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:–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!



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!

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Beethoven’s String Quartets: A Delight for the Eye and Ear

Portrait of Beethoven wearing tie-dye t-shirt, holding manuscript

Perhaps you have listened to Beethoven’s string quartets, or seen performances, recorded or live.  Now, you can see them in a new way.

I have highlighted the work of Stephen Malinowski in previous posts (here, for example).  He takes classical works and adds visualizations that reflect various aspects of the music, showing how voices interweave, pitches shift, and more.  Malinowski calls them animated graphical scores, and they provide great insights into the musical structure.  They can draw attention to aspects of the music you might miss otherwise.  They are also mesmerizing.

Malinowski collaborated with the Alexander String Quartet, who performed individual Beethoven string quartet movements that were then given visualizations.  Afterwards, they set a spectacular goal: record and visualize all of Beethoven’s string quartets in honor of Beethoven’s upcoming 250th birthday.


It was hard to select a single movement to highlight here.  Should I pick the Cavatina from String Quartet No. 13 (whose visualization reminds me of stained glass, or butterfly wings), a piece that I have discussed previously on this blog?  Or the “Heiliger Dankesang” movement of String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor?  I decided to give you a little morsel, the lighthearted, even playful, Scherzo from String Quartet No. 1.

I’m sure you will enjoy the wonderful performances of the Alexander String Quartet and Malinowski’s visualizations of Beethoven’s music.  Here is the YouTube playlist of the string quartets. Here you can find Malinowski’s notes and background information on the quartets.  If you’d like more technical or musical details, including notes on the visualization of works by other composers, start here.  You might also want to see if your favorite piece has been visualized at the YouTube channel.



Image attribution: Portrait of Beethoven wearing tie-dye t-shirt. Portrait of Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Tie-dye by MpegMan at en.wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons. Mash-up by C. Gallant.

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Free Concert Webcast: Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Currier

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will feature pianist Hélène Grimaud performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.  Also on the program are Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, and a new work, Divisions, a commemoration of World War I, written by Sebastian Currier.  Ludovic Morlot will conduct.  You can see the concert at or on Facebook Live (

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Beethoven or Mahler?  Your Choice—Live Webcasts This Saturday

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.  The program will also include Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5, featuring violinist Yoonshin SongRafael Payare will conduct.  You can see the DSO concert here.

Also on Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra will present pianist Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3.  The program will also include Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, and Watermark, a Concerto for Piano by Caroline Shaw, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. Watermark is one of five piano concertos commissioned by the SPCO and Biss to coordinate with Beethoven’s piano concertos (read more about the Beethoven/5 concerto commissioning project here).  You can read the composer’s comments on Watermark hereMischa Santora will conduct.  You can see the SPCO concert here.

Wherever your weekend takes you, I hope you will find some time to enjoy music!


Haiku Wednesday: GOOD MORNING!

music note with laughter emoji inside

It’s early morning.
It’s still dark, I’m on the road.
I need some music.

Without looking, I
Slip a disc into the slot.

Beethoven attack!
Off. Fumbling, I find a disc.
Well, let’s try again.

Chopin is lovely,
But too lively this morning–
It’s a rude etude.

Who picked this music?!
I’ll put 4’33” on,
Looping, for a while.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5


Chopin:  Etude in A Minor, Op 10, No 2

Cage: 4’33”

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Free Concert Webcast Today: Beethoven’s Fifth and Brahms’s Violin Concerto

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

In just two hours from now (10:45 EST, GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present the Brahms Concerto for Violin, featuring Christian Tetzlaff, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto.  You can see it at

If you’ve already missed it, or if it doesn’t fit into your schedule, I’d like to mention that a $50 donation (or more) to the Detroit Symphony comes with a one-year subscription to Replay, the orchestra’s online library of concerts, which includes their last four seasons as well as the Brahmsfest, Mozartfest, and Frenchfest series of concerts, over 200 works to choose from, as well as artist interview and pre-concert lectures.



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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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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.

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Free Music Scores and More

flying stick figure trailed by music staff

Benjamin Franklin, colonial America’s Renaissance man, said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  I’m here to save you a few pennies today.

The Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester has made a wealth of music scores and books from the Sibley Music Library available on the web.  The digitized items may be downloaded for your reading and playing pleasure.

Here is a link to the Sibley Music Library digitized collection, where you can search for the topic of your choice.  A search on Beethoven will yield hundreds of music scores and 83 books, as well as theses and other analytical works.  The books are older and in the public domain, but then, Beethoven hasn’t written any new letters lately (the previous link is for a biography containing letters translated into English.  You can read Beethoven’s letters in German here).  As always, verify that the works are indeed in the public domain in your country (laws vary).

And since we’re being frugal, I thought it would be appropriate to present Beethoven’s Rondo e capriccio Op. 129, which is commonly called Rage Over the Lost Penny.  Enjoy!