Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Free Concerts To Stream from Wigmore Hall

Rows of chair backs at Wigmore Hall appear to be a wavy stream of water

This wavy stream is actually the chair backs of Wigmore Hall

To celebrate its 115th anniversary, Wigmore Hall live-streamed a number of concerts.  They have been fantastic.

If you missed them, they are now available for viewing at your leisure.  Wigmore Hall has also made available the programs for each concert.

You can find the concerts at

The concerts include works by Bach (JS and JC), Schubert, Berg, Machaut, Gesualdo, and a number of today’s composers.  One specialty concert is Irish Culture in Britain.  In another, the lively JACK Quartet highlights the ancient and the modern in music (including two premiere performances).



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Free Wigmore Hall Concert Tuesday 1 PM GMT: Berg’s Lyric Suite

Alban Berg

Don’t miss the next free livestream concert from Wigmore Hall, Tuesday, 10 May 2016 at 1 PM GMT (8 AM EDT—start your day with music, America!)

The livesteam will present “Inside the Score: Berg’s Lyric Suite.”  It is described as “a visually and musically illustrated lecture-recital.”  The performers are the Tana String Quartet, soprano Julia Sitkovetsky, and presenter Gavin Plumley.

You can see the livestream at

You can read about Alban Berg here.  Here is more information on Berg’s Lyric SuiteHere is a NY Times article on the story behind the Lyric Suite, which is said to be about an affair between Berg and a married woman.

Here is the score if you want to follow along.

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Second Viennese Schooled

It’s a new choir season, and I was listening to the music that we would be singing and looking at the sheet music, following along.  So I see this piece in German, and I’m reading it…and it’s getting more and more chromatic, and I find myself thinking “who wrote this?!”

So I page back.

Arnold Schoenberg.  Oh!

I wasn’t expecting Schoenberg.  In my head I’m hearing Monty Python’s “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”  Or Arnold Schoenberg for that matter.


Arnold Schoenberg was one of the key members of the Second Viennese School of composers, which also included the composers Alban Berg and Anton Webern and others.  Here’s a somewhat cheeky overview of the Second Viennese School (with examples) and a more straightforward description.

Schoenberg (1874-1951) is best known as the father of the 12-tone method  (sometimes called serialism), in which all 12 notes in an octave are used equally, and no one note has dominance over another.  This is very different from traditional music, which is written in a particular key, in which certain notes carry more “weight” than others, and there is a tendency to return to the “home” note of the key (e.g., C in the key of C).  The 12-tone method is a topic which engenders strong opinions and reactions because it is so different from what one typically expects in music.

So there aren’t many 12-tone lullabies (which I then Googled; but here’s one, and here’s a 12-tone Mary Had a Little Lamb).

Which in turn led me to this: the composer of the 12-tone Mary has a long YouTube video (30 minutes) on 12-tone composing and its history that is interesting and quirky (stick figure Stravinsky?).

But back to the unexpected piece in my choir binder.

Schoenberg didn’t start out writing 12-tone music.  His early work was consistent with the style of the late Romantic period (think Brahms and Wagner).  One of his best known early works is Verklärte Nacht (in English Transfigured Night, Op. 4, composed in 1899).  Here is a performance by the Emerson String Quartet.

The music in my binder is Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth, Op. 13, composed in 1907), a piece which was written as Schoenberg was making the transition from the harmonies of the Romantic period to something new and unexplored.

The transition is new and unexplored for me as well, but I’m sure it will be fascinating.


Image attribution:  Arnold Schoenberg by Man Ray [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.