Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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.

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Free Concert Webcast:  Mussorgsky and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Sunday, November 17, 2019 at 3 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live webcast.  The program will feature Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel prepared the orchestral version from the original solo piano version). The program will also feature the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s new work, Another Time, A Symphony of Songs on Four Poems by W. H. Auden.  Tenor Miles Mykkanen will perform in this work.  The conductor for the program will be Leonard Slatkin.

You can see the concert at

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Free Concert Webcast Today: Berlioz, Messiaen, and Dutilleux from Berlin

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Today, March 20, 2018 at 3:00PM EST (GMT-4) there will be a free live webcast on the website of the Berlin Philharmonic,  The Young German Philharmonic [Junge Deutsche Philharmonie], all conservatory students, will present a program featuring works by French composers.  Conductor David Afkham will direct the young musicians as they perform Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, Olivier Messiaen’s Les Offrandes oubliees, and Henri Dutilleux’s cello concerto Tout un monde lointain.  The last piece will feature renowned cellist Steven Isserlis.


Free Concert Webcasts: Berlioz, Elgar, New Music, and Opera!

Tomorrow, 21 October 2017 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -5), visit for a performance of Harold in Italy by Hector Berlioz, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and the world premiere of Loren Loiacono’s Smothered by Sky (at link see page 19).

The Opera Platform website, long the home of free opera webcasts, is now  Operas typically remain available for viewing on the site for six months after their initial webcast, and some are available with subtitles in multiple languages.  Operas currently available on the new website include Puccini’s Tosca and Madama Butterfly, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, and Verdi’s La Traviata.  Haven’t watched opera before? Check out Operavision’s New To Opera? tab for some helpful information.

Also, opera fans, please note that Operavision will present Wagner’s entire Ring cycle in separate webcasts beginning 28 October 2017, and, on a lighter note, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on 3 November.

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Free Concert Webcast: Berlioz, Sergei Prokofiev, and a New Concerto by Gabriel Prokofiev Featuring Branford Marsalis

Today, March 24, 2017, at 8PM EDT (GMT -5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free concert webcast.  You can see the webcast here.  The program includes Love Scene from Romeo and Juliet by Berlioz, and the Suite from Romeo and Juliet by Sergei ProkofievAndrey Boreyko will conduct.

Also on the program is a new commissioned work by Gabriel Prokofiev, British composer and DJ, who is also the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev.  His Saxophone Concerto will feature soloist Branford MarsalisYou can read a little more about the composition here.




Berlioz Ho Ho Ho


This weekend one of the choirs I sing with presented a program of seasonal music.  The selections included a sweet lullaby by William Byrd, Schönberg’s Friede auf Erde with its surprising and beautiful chromaticism, and The Shepherds’ Farewell from L’enfance du Christ by Hector Berlioz.

Berlioz.  I’ve talked about this interesting character before.  There is a great story associated with The Shepherds’ Farewell.  At the time people were…how shall I put this…not thrilled with Hector’s work.  Ok, a lot of people hated it, just his name being on it made them hate it.  So in 1850 he had The Shepherds’ Farewell performed but attributed it to some made-up 17th century composer named “Ducré.”

Well, they loved it.  One woman said, “Berlioz would never be able to write a tune as simple and charming as this little piece by old Ducré.” [1]

That must have been sucré [sweet].

Here is The Shepherds’ Farewell.

Here’s a brief commentary on L’enfance du Christ by Sir Colin Davis.



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Haiku Wednesday – Hector Berlioz


Hector concocted
An elaborate scheme to
Kill his fiancée.

Donning a dress, he’d
Access the house, draw his gun…
Maybe use poison.

Jilted Berlioz
Came to his senses, went back,
Wrote copiously.

Fortunately, Hector Berlioz was in Italy when he received word from his fiancée’s mother that the engagement was off, and she would be marrying the rich son of the Pleyel piano manufacturing family in France.

Furious, he decided to kill Pleyel, his fiancée, her mother, and himself.  He got a dress, wig, hat, and heavy veil as a disguise to enter their house.  He stole pistols from the music academy (why does a music academy have pistols?), and for good measure, bought strychnine and laudanum in case the pistols misfired (um…how would that work?…never mind).  Anyway, en route to France, he decided maybe this was a bad idea after all.1

Good thing too (for many reasons).  Berlioz went on to write operas, a Te Deum, a Requiem, and a host of other magnificent pieces of music.

His Requiem has special meaning for me; it was one of the small number of classical albums I had when I was growing up. The Tuba Mirum section has trumpets blaring from the four corners of the world and tympanis announcing the Final Judgment.  With my stereo and its four speakers (one in each corner of my world/room), bass turned up to beyond sane levels, the tympanis shook the floor as the trumpets blared.  Unfortunately, one of those frequencies also caused the aluminum Venetian blinds to vibrate uncontrollably, adding an annoying buzz to all that analog awesomeness.

Berlioz was my Metal before there was Metal.

Feel free to turn up your speakers as you listen to the Tuba Mirum (but not if you’re wearing headphones–the buzz you hear will not be the Venetian blinds, it will be your ears complaining bitterly).


  1. Cairns, David, Berlioz, Vol 1. University of California Press, 2003, pp 457-9, via