Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Free Live Concert Webcast:  Prokofiev, Elgar and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will present a free concert webcast.  You can see the webcast at

Here’s the program:

ErbThe Seventh Trumpet

ProkofievViolin Concerto No. 1, Gil Shaham, violinist.

Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (also known as the Enigma Variations)

If you’d like to learn more about Elgar’s variations (and see a cute animal video while you’re at it) see my post about Variation XI and Bulldog Dan here.


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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Graduation Music

Stick figure with diploma in graduation attire

It’s graduation season!  And in America that means we will be hearing a lot of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance No. 1.  You know the tune—Disney used it to great effect in Fantasia 2000.

”But wait,” you might be saying.  “Pomp and Circumstance No. 1?”  Indeed.  Elgar wrote six Pomp and Circumstance MarchesYou can read about the first time No. 1 was used in an American graduation ceremony here.

March No. 1 is called “Land of Hope and Glory.”

And here are March No. 2, March No. 3, March No. 4, March No. 5, and March No. 6 (which Elgar left incomplete—it was completed by Anthony Payne).

I actually gave a speech at my high school graduation.  I found it years later, and it was waaay too long.  Here’s what I would say now:

  1. Graduation day is a new beginning. So is every day.
  2. Get out there and try new things. They may not work out, and that’s ok.   See point 1.
  3. Sometimes when you flip a coin to make a decision, you find out what you don’t want.  But then you know.  Coin flips need not be binding.
  4. Don’t wait until you’re 100% ready or the product/situation is 100% perfect or you’ll never accomplish anything.
  5. Learning doesn’t stop when you no longer have teachers and classrooms. Go find stuff out!
  6. Try to make things better—the world, your neighborhood, yourself.

Two years ago, I started this blog.  I wasn’t ready.   I had never done anything like it before.  I made mistakes.  I still make mistakes.  But I know way more about music now than I ever did.  It’s been fun sharing what I’ve learned with people—people in 134 countries!  So, start catapulting, my friends!

And what better way to end than with another piece of graduation music, the Academic Festival Overture, in which Brahms cleverly incorporates the tunes of a number of student drinking songs.  You can see it here.  Prost!

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Free Webcast Concert: Berlin Phil, Mehta, Zukerman Play Tchaikovsky and Elgar

On Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 3PM EDT (8PM in Berlin, UTC -4) the Berlin Philharmonic will present a free concert on its website.  The concert will feature Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, and the program will include Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Elgar’s Violin Concerto.   The concert is a benefit concert for UNICEF.

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Free Concert Webcast: Emanuel Ax and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Play Beethoven, Elgar

Pianist Emanuel Ax

Pianist Emanuel Ax. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Here’s another free webcast from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra!  On December 11, 2016 at 3PM (GMT -5) pianist Emanuel Ax will be featured in a program of Beethoven and Elgar. Leonard Slatkin will conduct.  Here’s the program:

Beethoven:  Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus

Beethoven:  Piano Concerto No. 2

Elgar:  Symphony No. 1

If you can’t see the webcast at that time, the DSO offers an reasonably-priced alternative. For a donation to the orchestra of $50 or more, you can access DSO Replay, their catalog of previous webcasts, for a year.  There are over 100 works available, viewable on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices, in high-definition, and more than 26 new concerts are added during the season.  Find out more about DSO Replay here.


Edward Elgar, Cute Internet Animals, and Multimedia: The Enigma Variations and Bulldog Dan

Here is a video of a bulldog rolling down a hill.

Why am I showing you a cute internet animal video?  Other than it’s Monday, and besides, why not?

George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan, subject of Elgar's Enigma Variation XI

George Robertson Sinclair and his bulldog Dan, subject of Elgar’s Enigma Variation XI

When Edward Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations, each variation was intended to depict a friend.  In the case of Variation XI, even though it is labeled G. R. S. (George Robertson Sinclair, an organist friend), it is actually about Sinclair’s bulldog Dan.  It depicts Dan falling into the river Wye (perhaps after rolling?), waddling up the bank, reaching the top and barking.

See if you can hear bulldog Dan in this recording of Variation XI from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  Afterward, you might want to try playing the muted bulldog video at the same time as the variation.

Here is Elgar’s own explanation of the Enigma Variations, a booklet titled My Friends Pictured Within, written to accompany a 1929 piano roll of the piece.

In an article in the The Elgar Society Journal on the variations I found the following passage:

It should be explained that Elgar’s notes and the running commentary are printed on the rolls themselves, which may explain why the material has been so little consulted. Copies are scarce, and the rolls are both cumbersome and fragile (I timed the rewinding of one at thirteen minutes). The running commentary was designed to be read from the roll during performance (hence, presumably, the subtitle of the series: ‘Audiographic Music’).1

Edward Elgar went multimedia—in 1929.

If you are looking for a comprehensive Elgar site, go to

The orchestral score and Elgar’s own solo piano version can be found here.

And finally, here is the complete Enigma Variations, performed by the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov.


  1. Smith, Mike, “Friends Revisited: an edition of Elgar Birthplace EB722,” in The Elgar Society Journal, Vol 16 No 2, July 2009, p 8.


Image attributions: Photograph of George Robertson Sinclair and bulldog Dan from My Friends Pictured Within.  London: Novello and Co. Ltd.

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Free Webcast: Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony from the DSO


Detroit. Tomorrow. Be there.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free webcast of Mozart’s “Prague” Symphony on January 16, 2016 at 8:00 PM EST.  The program will also include works by Dvorak, Elgar, and Mohammed Fairouz.  Here’s the program:

Dvorak              Serenade for Winds

Elgar                  Serenade for Strings

Mozart              Symphony No 38, “Prague”

Mohammed Fairouz       Concerto for Cello and Orchestra

The program will feature Israeli-born cellist Maya Beiser performing the world premiere of the concerto by Mohammed Fairouz titled “Desert Sorrows.”

You can find the webcast here.  Don’t miss it!


Image attribution: Mozart c. 1780, portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Public domain. Questionably modified by C. Gallant.