Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Live! Free!  Beethoven, Turandot, Gran Turismo and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Tonight, June 9, 2018 at 9PM EDT (GMT-4) The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra presents their season finale concert.  You can see it here.  Here’s the program:

Andrew Norman: Gran Turismo
Johannes Brahms: Serenade No. 2
Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 1

Tomorrow, June 10, 2018 at 3PM EDT (GMT-4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Puccini’s Turandot in a concert setting. You can see it here.

For more opera, visit operavision.eu where you can see these and more on demand:

Bellini: Norma
Donizetti: La Favorite
Handel: Semele
Mascagni/Leoncavallo: Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci
Monteverdi: L’Orfeo
Offenbach: Blaubart
Puccini: Turandot
Verdi: Aida, La Traviata, Il corsaro
Wagner: Götterdämmerung, Parsifal

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Haiku Wednesday:  Alkan’s Funeral March for a Dead Parrot

This parrot is dead;
He is no more; he’s passed on.
He has ceased to be.

He’s expired and
Gone to meet his maker, a
Stiff, bereft of life,

Demised, not pining.
The choir invisible
Now has a parrot.

The words for this haiku are excerpts from Monty Python’s classic Dead Parrot Sketch, which you can see below.  But the inspiration for the post is Charles-Valentin Alkan’s Funeral March on the Death of a Parrot.

Oddly, this is not the first time I’ve done a post on music written about a bird, or even for a dead bird.  Mozart had a starling whose song may be heard in his music, and for whom he wrote a poem.  Telemann wrote the Cantata of Funeral Music for an Artistically Trained Canary-Bird Whose Demise Brought the Greatest Sorrow to His Master

So, there’s precedent (and decedent for that matter).  But the subject of this post is Alkan’s funeral march.  It has been said that he was inspired to write this after the appearance of Rossini’s opera The Thieving Magpie [La gazza ladra] in Paris.1  In his score, Alkan advises lovers of La gazza ladra not to attribute any “impertinence” to the dead parrot’s song, you know, not that he was parodying Rossini or anything.

In this funeral march, the soloists sing “As-tu déjeune, Jaco”, which is roughly equivalent to the English “Polly want a cracker?”

Alas, it is too late.  Here is Alkan’s Funeral March on the Death of a Parrot.

 

Here is Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch.

 

References

  1. https://www.allmusic.com/composition/marcia-funebre-sulla-morte-dun-papagallo-for-chorus-3-oboes-bassoons-funeral-march-for-a-dead-parrot-mc0002396751

 


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Free Concert Webcasts Alert!

stick guy singing opera on a television with a viking helmet for an antenna

This morning, April 13, 2018 at 10:45 AM (GMT -4) The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will offer a free live webcast (see it here) with the following program:

Debussy: Printemps
Shostakovich: Violin Concerto No 1 with violinist Ray Chen
Schumann: Symphony No 1, “Spring”
Hannu Lintu will conduct.

Tomorrow, April 14, 2018, OperaVision will present a live stream of events from Den Norske Opera in Oslo to celebrate the opera house’s 10th anniversary.  You can see it on the OperaVision YouTube channel.  Highlights of the broadcast will be an attempt at a world record (at 8:15AM ET, GMT-4) for the largest number of people singing Verdi’s aria Va Pensiero from the roof of the opera house (which can also be seen on OperaVision’s Facebook page), and a live performance of Verdi’s La Traviata at 3:00PM ET (GMT-4).


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Haiku Wednesday: Charles Gounod

Charles Gounod

Today’s a good day
To get to know Charles Gounod,
The French composer.

Ave Maria
Is the only thing most know
(and the Hitchcock theme).

But he wrote over
600 pieces; one, a
National anthem.

And so, I urge you
To get to know Charles Gounod,
The French composer.

If you ask people what they know about Charles Gounod, you’re likely to hear about his adaptation of Bach’s Prelude in C Major, the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria.

Some might mention his opera Faust (here’s a short excerpt).

Some might remember that he wrote The Funeral March of a Marionette, known to some readers of a certain age as the theme to the television show Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Then it gets very quiet.

And yet Gounod wrote over 600 pieces, including two symphonies and the delightful Petite Symphonie for woodwinds.

Gounod wrote several masses, his best-known being the Messa Solennelle de Saint-Cecile.  Gounod’s Marche Pontificale became the national anthem of Vatican City.

A rather unusual piece (and instrument) that you need to see is Gounod’s Concerto for piano-pédalier and orchestra.  It is a grand piano equipped with pedals like an organ.  Here is the first movement.*

Want more?  For all things Charles Gounod, be sure to check out charles-gounod.com, a webpage created by Gounod’s great-great-grandson, containing photographs, letters, a discography, and more.

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*Composer Charles-Valentin Alkan wrote a number of pieces for the piano-pédalier, including a series of preludes, as well as etudes for the feet alone.  Looks like that might be another blog post!

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Gounod
  2. http://www.charles-gounod.com/vi/
  3. http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Gounod,_Charles

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Image attribution:  Charles Gounod by Nadar (a.k.a. Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, 1820–1910): Photographer Adam Cuerden – Restoration. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACharles_Gounod_(1890)_by_Nadar.jpg.


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Want to Binge Watch Opera?  Want to Give Opera a Try for the First Time?

stick guy singing opera on a television with a viking helmet for an antenna

Opera fans, this post is for you!  Not an opera fan yet?  This is also for you!  The OperaVision website and the OperaVision YouTube channel have a wide variety of operas for you to enjoy (or just sample, if you’d like).   The operas are available on demand, free of charge, no login necessary.

Here’s some of what’s currently available on demand:

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

Handel: Semele

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Martinu: Juliette

Mascagni and Leoncavallo: Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci

Monteverdi: L’Orfeo

Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro

Offenbach: Blaubart

Poulenc: Dialogues des Carmélites

Puccini: Turandot

Verdi: Aida

Wagner: the entire Ring cycle

Here’s what’s coming up in April:

April 1   Wagner:  Parsifal

April 2   Rossini Gala: Homage to Conductor Alberto Zedda featuring a number of overtures and selections from Rossini’s operas.

April 8   Verdi: Il corsaro

April 14 Verdi: La Traviata

April 26: Donizetti: La Favorite

 

What if you’re not sold on the idea of opera?  Do you think language will be a barrier?  These operas have subtitles in a number of languages.  Don’t know how to get into opera?  Check out OperaVision’s New to Opera? tab.  Not sure if you can devote a couple hours in one sitting?  Then watching from home is perfect!  You can take a break whenever you want and come back whenever you want (just remember to write down the timestamp where you stopped).  It’s a great no-risk opportunity to sample a variety of different opera styles or find a new favorite.

If you watch something that you like, let us all know about it!


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Telemann Fans:  New Aria Discovered!

Georg Philipp Telemann

RISM has reported1 that a new aria from an opera by Georg Philipp Telemann has been found in Braunschweig, Germany.  The aria, “Mein Herz is viel zu schwach, Euch zu verlassen” [My heart is far too weak to leave you], is believed to be from the opera Die königliche Schäferin Margenis [The Royal Shepherdess Margenis].

The manuscript is written in German organ tablature notation, but a modern transcription has been published in the German-language music journal Concerto.2

You can read more about the discovery here.

A previously unknown set of fantasias for viola da gamba by Telemann was found in 2015Recordings of that set of fantasias have since been released.

References

  1. “Mein Herz ist viel zu schwach” – A Newly Discovered Aria by Georg Philipp Telemann. RISM.info, Feb. 19, 2018. http://www.rism.info/en/home/newsdetails/article/2/mein-herz-ist-viel-zu-schwach-a-newly-discovered-aria-by-georg-philipp-telemann.html.
  2. Lauterwasser, Helmut, “’Mein Herz ist viel zu schwach, Euch zu verlassen’ Eine neu entdeckte Arie von Georg Philipp Telemann,” [“My heart is far too weak to leave you” A Newly discovered aria by Georg Philipp Telemann], CONCERTO – Das Magazin für Alte Musik No 277 (January/February 2018), pp 22-25.

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Image attribution:  Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767), [Public domain] hand-colored aquatint by Valentin Daniel Preisler, after a lost painting by Louis Michael Schneider, 1750.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Telemann.jpg.


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Haiku Wednesday: Handel’s Semele

Painting of Jupiter and Semele by Luca Ferrari
“Wherever you walk
There will be trees and flowers,
For you are lovely.”

So said Jupiter
To Semele; she doubted.
You know where this goes.

Whenever humans
Get involved with the Greek gods,
It doesn’t end well.

Tonight, 25 October 2017 at 19:00 CET (GMT +1), operavision.eu and the Garsington Opera will present Handel’s Semele, the story of a mortal woman seduced by Jupiter.  Handel filled this oratorio with wonderful arias.  However, the audience at the premiere was shocked, as Handel presented this sensual story during the solemn Lenten season.

No previews from tonight’s performance are available, but I really wanted you to hear a sample from Semele, so here is a performance of “Where’er you walk” by John Mark Ainsley.

Semele will be available for a few months after the initial webcast.

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Image attribution: Jupiter and Semele by Luca Ferrari [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Luca_Ferrari_-_Jupiter_and_Semele.jpg