songs included in this elegant little piece of music is, um, rather bawdy.  Let’s just say the Bach boys wouldn’t have been singing it around their grandmother.

A few years back, I wrote a post that featured a quodlibet that combined 57 classical themes by 33 composers.  You can read that post here.

Today, I bring you the Quodlibet For Small Orchestra by Peter Schickele, which has so many classical themes one would be hard pressed to catch them all.  There are also some popular tunes thrown in for good measure.  And it’s not only what he includes, but how he includes it that will make you laugh.

If you would like to know why this is funny, you may consult this study, which specifically focuses on Schickele’s work.  If you’d like to read about the origin of PDQ Bach, read this interview with Peter Schickele.

I hope you have a happy day!


Image attribution:  C. Gallant, 2018.

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Free Live Concert Webcast:  Prokofiev, Elgar and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will present a free concert webcast.  You can see the webcast at

Here’s the program:

ErbThe Seventh Trumpet

ProkofievViolin Concerto No. 1, Gil Shaham, violinist.

Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (also known as the Enigma Variations)

If you’d like to learn more about Elgar’s variations (and see a cute animal video while you’re at it) see my post about Variation XI and Bulldog Dan here.



Forest scene with water flowing over a fallen log.

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all.  That seems increasingly hard to do these days.  There are distractions everywhere, noise, people, devices…continuous clamor.  How do you get away?

It’s nice to go to a park, and find a forested trail, but even there you are likely to find people (talking on their phones!), folks walking their dogs, kids enjoying the fresh air—all wonderful things (except the phone maybe), but still not quiet enough.

My go-to solution is getting out on the water, a large body of water, in a small kayak.

The phone may or may not work.  The few people I see are fishing, quietly waiting on the shore for a fish to come along.

It’s wonderful.

I saw a fox that had come to the water’s edge for a drink.  There was a yearling deer, no bigger than a large dog, foraging calmly on a hillside.  A kingfisher bird dove with a loud splash into the water and came up with a small fish.  A great blue heron waited quietly at the shoreline for a fish to come along.  Turtles sunned themselves on logs and looked on as I silently glided by.

It has been a rainy summer in my region, and the water levels are high, which means that little inlets, once short and clearly connected to the main body of water, now extend, meandering well into the forest.

I followed one such inlet, and soon heard the sound of cascading water.  It got louder and louder as I followed the stream as far as I could, until the water was only a few inches deep.  The water I heard was pouring over a fallen log.  It was surprisingly loud in contrast to the tranquil forest.

I remained there for a long time.  And I took the picture you see at the top of the post.  There was a great temptation to leave the kayak and explore…what was in the distance, beyond the bend, that I couldn’t see?  But some things are better left as mysteries, untouched, explored only in the imagination.

I know that not everyone can do what I did.  Not everyone has the time or opportunity.  But we all can spare a few minutes to enjoy some peaceful music, and go to the place that makes us happiest in our minds.

Here is Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Op. 85 No.1.


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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.