Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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One of Those Weeks, Illustrated

Stick figure on a unicycle on a tightrope juggles a sword, flaming stick, and chainsaw while crossing water filled with sharks, alligators, and snakes while beavers, woodpeckers, and a fire-lighting camper try to destroy the supports for the tightrope. Oh, and a rainstorm is coming--with lightning.

Did you ever have one of those weeks?  One for which the word “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it?  Yeah, one of those.

Words failing me, I attempted to depict one of those weeks in the illustration above.  And to go along with it, I’ve selected some music:  Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1.

If you’re having one of those weeks, I wish you calmer days ahead.  And to accompany them, Grieg’s Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt Suite.

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Free Concert Webcast: Sibelius and Grieg

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live concert webcast on Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 8:00PM (GMT -4).  Santtu-Matias Rouvali will conduct, and the program will feature pianist Víkingur ÓlafssonYou can see the program at dso.org/live.  Here is the program:

SibeliusLemminkäinen’s Return

GriegConcerto for Piano

Sibelius: Symphony No 5

 

Enjoy!


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Some Moosic from Edvard Grieg

A Cow, photo by Dave Wild (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Photo by Dave Wild.

I was driving through the countryside the other day, and saw some cows grazing in a field.  I was reminded of Edvard Grieg’s Cattle Call, a solo piano piece I had played a long time ago.  Grieg has always been a favorite of mine.  I particularly enjoy the little vignettes he creates in his solo piano miniatures, in particular, his Lyric Pieces.

When I went to look it up again, I remembered that there was more than one Cattle Call.  There are four pieces known as Cattle Call, or Cow Call, or Cow Keeper’s Tune.  Op. 17 No. 22 and Op. 66 No. 1 were written for solo piano.  Op. 63 No. 2, which expands on the first Cattle Call, was written for a string ensemble.  And there is a song called Cow Call from Op. 67.

Each of them evokes a peaceful, bucolic, restful end-of-the-day feeling.  This is music to make you say ahhhh.  I think we all could use that sometimes.

Here are some lovely performances of Grieg’s Cattle Call pieces.

Op. 66. No. 1

Cow Call from Op. 67

Op. 63 No. 2 for strings

(It would seem from these videos that cows also enjoy moosic, in these cases, the cello and harp)

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A footnote for musical completeness (‘cause that’s how I roll).  The Cow Call from Op. 67 is not part of the published Op. 67.  Grieg set a number of poems from Arne Garborg’s poem cycle Haugtussa.  The published music includes eight songs.  But Grieg wrote 12 others that were not included (these are designated EG 152), including Cow Call.  Information from https://imslp.org/wiki/Haugtussa%2C_Op.67_(Grieg%2C_Edvard).

Image attribution:

“A Cow”, photo by publicenergy [Dave Wild, https://www.flickr.com/photos/publicenergy/], 2007, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.   https://www.flickr.com/photos/publicenergy/1846375599/.


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To the Sun:  Classical Music and an Exciting NASA Mission

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

Many composers have written music to evoke the mood of seeing the rising sun, and I thought I’d bring some of this music to you today because an exciting new scientific mission is about to begin.  Early Saturday morning, NASA, the American space agency, is sending an unmanned spacecraft closer to the Sun than ever before to study its many mysteries.  It is the Parker Solar Probe.

NASA has wanted to implement this mission since the dawn of the space age, but it is only now that the technology is available to make it possible.  Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield will withstand temperatures of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1377 Celsius) while the measuring instruments in its shadow will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

You can see live coverage of the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, named for pioneering scientist Eugene Parker, at https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public starting at 3:00 AM EDT (GMT-4) on Saturday, August 11, 2018 (the launch window begins at 3:33 AM).

And now to the music.  We must start with an excerpt of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, iconic sunrise music if there ever was any.

You can see Gustavo Dudamel conduct the entire piece with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra here.  And here is an audio recording of Richard Strauss conducting his own piece in 1944 with the Vienna Philharmonic.

For a calmer start to your morning, I suggest Grieg’s Morning Mood.

Here is the beautiful and haunting On the Nature of Daylight (Entropy) by Max Richter.

You may also enjoy Aulis Sallinen’s Sunrise Serenade, Op. 63 for two trumpets and orchestra.  And here is Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Op. 17.

Reaching back in time, here is Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in B flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4 “Sunrise.”

Finally, here is the oldest surviving music about the sun, nearly the oldest surviving written music, the Hymn to the Sun by Mesomedes of Crete, second century CE.

Wishing NASA the best of luck with its pioneering mission, and wishing all of you sunny days ahead!

 

Previous space-related posts you may enjoy

Haiku Wednesday:  Beyond–Bach in Interstellar Space

Beethoven’s Cavatina–The Universe in the Palm of Your Hand


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Haiku Wednesday:  Butterfly

Monarch butterfly on a cluster of purple flowers

With fluttering wings
The butterfly alights on
A vibrant flower.

Sweet summer nectar,
Abundant blossoms, and a
Gentle summer breeze;
These are the good times,
And the butterfly dances
To music unheard.

Soon its wand’ring path
Will lead it to warmer climes
Before the air chills,
And fall’s orange leaves
Become a poor mimic on
The cold autumn wind.

Butterflies seem impossible; their wings are so delicate, their colors too bright to be real.  And yet, you can walk right up to them, and for the most part, they don’t mind if you look closely at the texture of their wings as they extract nectar from flowers one by one.  And then, on a whim, they fly off, seemingly not quite under control, in search of a new set of blossoms.

In Norway, Edvard Grieg too must have stopped to watch these marvels, and the result was Butterfly (Op. 43, No. 1) from his Lyric Pieces.  And here is a treat—this recording comes from a reproducing piano roll that was created as Grieg himself played the piece.  Perhaps you can hear the butterfly’s fluttering, somewhat chaotic flight in the notes.

 

More asides than references

If you’d like to see the reproducing piano at work, here is a video of Grieg’s Berceuse (Op. 38, No. 1) being played from a piano roll created by Grieg.

Grieg’s Lyric Pieces is great summer music.  You might also like Summer Evening (Op. 71, No. 2).

In case you were wondering, there are over 2,000 species of butterflies and moths in Norway.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Lepidoptera_of_Norway

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Image attribution: Monarch butterfly by Richiebits (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABBGMonarchButterflyWings.jpg


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Pianos in the Washington Post

While I’m sure there are some listed for sale there, that’s not what I mean.

The September 5, 2015 edition of the Washington Post has articles on today’s piano manufacturers, and comments on the dominance of Steinway in the concert piano market.

You might also like to read the review of Stephen Hough’s recording of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, the subject of an earlier post. Here’s a promo for the CD.


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Haiku Wednesday -Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces

Edvard_Grieg_(1888)_by_Elliot_and_Fry_-_02

Grieg’s Lyric Pieces
Ten books of songs without words
All tell a story

Edvard Grieg wrote 66 songs for solo piano that are collectively known as Lyric Pieces. They are in various opus numbers, and were written between 1867 and 1901.  A characteristic feature of the Lyric Pieces is that they paint a picture or describe a mood. These miniatures are gems, and I have enjoyed learning a few of them.

Here is Stephen Hough playing excerpts of the Lyric Pieces.

Here is Grieg himself playing Butterfly.  The sound quality is so good because he played into a Welte-Mignon reproducing piano.  The date of the recording is 1906.

And here is a 1903 phonograph recording of Grieg playing Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.