Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Free Concert Webcast Tonight! Beethoven’s 3rd and More

Beethoven

Join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, for a free concert webcast tonight, Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 8:00 PM (GMT -5).  You can watch it at this link.  Here’s the program:

Conor Brown: World premier of How To Relax with Origami

Barber: Piano Concerto featuring pianist Olga Kern

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

There will be a pre-concert talk with Leonard Slatkin starting one hour before the concert.

Enjoy!

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Haiku Wednesday: Beyond–Bach in Interstellar Space

Poster showing the outline of the Voyager spacecraft against a blue and black painted background representing space

Beethoven, Mozart,
Bach wrote music for all time,
And now, all of space.

Bach traveled on foot
Over two hundred miles to
Hear great music, learn.

Now his music flies
Beyond the sun’s reach, into
Interstellar space.

This week NASA is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.  When Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, each carried a golden record containing images and the sounds of Earth.  Along with greetings in over 50 human languages, whale song, and sounds of nature, there was a selection of the world’s music, including classical music.

One of the spacecraft has now left our solar system and is in interstellar space; the other will be there soon.  And as they travel through the dark and empty space between the stars, our “silent ambassadors”1 carry the story of who we are.  Here are the classical selections chosen for the record:

Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F. First Movement, performed by the Munich Bach Orchestra, Karl Richter, conductor.

Bach, “Gavotte en rondeaux” from Partita No. 3 in E major for violin, performed by Arthur Grumiaux

Bach, The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2, Prelude and Fugue in C, No. 1, performed by Glenn Gould, piano.

Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, conductor.

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B flat, Opus 130, Cavatina, performed by the Budapest String Quartet (read more about the Cavatina here).

Holborne, “The Fairie Round”, performed by David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London.

Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, No. 14, performed by Edda Moser, soprano and the Bavarian State Opera, Munich, Wolfgang Sawallisch, conductor.

Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, performed by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Igor Stravinsky, conductor.

Bach walked 250 miles to hear the music of Dieterich Buxtehude and learn from him. The Voyager spacecraft are now 10-12 billion miles from Earth and are outward bound at around 40,000 miles per hour.  They’re still sending back fascinating and valuable data. Like Bach, they have traveled a long way in the pursuit of knowledge.  And the results have been glorious.

Image of Saturn, its rings, and moons taken by the Voyager spacecraft.

Image of Saturn, its rings, and two moons taken by the Voyager spacecraft. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

What music would you select to represent all of us?

References

  1.  https://www.space.com/37860-voyager-mission-40-years-ed-stone-interview.html
  2.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/voyager-nasa-exploring-unknown-1.4267178
  3. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/golden-record/whats-on-the-record/music/
  4. https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/index.html
  5. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/

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Image attribution:  Like the image? Download it (and more) for free at https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/downloads/

Image of Saturn courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/images-voyager-took/saturn/.


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New Free Online Concert Resource

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has announced the addition of video to their collection of audio concert recordings.  The recordings are free and available on demand.  A series of live-stream concert webcasts will begin in September.

At the moment there are only a few video recordings available, but they are outstanding.  There are performances by pianist Jeremy Denk (Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue –wow!), as well as a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s  Symphony No. 4 “Italian”, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  You can check out their library of recordings here.  Videos are indicated by a small camera icon, and clicking on a hyperlinked performer name will give you a list of performances by the artist available on the site.

With selections from John Adams to Hugo Wolf, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy!

 

 


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Free Concert Webcast: Beethoven’s Ninth and Bob Dylan Reimagined

Tonight, May 19, 2017 at 8PM EDT (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free webcast.  The program will feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan.

Corigliano has set Bob Dylan’s words to music that is very different from the original recordings.  You can read more about the song cycle here on the composer’s website.  Those interested in a more detailed musical analysis of the work can find one at the link.

You can see the concert at http://www.dso.org/live.


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Haiku Wednesday: Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Let’s all get to know
Johann Nepomuk Hummel—
Best you’ve never heard.

Piano, trumpet,
Viola, bassoon, and flute—
He composed for all.

Enjoy music from
Johann Nepomuk Hummel.
Then go spread the word.

If you don’t know Johann Nepomuk Hummel, here’s a little of what you’ve been missing.  Listen to the third movement of his Trumpet Concerto.

Wow, that’s better than caffeine!  It’s the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the trumpet soloist is Elmer Churampi.  I love seeing the performers smiling.  Music should be fun!

If you would like to see the entire concerto (different orchestra and soloist), you can see it here.

Hummel was a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer.  As a child, he caught the attention of Mozart, who was so impressed with his ability that he took him into his home and provided him with free lessons for two years, after which he studied with Muzio Clementi in London, and Haydn and Salieri in Vienna.  Hummel was friends with Beethoven and Schubert.  He worked with Haydn at Prince Esterházy’s court.1

Hummel was surrounded by greatness—and that perhaps is part of his anonymity problem.  A star may be bright, but you will never see it when the sun is shining.  Over time, his more stellar contemporaries got more attention, and his works were nearly forgotten.

Hummel’s music is not performed very often, and it is a pity, because he wrote some very enjoyable music.  Here is his Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano (Op. 78).  Bassoon fan?  Here is Hummel’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra.  Here is the compelling (and fast fingering-intense) Return to London for piano and orchestra (Op. 127) (oh, did I forget to mention that Carl Czerny was Hummel’s student?).  Finally, I think you will enjoy the charming Rondò brillante in B Minor for piano (Op. 109).

For a detailed account of Hummel’s life and links to videos, performances, and scores, see The Hummel Project webpage.  You can also find more of Hummel’s music on YouTube.  Those who read German may want to visit the website of the Hummel Gesellschaft Weimar.

I hope you have a Hummel-ful day!

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Nepomuk_Hummel
  2. The Hummel Project webpage, http://www.jnhummel.info/en/index.php

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Image attribution:  Engraving of Johann Nepomuk Hummel by Pierre-Roch Vigneron, based on a portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820, [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Nepomuk_Hummel#/media/File:JNHummel_2.jpg . Also viewable at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84212189 .


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Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4

Beethoven

The other night I decided to listen to Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.1

Wow.

Let me tell you more about this incredible piece of music.

Beethoven wrote Piano Concerto No. 4 (Op. 58) in 1805-6, and it was first performed at a private concert in 1807.  It was not performed at a public concert until December 1808.2   But what a concert!  Here’s what was on the program:3

Symphony No. 5

Symphony No. 6

Choral Fantasy

Piano Concerto No. 4

Ah, perfido!, a concert aria

Mass in C (excerpts)

The audience spent four hours in a freezing cold theater listening to this concert of a lifetime–it would be the last time that Beethoven would perform as a soloist.

A feature that distinguishes this concerto from many others is that the piece begins with the piano alone.  This would have been totally unexpected for the audience.  And when the orchestra finally comes in to state the first theme, they do not come in playing in the announced key (G major), but an unexpected key (B major).

But you might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, sure, but what makes it so great?  Where’s the wow factor?”

Aside from doing the unexpected, Beethoven takes you on a wild ride.  In the second movement, it is as if the orchestra and pianist are facing off against each other–how will that struggle end?  And it has exciting, demanding piano writing.  Watch the pianist’s hands. Then recall this quote from composer Johann Friedrich Reichardt, who attended the first public performance:3

[Beethoven] played with astounding cleverness and skill, and at the fastest possible tempi.

Wow.

(Of course, then I think, imagine how long the concert would have been if he hadn’t!)

The references below will give you detailed descriptions of the concerto’s three movements.  But you might be tempted to just jump in and listen.

This link will take you to a YouTube page where you can find great performances of this piece by many prominent pianists and orchestras.  The list extends for pages.  Here I’d like to highlight the performance of pianist Mitsuko Uchida and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mariss Jansons at the 2013 Proms Festival.  I hope you will enjoy it!

References

  1. Since inquiring minds will want to know, I listened to (and watched) pianist Jonathan Biss and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra on the DSO Replay subscription streaming service. Phenomenal performance!
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_No._4_(Beethoven)
  3. http://www.laphil.com/philpedia/music/piano-concerto-no-4-g-major-op-58-ludwig-van-beethoven


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Explore Beethoven Piano Sonatas with Jonathan Biss on Coursera

Ludwig van Beethoven Jonathan Biss, photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Pianist Jonathan Biss has created a new set of lectures on selected Beethoven piano sonatas on Coursera.org.  The course is free, and is designed “for people of all levels of experience with Beethoven’s music (including no experience at all!).”1 This set of lectures will cover Sonata No. 3, Op. 2, No. 3; Sonata No. 8, Op. 13 (“Pathetique”); Sonata No. 21, Op. 53 (“Waldstein”); and Sonata No. 27, Op. 90.

This course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Part 2, will begin in mid-January, but you can enroll now.

The first course, Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, will begin again on January 2, but you can enroll now as well.  This course provides an overview of the 32 sonatas, and contains a wealth of detail on the sonatas themselves and music history.

I took the first course, enjoyed it, and learned a lot.  You can read more about the course in an earlier blog post.  You may learn more about Jonathan Biss at his website, which contains the least serious biography I have ever seen.

Biss is in the process of recording all 32 of the Beethoven piano sonatas, and several CDs have already been released.

Follow this link for my post containing more free Beethoven resources.

Follow this link for my post containing more on Beethoven’s late string quartets.

And now, here is Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Sonata No 5 in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 1.

 

References

  1. https://www.coursera.org/learn/exploring-beethoven-piano-sonatas-2
  2. http://www.jonathanbiss.com/

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Image attributions: Beethoven, Painting by Carl Jäger (1833-1887), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beethoven_.jpg.  Jonathan Biss, photo by Benjamin Ealovega, http://www.jonathanbiss.com/img/publicity/Jonathan_Biss_104_credit_Benjamin_Ealovega.jpg.