Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


Free Concert Webcast: Hilary Hahn and the DSO

Violinist Hilary Hahn

Violinist Hilary Hahn. Copyright Michael Patrick O’Leary.

On Friday, September 30, 2016 at 8:00PM EDT (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live webcast featuring violinist Hilary Hahn.  Here’s a short video of Hahn performing a Bach sarabande.

The webcast will also include the world premiere of Ferran Cruixent’s Big Data.  Here’s a short video to introduce you to Cruixent’s work, in particular, his composition Cyborg.

You can watch the webcast at Here’s the program:

Bernstein:  Overture to Candide

Gershwin:  Lullaby for String Orchestra

Ferran Cruixent:  Big Data (world premiere)

Beethoven:  Concerto for Violin and Orchestra

There will be an informal pre-concert presentation beginning at 7:00PM.


Image attribution:  Photo of violinist Hilary Hahn © Michael Patrick O’Leary via




Haiku Wednesday: Vivaldi Discoveries Abound

Antonio VivaldiThey found new works by
Antonio Vivaldi
Hidden in plain sight.

You see, they weren’t
In Vivaldi’s handwriting,
But the style was his.

Who knows what wonders
Remain to be found in some
Library archive?

The earliest work of Antonio Vivaldi has been found in a library in Dresden, Germany.  Co-discoverer Javier Lupiáñez was examining 72 anonymous sonatas in the library’s archives when he realized that one of them might have been written by Vivaldi.   A watermark revealed that the manuscript of RV 820 (Trio sonata for violin and cello in G Major) came from Ansbach, where one of Vivaldi’s teachers, Giuseppe Torelli, lived. Researchers had not recognized it previously as being Vivaldi’s because it was written out by Johann Georg Pisendel, a friend of Vivaldi’s.  It is believed the work dates to around 1700, when Vivaldi was only 23.  A violin solo, in particular, had a distinctive Vivaldi technique unknown in the works of Corelli.  Lupiáñez is recognized as a co-discoverer of RV 820 with Federico Maria Sardelli.1   Sardelli discovered the work when he “stumbled by chance across one of the many anonymous manuscripts that his wife Bettina, also a musician, had gathered across Europe” and recognized the handwriting.2  You can see RV 820 here.

Javier Lupiáñez is acknowledged as the sole discoverer of RV 205/2 (Sonata for violin in A Major).1

Those keen on reading more on the discovery can read Lupiáñez’s paper on the new Vivaldi discoveries (once you set up a free account at you can download the paper for reading).  A shorter description can be found here.

To hear a little of the new Vivaldi music, check out this lighthearted video.

This is not the first time new music from Vivaldi has come to light.  In 2012 an alternate score of Orlando Furioso was found.  While the best-known version is from 1727, a new score was found that was dated 1714.3  The history of Vivaldi discoveries can be explored hereA description of recent Vivaldi discoveries can be found here.

The co-discoverer of RV 820, Federico Maria Sardelli, who is in charge of updating the RV catalog of Vivaldi’s works, believes there is still much to be found.  “There was a complete Vivaldi silence for almost 200 years, which is very frustrating and very exciting at the same time because there is constantly a possibility of making new discoveries…Vivaldi’s body of work is like an erupting volcano.”2

Concerti con molten strumenti?

Recordings of the new works have been made by Lupiáñez’s group, Ensemble Scaramuccia and by Sardelli’s group Modo Antiquo (New Discoveries 1 and 2), among others.


  1. Unsigned article, “Hallan la primera sonata de Vivaldi en una biblioteca,” El Universal, 24 September 2016. Electronic version,
  2. Cataldi, Benedetto, “World Premiere of Vivaldi’s Earliest Known Work,” BBC News, 7 February 2015. Electronic version,
  3. Alberge, Dalya, “Vivaldi’s Lost Masterpiece is Found in Library Archives,” The Guardian, 14 July 2012. Electronic version,


Image attribution: Antonio Vivaldi by unknown painter, via  Apparently, the standard portrait of Vivaldi may not be him.  This was discovered in research by François Farges and Michel Ducastel-Delacroix, cited at

1 Comment

Free Opera Webcast: Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro

The Opera Platform is bringing you another live opera webcast!  On Tuesday, September 27, the Dutch National Opera will present a new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.  The program will begin at 18:55 CEST (GMT +2;  12:55 PM EDT).  Here is a link to The Opera Platform’s page for this opera performance.  Here is a link to the Dutch National Opera’s page on the performance, with details on the performers, music, director, and conductor.  The opera will be available for a limited time after the initial webcast.

I could have ended the blog post here, but I wanted to share some interesting background information.

The Marriage of Figaro is a wonderful Mozart whipped-cream confection and comedy (Schlagsahne and Susanna?).  But did you know the play that it is based on was banned at one time?

The plot of the opera is based on a play by Beaumarchais that caused controversy due to its lampooning of the nobility and the feminist speeches made by the character Marceline (Marcellina in the opera).  It was initially banned in France, then censored, then heavily edited.  When it finally came to the stage, it was wildly popular. If you read French, here is Beaumarchais’s play on Project Gutenberg.  Here is the play in English. Here’s what some famous folks said about it:

Louis XVI : “For this play not to be a danger, the Bastille would have to be torn down first.”

Napoleon Bonaparte: “The revolution in action.”

Mozart’s opera was certainly affected by these events.  When it came time to create a libretto for Mozart, librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte (himself a rather colorful individual; read the linked biography) again removed portions of the play to get it past Viennese censors and the nervous aristocracy.

When Mozart’s opera appeared in France in 1792, Beaumarchais himself was recruited to reintroduce some of his excised material to better match the revolutionary spirit of the time.  The opera was transformed to include some of the spoken dialogues from the original play.

Today, Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, with its catchy tunes and madcap mix-ups, is a delight to the eye and ear. I hope you’ll enjoy it!


  1.  Dudley, W. Sherwood, “The Revolutionary Figaro,”
  2. Beaumarchais, Pierre, translation/adaptation by Stephen Wadsworth, The Marriage of Figaro,
  3. LaPenta, Emilia, “On Translation/Adaptation”,
  4. Billington, Michael, “How to Stage a Revolution”


Leave a comment

Free Opera Webcast: Verdi’s Otello

On September 24, 2016 at 19:40 CEST (GMT +2; 1:40PM EDT) The Opera Platform will present a live transmission of Verdi’s Otello from the Teatro Real in Madrid, Spain.

For a preview video, see the Otello page on The Opera Platform.  Be sure to scroll to the bottom for more highlights and brief commentary from the performers and directors.

If you would like to download a program for the performance in Spanish (only the act summaries are in English), see the Teatro Real Otello webpage.  You will have to provide your name and email.

Have other plans for the 24th?  Don’t worry:  Otello will be available for viewing for free until 23 March 2017.


LEGO Orchestra and Choir Performs Beethoven’s Ninth

Congratulations to Maestro Jim Wright for his creative work with the LEGO® Radio Symphony Orchestra!  Wright is the mastermind who created these wonderful videos.

I also have to commend this orchestra and choir—they have their parts memorized, and the choir keeps excellent eye contact with the conductor.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 1st movement

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 2nd movement

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 3rd movement

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 4th movement

Note: LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this site.

Videos copyright Jim Wright, all rights reserved.  Shared by Jim Wright via YouTube.


Haiku Wednesday: Bach’s Magnificat

Picture and illuminated text of the Magnificat from the duc de Berry Book of Hours

Magnificat:  Bach
Caref’lly tends an ancient tune,
A master gard’ner.

Deep roots reach down and
Back to far-off times and words,
While song seeks the sky.

“My soul magnifies
The Lord, my spirit exults
In God, my savior.”

So begins the song;
In Bach’s hands it blooms, now a
Polyphonic rose,

Whose petals burst forth
In melismatic splendor,
Delicate sweetness.


Choirs everywhere are beginning their work on Bach’s Magnificat for Christmastime performances, and I’d like to tell you a little bit about it today.

The Magnificat is one of the oldest Christian hymns, and its words have been set by numerous composers, including Monteverdi, Tallis, Bach, Bruckner, Vaughan Williams, Rutter, Tavener, and Pärt.

There are two versions of Bach’s Magnificat, dated 1723 and 1733.  The former (designated BWV 243a) includes Christmas hymns.  The latter (BWV 243) omits the hymns and differs somewhat from the 1723 version.  The later version is the one that is most commonly performed.  It is one of only a few Latin texts set by Bach, who primarily worked with German texts.

Bach alternates movements featuring the full choir with soloist performances.  There are many fantastic recordings of this work, from one-voice-per-part performances to those with full choirs.  The wonderful weaving of voices is something you have to hear—my talking about it is merely the rustling of dry leaves.  Listen to the lovely duet Et misericordia:

Here is a full performance.  The overture is Bach at his exuberant best.  The score is available here.  Choristers who would like a little help learning their parts might like to check out the Magnificat at, where you can find a midi recording of each part.  If you’d like someone to actually sing it for you, and you have a little money, check out the Magnificat at, where you can purchase a recording of a person singing your part.

Whether you’re singing, playing in the orchestra, or listening, Bach’s Magnificat is a joy to experience.




Image attribution:  The Visitation and Magnificat text from the Book of Hours of the Duc de Berry (Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Folio 59v), [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. .  The original document is at the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.

1 Comment

A Run of Notes: The Worldwide WordPress 5k

sneakers with treble clefs on lacesThis week WordPress bloggers around the world will be running or walking five kilometers as part of the Worldwide WordPress 5k.

As a runner, I was ready to step up to the challenge.  But to stay true to the blog, I knew I wanted to talk about classical music.  So I thought I’d talk about the music that gets me through a typical five mile run.

The first leg of my run is uphill, which is a pain going out, but great coming back!  To avoid starting out too fast, I typically pick something slow.

If I’m in a particularly Early Music mood, I enjoy listening to The Sixteen’s Allegri: Miserere CD, which contains Lotti’s Crucifixus, Allegri’s Miserere, and Palestrina’s Stabat Mater and Missa Papae Marcelli.

The slow tempos keep me focused, and the CD makes for a great overall meditative run, but I’m not setting any records.

Piano fans might like the Goldberg Variations.  But if you’re a Gould fan, pick ’55 not ’81 or you’ll never make it up the hill (if you’re not familiar with these recordings, read this article).

Some days I need a little more help getting up that hill, or every hill for that matter.  Twitter followers may remember this post:

Liszt…I think he could get you up a hill, over a brick wall, and through a field of flames.  Here, listen to Transcendental Etude No. 8.

Don’t you feel more heroic already?  Makes you want to don a superhero cape and strike a pose on a hilltop.  But if you peek at the sheet music, you’ll find that the person sitting on that piano bench just got a better workout than you did running up that hill!

If you’re looking for an assortment of classical music for your workout, you might consider All You Need Classics: Workout, currently available as a digital download from Amazon for 99 cents.  You might want, as some reviewers have suggested, to edit the playlist to get the tempos you’d prefer for your workout.  They vary widely, and some items on the album will leave you wondering what they have to do with workouts.

I’m not sure I can recommend 30 Must-Have Classical Marches (also 99 cents) for this purpose (which you’d think would be better) because of its inclusion of the Wedding March (running to or away?) and … Chopin’s Funeral March.  Not good as telephone on-hold music either (especially when you’ve been on hold for over 30 minutes, like I was, and are pessimistic of ever reaching a human in your lifetime).

For record-breaking runs, I prefer something more along the line of Heavy Classix 1 (and 2), or collections like them, that focus on the loud, intense, and fast .  Though I must say I’m not keen to run to Sabre Dance—that’s music for plate spinning.  Oddly, though in my mind I connect that music with that variety act, I could find no videos that did.

The 5/4 time of Mars from Holst’s The Planets makes me run funny.

Ok, so let’s assume we’ve made it to the halfway point.  What’s good music for getting back home?

Well, if you’re a piano fan, I suggest Chopin’s 24 Preludes (Op. 28)–perhaps minus the Largos and Lentos.

Or, if you’re feeling heroic after the Liszt, how about Beethoven’s Symphony No 3, Eroica?

No matter what you pick, it’s fantastic to be out in nature listening to classical music.

If any runners out there have suggestions for great selections, let us all know!

Below are some websites with playlists.  Also check Spotify and YouTube.!/story/100568-runners-classical-playlist/

Here’s an article on finding the beats per minute of your music to get the tempo you want for your workout