Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Free Concert Webcast: Beethoven, Prokofiev, and Currier

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, April 13, 2019 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will feature pianist Hélène Grimaud performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.  Also on the program are Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5, and a new work, Divisions, a commemoration of World War I, written by Sebastian Currier.  Ludovic Morlot will conduct.  You can see the concert at www.dso.org/live or on Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/detroitsymphony).

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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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Street Piano

Red Steinway piano in Munich airport with sign "Just Play a Steinway"

Surfing the net on this overcast day, I found a video of an infectiously cheerful, driving boogie-woogie piano performance.

The sun came out.

Ok, it’s not classical music, but this is a big tent, so come on in and listen to Henri Herbert making some folks’ day at St. Pancras Station in London, and now, thanks to YouTube, everywhere.  You can find the video here.

And that video led me to another.  if you have some time, you might enjoy Street Piano: Instrument of Change, a documentary on a program that restores pianos that might otherwise end up in landfills and installs them in public places for people to play and enjoy.  It highlights the experiences of some people whose lives have been changed by public pianos.

Do you play piano? Yes? If you see a piano in a public place, sit down, commandeer it.  Play until they make you stop.  Don’t worry about making mistakes, just go for it!  It will certainly make your day, and probably other people’s too.

_____

Image attribution:  Photograph by Eric Fischer [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)] via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Just_Play_a_Steinway_-_Red_public_Steinway_piano_in_Munich_Airport_terminal_(2015-05-23_17.29.42_by_Eric_Fischer).jpg


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Haiku Wednesday:  Getting Away From It All

Painting, L'Embarquement pour Cythere by Jean-Antoine Watteau, couples in 18th century garb in an idyllic landscape with a body of water and cherubim in the background

L’Embarquement pour Cythera by Watteau

Where would you go now
To escape your cares and woes?
If you could go now?

Would it be some isle,
Warm, sunny, a sandy beach,
An azure ocean?

A forest clearing
Overarched with leafy trees
And dappled sunlight?

A remote cabin,
Soft rainfall gently tapping
The windows and roof?

A cityscape with
Humming traffic and lively
Nightlife, full of fun?

A snowy mountain,
Glistening in the moonlight,
Silent and peaceful.

You can see it now,
Can’t you? It’s in your mind’s eye.
Or maybe you’re there.

I hope you find peace
Wherever you may be now
On your joyous isle.

 

In 1904, Claude Debussy vacationed on the island of Jersey with his mistress (and later, second wife) Emma Bardac.  It was there that he put the finishing touches on the composition L’isle joyeuse.  Debussy deliberately used the English isle instead of the French ile to allude to Jersey.

This piece was influenced by the paintings of Jean-Antoine Watteau, in particular, L’Embarquement pour Cythera, pictured above.

Here is a fine performance of L’isle joyeuse by Marc-André Hamelin.

I hope you find your joyous isle, even for just a little while.

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References

For more information on Debussy’s sojourn in Jersey, see http://www.litart.co.uk/index.htm , in particular, the page on L’isle joyeuse.

Also see https://notesfromapianist.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/j-is-for-joyeuse-debussys-lisle-joyeuse/

Image attribution

L’Embarquement pour Cythera by Jean-Antoine Watteau [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L%27Embarquement_pour_Cythere,_by_Antoine_Watteau,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg


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Emanuel Ax Plays Beethoven:  Live Webcast Today

Today, November 9, 2018 at 8 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live webcast featuring pianist Emanuel Ax playing Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto.  Cristian Măcelaru will conduct.  You can see the concert at www.dso.org/live.  Here’s the program:

DvořákCarnival Overture

BeethovenPiano Concerto No. 1

Andrew NormanPlay


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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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Respite

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.

Peace.