Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Free Live Webcast: Mendelssohn and More!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert webcast on December 6, 2019 at 10:45 AM EST (GMT -5).  The concert will feature Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, performed by violinist James EhnesJuanjo Mena will conduct.  You can see the concert at Here’s the program:

Haydn  Symphony No. 44 in E minor, “Trauersinfonie”

Mendelssohn  Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 64

Schubert  Symphony No 9 in C major, D. 944, “The Great”


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Free Concerts: Haydn to Cage

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Here are three great live concert webcasts to choose from, with music ranging from Haydn to Bernstein to Cage. 

On Friday, February 22, 2019 at 8:00 PM EST (GMT -5) Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) will present works by John Cage, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, and Kristin Kuster.  You can see the concert at  Here’s the program:

Kristin KusterDune Acres (world premiere)

John Cage: 4’33” (after talking about this piece in a recent post, you get to see it live!)

Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto

Leonard Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs

Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and other selections

But wait, there’s more!  You’ll have to make a choice:

On Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00 PM EST (GMT -5) Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present “Maximum Minimal”, featuring music by Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Adams.  You can see the concert here.  Here’s the program:

Steve Reich: Clapping Music

Philip Glass: Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra

John Luther Adams: Become Ocean

Also on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00 EST (GMT -5), the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO), conducted by Tito Muñoz, will present “Reflections on Home”.  You can see the concert here.  Here’s the program:

Felix Mendelssohn: Sinfonia No. 10 in B Minor for String Orchestra

Maya Miro Johnson: wherever you go, there you are (world premiere)

Joseph Haydn: Symphony No. 96, The Miracle

Lembit Beecher: Say Home (world premiere)

If you’re not available for the SPCO concert, it will be available for on-demand viewing later at the SPCO concert library website.  Detroit Symphony Orchestra webcasts can be viewed at a later date with a subscription to their Replay program (a benefit of a tax-deductible contribution to the DSO).

Whatever you decide to watch, I hope you will enjoy it!



Forest scene with water flowing over a fallen log.

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all.  That seems increasingly hard to do these days.  There are distractions everywhere, noise, people, devices…continuous clamor.  How do you get away?

It’s nice to go to a park, and find a forested trail, but even there you are likely to find people (talking on their phones!), folks walking their dogs, kids enjoying the fresh air—all wonderful things (except the phone maybe), but still not quiet enough.

My go-to solution is getting out on the water, a large body of water, in a small kayak.

The phone may or may not work.  The few people I see are fishing, quietly waiting on the shore for a fish to come along.

It’s wonderful.

I saw a fox that had come to the water’s edge for a drink.  There was a yearling deer, no bigger than a large dog, foraging calmly on a hillside.  A kingfisher bird dove with a loud splash into the water and came up with a small fish.  A great blue heron waited quietly at the shoreline for a fish to come along.  Turtles sunned themselves on logs and looked on as I silently glided by.

It has been a rainy summer in my region, and the water levels are high, which means that little inlets, once short and clearly connected to the main body of water, now extend, meandering well into the forest.

I followed one such inlet, and soon heard the sound of cascading water.  It got louder and louder as I followed the stream as far as I could, until the water was only a few inches deep.  The water I heard was pouring over a fallen log.  It was surprisingly loud in contrast to the tranquil forest.

I remained there for a long time.  And I took the picture you see at the top of the post.  There was a great temptation to leave the kayak and explore…what was in the distance, beyond the bend, that I couldn’t see?  But some things are better left as mysteries, untouched, explored only in the imagination.

I know that not everyone can do what I did.  Not everyone has the time or opportunity.  But we all can spare a few minutes to enjoy some peaceful music, and go to the place that makes us happiest in our minds.

Here is Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Op. 85 No.1.


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New Free Online Concert Resource

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has announced the addition of video to their collection of audio concert recordings.  The recordings are free and available on demand.  A series of live-stream concert webcasts will begin in September.

At the moment there are only a few video recordings available, but they are outstanding.  There are performances by pianist Jeremy Denk (Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue –wow!), as well as a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s  Symphony No. 4 “Italian”, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  You can check out their library of recordings here.  Videos are indicated by a small camera icon, and clicking on a hyperlinked performer name will give you a list of performances by the artist available on the site.

With selections from John Adams to Hugo Wolf, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy!




Haiku Wednesday: Women in Music

music note with feminist symbol (ankh) below

They threw away half
Of all the great music that
Might have been written.

They threw away half
Of all of the great music
That could have been heard.

No time to write for
The hand that rocked the cradle
And maintained the home.
No baton left for
A matron, mom, or maiden
On the podium.

For lack of training
And of opportunity
We lost their voices…
Nearly—just a few
Managed to break down the walls
And make themselves heard.

Today is more than
Women’s Day—it’s time to rise,
Conduct, play, compose.

Today is International Women’s Day.  You may see any number of articles on Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, maybe even Hildegard von Bingen or Amy Cheney Beach.  You can follow the links to articles on each of these remarkable women in this blog.

Women were traditionally underrepresented in classical music.  What’s the situation now?

If you look at an old photograph of any orchestra, you’ll see a sea of tuxedos, and not a woman in sight (wait…maybe there’s one hidden behind the harp).  Look at a current photo, and you’ll see some women in the orchestra.  So, progress is being made.  But you’re still unlikely to find an equal distribution.

When we turn to the topic of female conductors, everyone first thinks of Marin Alsop—and then perhaps there is a long pause.   However, journalist Jessica Duchen has compiled a list of over 100 female conductors.  Duchen includes links to the conductors’ websites as well as brief bios, and these are fascinating.  But if we can name only one out of a hundred, there is still a long way to go.

Sadly, a search using the words “women classical music soloists” yields articles with titles containing the words”hottest,” “sexiest,”  and “pin-ups”…and I’m going to be ill now.

While there may be more women composers now than in previous times, a 2014 study11 found that women constitute only 15 percent of composition faculty in the top 20 music schools in the United States.  More than half of these schools have no women among the composition faculty at all.  Women constitute less than 15 percent of living composers whose works are presented by orchestras and in new-music series.11


Are things better than they were?  Yes.

Has the problem of underrepresentation been solved?  No.

We still have a long way to go, but the progress that has been made is somewhat encouraging.

Below you will find a number of articles on this topic that may be of interest.


  1. Gregory, Alice, “A History of Classical Music (The Women-Only Version),”  The New York Times, December 2, 2016,
  2. “The Great Women Composers,” Classic fm,
  3. Rivera, Jennifer, “Where Are All the Women in Classical Music?” The Huffington Post, September 21, 2016
  4. Tsioulcas, Anastasia, “What is Classical Music’s Women Problem?” NPR Classical Deceptive Cadence, October 9, 2013
  5. Pentreath, Rosie, “9 of the Best Contemporary Female Composers,”, March 8, 2017
  6. Cooper, Elinor, “10 Female Composers You Should Know,”, March 8, 2016
  7. Duchen, Jessica, “Why the Male Domination of Classical Music Might Be Coming to an End,” The Guardian, February 28, 2015,
  8. Tilden, Imogen, “’This is not a woman’s issue’—Tackling Conducting’s Gender Problem,” an interview with Marin Alsop. The Guardian, February 6, 2017
  9. Beer, Anna, “The Sound of Silence: Classical Music’s Forgotten Women,” The Guardian, April 2, 2016,
  10. Elizabeth, Jordannah, “10 Black Female Women Composers To Discover,”
  11. “Her Music: Today’s Emerging Female Composer,” WQXR, August 20, 2014,!/story/her-music-emerging-female-composer-today/

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Free Concert Webcast: Brahms, Tangos, a Bartered Bride, and More

Today I want to tell you about a free concert webcast on Saturday.  But first let me ask you this:  when you read the title, did you, for just a moment, picture Brahms dancing the tango?  No?  Ummm…me neither.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is offering a new free webcast featuring violinist Cho-Liang Lin, who will play Lalo Schifrin’s Tangos Concertantes.

Also on the program are Brahms’s Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Smetana’s Overture to The Bartered Bride, and Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, “Reformation.”

You can see the concert Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 8:00 PM EST (GMT -5) at the DSO Live webpage.  At 7:00PM you can see an informal presentation by conductor Leonard Slatkin about the program.

I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Brahms dances the tango


  2. Note: this webpage automatically plays introductory music (The Theme from Mission Impossible). In case you’re at work; don’t want the boss to get the wrong idea.  You can click “Skip intro” to stop it.

Photo attribution:  Couple doing the tango via–14, modified by C. Gallant using Johannes Brahms photograph by C. Brasch, Berlin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


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Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words for Cello and Piano: Beauty Without Words

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

I was originally going to write about Felix Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words for solo piano (and I will at some point), but then I found this gem.

It is believed that Mendelssohn wrote this piece for cello and piano, titled Song Without Words, sometime around 1845.  It was published after Mendelssohn’s death and given the designation Op. 109.  The sheet music may be found here.

It was with great delight that I found this video of cellist Jacqueline du Pré performing Op. 109 (Iris du Pré, piano).  I listened to other performances, but I kept coming back to this one.  Perhaps it was the richness and sweetness of tone, or the expressiveness of the playing.  I hope you will enjoy it as well.

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Mendelssohn Autograph Sketches May Yield New Insights

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Earlier this year the Berlin State Library acquired a Felix Mendelssohn autograph from a private collection.  The pages (4 pages, 8 sides) contain sketches of Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and his composition Die erste Walpurgisnacht.

The acquisition is significant because researchers had not previously had access to this material, which sheds light on the early stage of the composition process of these works.

You can see a sample of the Mendelssohn manuscript at the Berlin State Library website (click on image for a larger view).

Here is a performance of Piano Concerto No. 1 featuring pianist Ilya Yakushev.  Mendelssohn himself played at the piece’s debut.

Here you can a full performance of Die erste Walpurgisnacht.


Berlin State Library press release on Mendelssohn acquisition at

Program notes on Piano Concerto No. 1

Barenreiter’s description of its annotated score of Die erste Walpurgisnacht at


Image attribution: Lithograph of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

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Free DSO Webcast: Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Mozart

Don’t miss Saturday’s free live webcast from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  That’s January 30, 2016 at 8PM EST at

Here’s the program:

Mozart: Violin Concerto No 1
Mendelssohn: Incidental music for “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4

An hour before the concert there will be an informal presentation to provide more information about the program music.

The last free webcast, which included Bizet’s Carmen Suite and Ravel’s Bolero, was quite a treat.

The performances are great, and the excellent camera work makes the concert come alive.


Lost Mendelssohn Easter Sonata Found—and it’s by Fanny, Not Felix


Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

Duke University graduate student Angela Mace discovered that the Ostersonate [Easter Sonata] formerly attributed to Felix Mendelssohn was in fact written by his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. [1]

The work had been considered lost.  It was found in the 20th century, then disappeared again.  Until recently.

Mace made the discovery after locating and examining a manuscript of the piece in a private collection.  She also determined that it had been written in 1828, and not 1829.

The piece is in Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s handwriting, and also contains stylistic elements that indicate that she is the composer. [2]

Here is a video containing a portion of the piece and a discussion.  Another brief video may be found here.

Fanny composed the music for her own wedding when her brother Felix was injured and could not produce the music in time. In fact, the recessional was composed the night before the wedding! [3]



Fanny Hensel: Morgengruss, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK (D-B) MA Ms. 174.

The above is a beautifully illustrated manuscript of Morgengruss by Fanny Hensel, courtesy of RISM, and below is a performance of a slightly different version of the pieceRISM holds a number of Hensel manuscripts, some of which have been digitized and are freely available online (look for the blue bar with an e to the right of the entry  with “Online lesen”).

And finally, here is Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s Quartet in E-flat major




Image attributions: Portrait of Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Morgengruss manuscript image courtesy of RISM under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).