Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Thrift Shop Score!

Literally and figuratively.  Found this classic Edition Peters score of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on a bottom shelf.  Paid 99 cents!

Photograph of score of Bach's Christmas Oratorio

Want to hear what it sounds like?  Follow the links to a fine performance conducted by John Eliot Gardiner: Part 1, Part 2.

Need a score?  Find one here (no thrift shop runs required).

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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


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Eclipse!

Stick people safely viewing solar eclipse

These highly responsible stick people know to use their eclipse glasses and pinhole projectors at all times except during totality, when it’s ok to view the eclipse directly.

It’s Eclipse Day in the US, and the moon will cast its shadow along a path that stretches across the entire country, allowing everyone (including Alaska and Hawaii) to see at least a partial eclipse. Some lucky folks in a 70-mile-wide band will get to see a total eclipse.

So what does this have to do with classical music?

It is likely that Handel saw the 1715 total eclipse over London. Later, in 1741, he wrote the aria Total Eclipse for his oratorio Samson. You can read more about the aria and that eclipse here.

Today, the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco, the Kronos Quartet, and composer Wayne Grim will produce a sonification of the 2017 total eclipse, turning digital data into music. You can read about it here. You can hear Grim’s interpretation of the 2016 total eclipse in Micronesia here.

If you’re not in the US (or if your skies are cloudy) you can still see the eclipse via webcasts:

NASA coverage beginning at 12PM EDT (GMT-4) https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-live-stream

Exploratorium coverage beginning at 1PM EDT (GMT-4) https://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse

And now, Handel’s Total Eclipse.

Note:  If you’re in the US and you don’t have eclipse glasses, you can print out a pinhole projector here, and view the sun’s image safely.  Wishing you clear skies!


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Free Online: Innovative Performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Haydn’s The Creation

 

This week, visit the website of The Opera Platform to see two innovative performances.

On April 13, 2017 at 1 PM EDT (GMT -4), see an abridged performance of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with an additional final chorus composed by James MacMillan.  This staged performance, called The Passion, will feature The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers and the Streetwise OperaDetails on the performance can be found here.  This performance will be available through October 12, 2017.

On April 16, 2017 at 1 PM EDT (GMT -4), see Haydn’s The Creation, staged and danced by Rambert, one of Britain’s leading dance companies.  Details on the performance can be found here.  This performance will be available through October 15, 2017.

References

The Story of Haydn’s Creationhttp://www.classical-music.com/article/story-haydns-creation.


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Total Eclipse

Total solar eclipse

No sun, no moon
All dark amidst the blaze of noon

So begins Handel’s aria Total Eclipse in the oratorio Samson.  Handel wrote Samson in 1741-1742 after hearing a reading of Milton’s poem Samson Agonistes.  In this case, the darkness is caused not by an actual eclipse, but by blindness.  Milton, himself blind, tells the biblical story of the strongman Samson, who was blinded after the hair which gave him his superhuman strength was cut off and he was captured by enemies.  Handel’s vision was beginning to fail by this time, and it appears he was deeply affected by the poem; at the gathering, a guest

read through the whole poem of Sampson Agonistes and whenever he rested to take breath Mr. Handel (who was highly pleas’d with the Piece) played I really think better than ever, and his Harmony was perfectly adapted to the Sublimity of the Poem1

Samson was one of the first oratorios to showcase a tenor in the leading role.2  And Handel places immense trust in his tenor in the aria Total Eclipse, as he at times sings unaccompanied by the orchestra.  I hope you will enjoy this beautiful, dramatic aria, Total Eclipse.

Handel himself may have experienced an actual total solar eclipse.  On May 3, 1715 a total eclipse was seen from Cornwall to London (three and a half minutes of totality in London).3

On August 21, 2017 many people in the US will be able to experience a total eclipse for themselves. The path of the eclipse will cross the entire United States, causing it to be all dark amidst the blaze of noon.  For more information, see these websites.

http://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/

http://www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse

References

  1. http://www.chandos.net/chanimages/Booklets/CO6008.pdf
  2. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/handels-samson-blinded-by-the-fight-853422.html
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_visible_from_the_United_Kingdom_AD_1000%E2%80%932091#17th_to_19th_centuries_.28AD_1601_-_1900.29

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Image attribution:  Solar eclipse 22 July 2009 taken by Lutfar Rahman Nirjhar from Bangladesh [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASolar_eclipse_22_July_2009_taken_by_Lutfar_Rahman_Nirjhar_from_Bangladesh.jpg