Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Mozart Mania: Over 8 Hours of Free Webcasts Now Available!


More Mozart than you can shake a baton at!

More Mozart than you can Handel!

Ok, I’ll stop now.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has made all six programs of its MozartFest concert series available on YouTube until March 3, 2017.  That’s over eight hours of music available for your viewing and listening enjoyment.  Here’s the link for the “Mo-Fest BingeFest playlist.”

Here’s what you can see.


to Cosi fan Tutte

to Don Giovanni

to La Clemenza di Tito

to The Marriage of Figaro

to The Magic Flute

to The Abduction from the Seraglio


Bassoon Concerto

Flute Concerto

Concerto for Flute and Harp (exquisite!)

Horn Concertos 1, 2, 3, and 4

Oboe Concerto


No 35, “Haffner”

No 36, “Linz”

No. 38, “Prague”

No. 39

No. 40

No. 41, “Jupiter”

But wait, there’s more!

Eine kleine Nachtmusik


Sinfonia Concertante

You can also see works by Beethoven, Brahms, Debussy, Mahler, Bruckner, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and more on the Detroit Symphony Orchestra channel.  Click the Videos tab to see what’s available.

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More Free Mozart from the Motor City

Today, Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3:00PM EST (GMT -5) you can see another free live webcast from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s MozartFest.  You can watch it here.  Here’s the program:

Overture to Cosi fan Tutte

Bassoon Concerto

Horn Concerto No. 4

Symphony No. 40

The pre-concert talk (2:00PM) will be “Mozart, Wind Players, and Concertos.”

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Music is Everywhere

Here are some musicians finding music in very unusual places.  Enjoy!

First, the Triple Concerto for Faucet, Water Pipes, and Fiddle

And now, Siegfried’s Horn Call for Horn (and Chair)

And this post would not be complete without P.D.Q. Bach’s “Erotica” Variations for Banned Instruments (safe for work, despite title!).  My favorite is the lasso d’amore (the orange whirly tube).

See if you can find some unexpected music today!


A French Horn Mystery

French horn, hand, and question mark

Today I want to address a question that has been on the minds of concertgoers for, perhaps centuries.

Why do French horn players put their hand in the bell?

So I did a little research and I found out many things, but the first thing I found out is this:

French horns are complicated.

Playing them is complicated, their history and evolution is complicated, assembling them can even be complicated.

But back to the original question.  A long time ago, horns did not have valves, the buttons you press to alter the pitch.  It turns out you can produce several tones blowing through a valve-less horn, the natural tone of the horn and the overtones of that pitch (here’s an article on overtones).  But you can’t produce the whole scale.

When horn players put their hand in the bell of the horn, using the technique used as “hand stopping,” depending on how they shape their hand, they can alter the pitch of the tone, and get a full scale.  When the hand blocks the bell, it can also alter the timbre of the instrument.

Now that horns have valves, horn stopping is not strictly necessary, but is still used to alter timbre.

The scientifically-inclined among you may enjoy this article, “Spectral Analysis of the French Horn and the Hand-in-Bell Effect,” which also contains references to articles on the acoustics of other brass instruments.

Here is a portion of an interview with the first female French horn player (and first female in the horn section) of the Berlin Philharmonic, Sarah Willis, demonstrating horn stopping.

By the way, the instrument is called a French horn only in English.  Everywhere else it is called a horn.  Whether the instrument originated in France is a matter of some debate.

In the References section you will find a number of great resources to find out more details about this fascinating instrument.

But I can’t leave you without some actual horn music.  There is, of course, Mozart’s Horn Concerto No 2, among other great horn works, but I wanted you to hear this lovely horn and organ duo performance of Pie Jesu by Gabriel Fauré.


“Ten Facts You Should Know About the French Horn,”

The Arizona State University Horn Studio (a fine collection of articles and music)

Horn WikiBook with information on technique, repertoire, and more

Sarah’s [Sarah Willis] Horn Hangouts on her YouTube channel

Watts, Adam, “Spectral Analysis of the French Horn and the Hand-in-Bell Effect”,

WIkipedia-French horn


Image attributions: Hand from; French horn from Dover Ready-to-Use Old-Fashioned Music Illustrations.