Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Weird and Wonderful Vinyl

Graphic of a vinyl LP disk

Hi!  It’s nice to talk to all of you again.  I hope that you and your families are safe and in good health.

I found something interesting for you today.  For some of you this will be a trip down Memory Lane; for others, it may be an adventure in time travel.

Internet Archives, in collaboration with the Boston Public Library, is digitizing the library’s extensive collection of vinyl albums.  And it is a wide-ranging collection, including classical music, jazz, country, spoken word, international music, and category-defying LPs (I’m thinking of Music for Baton Twirlers and sound effects records, among others).  There are even language-learning LPs (I stumbled upon one set I used to own!).

Over 15,000 albums have already been digitized.  Of these, over 7000 are classical music.  You can narrow your search by genres and subgenres (Baroque, Romantic) or by composer.

For works that are still under copyright, you can hear 30-second samples, and in some cases you can use the provided Spotify link (which plays on the Internet Archives website) to hear an entire track (or album).  Over 2,500 are “unlocked,” meaning you can download the album in uncompressed 24-bit FLAC format, meaning at full fidelity (there are plenty of programs to convert to MP3 if needed).  You can also download album art. Cherubini’s Medea with Maria Callas included a full bilingual libretto and liner notes.

A caveat: quality may vary.  I heard some albums with wonderful clarity; others had the clicks and snaps typically associated with old vinyl recordings.   Those with the inclination and a little tech savvy could probably run their downloads through an audio program like Audacity (which is free) and clean them up a bit.

You can find the albums at is an article about the project (quick takeaway: each operator digitizes 12 albums at a time in real time; after about 20 minutes, the operator flips each record on its turntable and records the second side—it’s a time-consuming process!).  If you derive value from this project, please consider supporting Internet Archive’s efforts with a tax-deductible donation.

And while you’re at the Internet Archive, check out the mind-boggling variety of material available at the site.  You’ll find books and audio, but you’ll also find films, tv programming, courses, old software and games…just go look, you’ll be amazed.

Even if you can’t go to your local library, you can still get to this one online.


Image attribution:  Vinyl record by Meul, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons,

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If you can’t find beauty, try to make some

A treble clef that ends in a hand holding a paintbrush making swirls of lines, flowers, and music symbols.

Times are tough.  We all need to find a way to get through, and the right music definitely helps.  Here are some recent finds.  Humor, flexibility, and great ingenuity are hallmarks here.

Have you seen the No Corona version of Nessun dorma by Daniel Emmet?

How about the Covid-19 Bach fugue by Nicholas Papdimitriou?  This is incredible.

And now, a great concert for you!  Pianist Alexander Krichel gave a live drive-in classical piano concert that you can now see online. Car horns and flashing headlights replace applause (it works better than you’d think).  The upside?  No coughing, cell phones ringing, or candy wrappers crackling (other than perhaps from your family members, whom you can probably shush).  Krichel introduces the pieces in German, there are no subtitles available, but there is captioning of the title at the beginning of each piece.  You can see it at:–alexander-krichel-spielt-beethoven-und-liszt-100.html

When life gives you lemons, don’t just make lemonade, make lemon sorbet.

Here’s another tip, not necessarily a musical one, but one you might consider.  A friend who lives far away and I have started exchanging photos.  Typically, it’s flower pictures (they have a tremendous rose garden), but not always.  It doesn’t have to be flowers, it could be a meme, or an animal picture, a photo you take on a walk (if permitted) (added benefit: your picture-taking gets better), a happy memory photo, or a link to some great music, whatever works for you.  It doesn’t need to be every day–no pressure (we have enough)!  And you know what happens?  You end up looking for beauty, or levity, and actually start seeing it amidst gloom and chaos.  If you know someone who might be interested in this, why not suggest an informal exchange?  Wouldn’t it be nice to see something happy in your inbox or on your phone?

And as Daniel Emmet says in his aria, vinceremo [we will win]!

Thanks to reader Paul B for alerting me to the fugue!


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Bach’s St. John Passion To Be Livestreamed from Bach’s Church in Leipzig on April 10, 2020

J. S. Bach

On April 10, 2020, Bach’s St. John Passion will be performed at Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church, at the site of Bach’s tomb.  The broadcast will begin at 15:00 CET (GMT+2; 9AM EDT).  This innovative performance will include a tenor, a harpsichordist, and a percussionist, as well as five singers, with the addition of various artists and choirs participating via video.  The tenor part, the Evangelist,  and all the other characters will be sung by Icelandic tenor Benedikt Kristjánsson (see bio in English here).

Here’s a sample, “Zerfliesse, mein Herze, in Fluten der Zähren”.

Sheet music for the chorales and program notes are available via the Carus-Verlag website.

You can see the livestream at the following sites: (six languages available at this site) (six languages available at this site)

It will be broadcast in Germany at 19:00 on MDR Kultur and MDR Klassik, and on German TV at 24:00 on MDR-Fernsehen.

For more details, see this Gramophone article and the Carus-Verlag website.


A virtual orchestra performance and more great free concerts

illustration of the seating chart of an orchestra with each instrument in its own box

Musicians can’t not make music.  And when creative people, well, get creative, wonderful things can happen.  What does an orchestra do when everyone has to stay home?

Watch the Toronto Symphony Orchestra play Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

Seeing this video made me think of a comment by artist Janet Cardiff, highlighted in my Virtual Choirs post.  She said that visitors to her sound installation would frequently walk directly up to a speaker projecting a singer’s voice, something that you could not do with a live choir.  The visitors literally got close to the music, hearing each singer’s voice in a way that you cannot do under normal circumstances.  In the Toronto Symphony Orchestra video, you can see, frequently close up, each musician, a view that you cannot get, certainly at live performances, and even in recorded concerts.  They are all wearing different clothing, you can see them as individuals. And there is something very warm in that.

I can only hope that the resourcefulness that is now being displayed during this crisis will not be forgotten once the crisis is past, and that we will find new ways to bring more music to more people in more venues, and find ways for musicians to be justly compensated for bringing their music directly to their listeners and viewers.

So, let’s hear some more music!

Here is an article from the CBC providing details on “6 cool classical concerts to watch right now.”

L’Orchestre symphonique de Montreal is streaming concerts from its archives every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8:00PM ET (GMT -4).

At this link you can see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra perform Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and his Sixth Symphony “Pastorale”. It is a top-notch performance.

If you find great performances or live concerts I haven’t discovered, be sure to share them with everyone in the comments.  Thanks!


More Free Music!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The ranks of musical institutions and performers helping us all get through the current health crisis together are growing.  Here’s are my latest finds.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has now made its Replay archive of past concerts available for free.  Enjoy high-definition recordings with fantastic sound in the comfort of your own home.  Visit to access the performances.  There, you can set up a free account, but it is not mandatory.  You can search the offerings by composer or time period.

Piano fans!  Igor Levit is giving nightly live “House Concerts” on Twitter (  See his Twitter feed for times and for other performances.  Boris Giltburg ( will also be offering Twitter performances. [Added note:  you don’t need a twitter account to see the concerts].

You also might want to check out the YouTube channel of Wigmore Hall, especially their Beethoven 250 Festival recordings.

Opera fans! The Teatro Regio in Turin is offering #operaonthesofa.  Check out their website for details, or go to their YouTube channel to check out the playlist.  The Vienna State Opera is also opening their archive of performances. To see the archive, you will need to set up a free account.  They are also livestreaming a different performance each night.  Livestreams begin at 17:00 or 19:00 CET (GMT +1), and those are available for 24 hours.

Also, check out WKAR’s schedule of livestream performances.  You can find it at


Off topic, but if you need some calm, and something a little different, I’d like to suggest the live cams at the Monterey Bay Aquarium or the National Aquarium.  You can watch fish, penguins, birds, jellyfish (oddly mesmerizing—nature’s lava lamp), or just the beautiful bay.  You can find a wide variety of animals and natural scenery on livecam at (I particularly recommend the Zen Cams).  Add your own classical soundtrack if you’d like!  Nature endures; spring is coming.

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Berlin Philharmonic Archive Free for 30 Days; Livestream Database

Globe with eighth note

The Berlin Philharmonic has an incredible collection of performances on its Digital Concert Hall website.  The video resolution is phenomenal and the audio is superb.

You can now access the entire archive of Berlin Philharmonic performances for free for 30 days.  Sign up by March, 31, 2020.

Go to this webpage to learn how.  You’ll need to set up a free account.  It is very easy, and there is no further obligation.

In addition to the concerts (searchable by composer, conductor, epoch, and more), there is a fine collection of films, and insightful interviews with performers, conductors, and producers.


Classical Music Communications has made available a database of live-streamed concerts, complete with dates, times, and links.  See the database here.


Wishing you good health and good music!

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Free Opera Webcasts from the Met!

stick guy singing opera on a television with a viking helmet for an antenna

The bad news:  The Metropolitan Opera has closed due to the health crisis.

The good news:  The Metropolitan Opera is providing nightly encore opera performances for free on its website.  A different opera every night!  The webcasts will continue for the duration of the closure.  The performances may also be viewed on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

See the performances here every night at 7:30 PM EDT (GMT-4).

Each performance will be available for 20 hours thereafter.  The operas are from the Met’s Live in HD series.  Below is the schedule for this week.  See this Met website page for more information on the performers and conductors.


Monday, March 16    Bizet: Carmen

Tuesday, March 17   Puccini: La Bohème

Wednesday, March 18   Verdi: Il Trovatore

Thursday, March 19   Verdi: La Traviata

Friday, March 20   Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment

Saturday, March 21   Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Sunday, March 22   Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin



Concert Cancelled?  See One in Your Own Home!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Due to the current health crisis, many concerts and other public events are being cancelled.  But you can still attend a concert in the comfort of your own home.  Casual dress code ok!

Check out the concert library offered by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.  You’re sure to find a few favorites there: Jeremy Denk playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony , or Haydn’s Symphony No. 6, Morning, just to name a few.  There is also a large selection of audio-only performances for your listening pleasure.

Opera fans will love Operavision’s library of great performances, including Carmen, Tosca, and The Barber of Seville, among others.  At the current time, there are plans to broadcast live performances of several of Mozart’s operas this month, though the schedule may change as the current situation evolves.  Here’s the current schedule.

March 19, 19:00 CET (GMT +1, 2:00 EDT) Così fan tutte
March 21, 19:30 CET Le nozze di Figaro
March 24, 19:30 CET Don Giovanni
April 3, 19:00 CET La clemenza di Tito
April 10, 19:00 CET Die Entführung aus dem Serail
April 17, 19:00 CET Il sogno di Scipione

In addition to the old standby YouTube, you can also watch performances on Arte, the Gothenburg Symphony, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, and websites.

These are difficult times.  I hope the on-demand performances available at the above sites will add a soothing element to your day.

Be safe out there, folks! Wishing you all health and serenity.


Paganini, Berlioz Live Concert Webcast and a Virtual Museum Tour

Globe with eighth note

Get ready for a whirlwind of a concert!

On Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert webcast.  The concert will feature Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto.

Here’s just a taste of the violinist’s Paganini flare:  Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini Caprice No. 5.

The second half of the concert will feature the wild ride of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie FantastiqueJader Bignamini, the DSO’s new music director, will conduct.  You can see the concert here.

Paganini and Berlioz met in Paris, and became regular correspondents.  Both enjoyed guitar music, and Paganini gave Berlioz a guitar.  Both signed the guitar, which still exists and is at the Musée de la Musique in Paris. [1]   Berlioz donated the guitar to the museum when he was its curator.  And here it is:

Photograph of guitar signed by Paganini and BerliozCloseup photograph of signatures of Paganini and Berlioz on guitar

You can take a fascinating virtual tour of the museum at this link.  You can even download a museum map to facilitate your tour. Click the pictures; any picture with a compass on it will allow you to wander through the museum and view the exhibits.  Other pictures will provide slideshows with musical clips.  Enjoy!



  1. Niccolò Paganini,,

Image attributions:  Globe with eighth note, C. Gallant, 2019.  Paganini, Berlioz guitar, Musée de la musique, Paris / A Giordan – [Public domain] via,_Paris_around_1830.jpg.