Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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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:    https://www1.wdr.de/mediathek/video/radio/wdr3/video-autokino-meets-klassik–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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Telemann Fans:  New Aria Discovered!

Georg Philipp Telemann

RISM has reported1 that a new aria from an opera by Georg Philipp Telemann has been found in Braunschweig, Germany.  The aria, “Mein Herz is viel zu schwach, Euch zu verlassen” [My heart is far too weak to leave you], is believed to be from the opera Die königliche Schäferin Margenis [The Royal Shepherdess Margenis].

The manuscript is written in German organ tablature notation, but a modern transcription has been published in the German-language music journal Concerto.2

You can read more about the discovery here.

A previously unknown set of fantasias for viola da gamba by Telemann was found in 2015Recordings of that set of fantasias have since been released.

References

  1. “Mein Herz ist viel zu schwach” – A Newly Discovered Aria by Georg Philipp Telemann. RISM.info, Feb. 19, 2018. http://www.rism.info/en/home/newsdetails/article/2/mein-herz-ist-viel-zu-schwach-a-newly-discovered-aria-by-georg-philipp-telemann.html.
  2. Lauterwasser, Helmut, “’Mein Herz ist viel zu schwach, Euch zu verlassen’ Eine neu entdeckte Arie von Georg Philipp Telemann,” [“My heart is far too weak to leave you” A Newly discovered aria by Georg Philipp Telemann], CONCERTO – Das Magazin für Alte Musik No 277 (January/February 2018), pp 22-25.

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Image attribution:  Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767), [Public domain] hand-colored aquatint by Valentin Daniel Preisler, after a lost painting by Louis Michael Schneider, 1750.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Telemann.jpg.


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Eclipse!

Stick people safely viewing solar eclipse

These highly responsible stick people know to use their eclipse glasses and pinhole projectors at all times except during totality, when it’s ok to view the eclipse directly.

It’s Eclipse Day in the US, and the moon will cast its shadow along a path that stretches across the entire country, allowing everyone (including Alaska and Hawaii) to see at least a partial eclipse. Some lucky folks in a 70-mile-wide band will get to see a total eclipse.

So what does this have to do with classical music?

It is likely that Handel saw the 1715 total eclipse over London. Later, in 1741, he wrote the aria Total Eclipse for his oratorio Samson. You can read more about the aria and that eclipse here.

Today, the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, the Kronos Quartet, and composer Wayne Grim will produce a sonification of the 2017 total eclipse, turning digital data into music. You can read about it here. You can hear Grim’s interpretation of the 2016 total eclipse in Micronesia here.

If you’re not in the US (or if your skies are cloudy) you can still see the eclipse via webcasts:

NASA coverage beginning at 12PM EDT (GMT-4) https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-live-stream

Exploratorium coverage beginning at 1PM EDT (GMT-4) https://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse

And now, Handel’s Total Eclipse.

Note:  If you’re in the US and you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can print out a pinhole projector here, and view the sun’s image safely.  Wishing you clear skies!


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Total Eclipse

Total solar eclipse

No sun, no moon
All dark amidst the blaze of noon

So begins Handel’s aria Total Eclipse in the oratorio Samson.  Handel wrote Samson in 1741-1742 after hearing a reading of Milton’s poem Samson Agonistes.  In this case, the darkness is caused not by an actual eclipse, but by blindness.  Milton, himself blind, tells the biblical story of the strongman Samson, who was blinded after the hair which gave him his superhuman strength was cut off and he was captured by enemies.  Handel’s vision was beginning to fail by this time, and it appears he was deeply affected by the poem; at the gathering, a guest

read through the whole poem of Sampson Agonistes and whenever he rested to take breath Mr. Handel (who was highly pleas’d with the Piece) played I really think better than ever, and his Harmony was perfectly adapted to the Sublimity of the Poem1

Samson was one of the first oratorios to showcase a tenor in the leading role.2  And Handel places immense trust in his tenor in the aria Total Eclipse, as he at times sings unaccompanied by the orchestra.  I hope you will enjoy this beautiful, dramatic aria, Total Eclipse.

Handel himself may have experienced an actual total solar eclipse.  On May 3, 1715 a total eclipse was seen from Cornwall to London (three and a half minutes of totality in London).3

On August 21, 2017 many people in the US will be able to experience a total eclipse for themselves. The path of the eclipse will cross the entire United States, causing it to be all dark amidst the blaze of noon.  For more information, see these websites.

http://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse

References

  1. http://www.chandos.net/chanimages/Booklets/CO6008.pdf
  2. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/handels-samson-blinded-by-the-fight-853422.html
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_visible_from_the_United_Kingdom_AD_1000%E2%80%932091#17th_to_19th_centuries_.28AD_1601_-_1900.29

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Image attribution:  Solar eclipse 22 July 2009 taken by Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar from Bangladesh [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASolar_eclipse_22_July_2009_taken_by_Lutfar_Rahman_Nirjhar_from_Bangladesh.jpg