Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Free Concert Webcast Tonight:  Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

“I shall not alter a single note,” I answered, “I shall publish the work exactly as it is!”

So said Tchaikovsky after receiving blistering criticism from pianist Nikolai Rubinstein after hearing Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto a few days after the composition was completed. [1]  Rubinstein, who is known for debuting Balakirev’s insanely difficult Islamey, [2] deemed the concerto “unplayable” and “vulgar.”

It would appear Tchaikovsky was vindicated.  The first piano concerto met with great audience acclaim at its debut in Boston, and has become one of Tchaikovsky’s most popular works.  Rubinstein later came around, both playing and conducting the work he once vilified.

Tonight at 8PM EST (GMT -5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live concert webcast, which will include Tchaikovsky’s concerto.  The concert will feature conductor Dalia Stasevska and pianist Simon Trpčeski.  You can see the webcast at or on Facebook Live.  Here’s the program:

Julia Wolfe  Fountain of Youth (described by the composer as “a sassy, rhythmic, high energy swim”) [3]

Tchaikovsky  Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23

Sibelius  Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39.


  1. Warrack, John, Tchaikovsky.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973 pp 78-79.
  2. Nikolai Rubinstein,,

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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  Here is the program:

SibeliusLemminkäinen’s Return

GriegConcerto for Piano

Sibelius: Symphony No 5



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Free Concert Webcast Tonight:  Beethoven, Britten, Sibelius

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Today, March 24, 2018 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free concert webcast.  You can see it at  The conductor will be Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and violinist Augustin Hadelich will perform Britten’s Violin Concerto.  Here’s the program:

Sibelius: Pohjola’s Daughter

Britten: Violin Concerto

Beethoven: Symphony No. 7


Free Live Concert Webcast: Stravinsky, Sibelius, Kuusisto

On Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 3PM EDT (GMT -5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Hannu Lintu will perform the divertimento from Stravinsky’s one-act ballet, The Fairy’s Kiss,” and Sibelius’s Second Symphony.  The program will also include the DSO debut of Jaakko Kuusisto’s Violin Concerto, which will feature violinist Elina Vähälä.

An hour before the concert starts there will be an informal interview with composer Jaakko Kuusisto, who is also a conductor and an award-winning violinist.  He plays a 1702 Matteo Goffriller.2  Elina Vähälä plays a 1780 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.5  You’re welcome, violinists!

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon–don’t miss it!  You can see the concert at


  2. Karlson, Anu, The two lives of Jaakko Kuusisto, Finnish Musical Quarterly, 2/1997.

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Sibelius 150: Over 1000 Gather To Sing Finlandia

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius, somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people gathered in Helsinki to sing Finlandia.

I couldn’t extract the video, so I’m giving you the website, which is in Finnish.  Click the play button on the video–wow!


Haiku Wednesday: Jean Sibelius


Jean Sibelius
Wrote the soundtrack of Finland
Hear and see it here

Sibelius fans, I have found many links for you!

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) the National Museum of Finland is presenting an exhibit, “Sibelius: One Must Live Every Note.”  A facet of the exhibit is a website that presents images of original manuscripts, audio excerpts from a number of his compositions that show the evolution of the works, and a brief article on the history of the presented pieces.

Sibelius surrounded himself with visual art.  He had close associations with a number of Finnish artists, and his home was filled with their artwork.  The Finnish National Gallery presents a webpage on various themes in the life of Sibelius.  The site contains artwork and suggestions of compositions by Sibelius to listen to that are associated with these themes.  The home of Sibelius, Ainola, is now a museum.  The Ainola website features photos of Sibelius, his home, and the artwork found there.

The Philharmonia Orchestra has produced a documentary featuring Vladimir Ashkenazy in Finland exploring the world of Sibelius.  The video presents the places and artwork that served as an inspiration of Sibelius, as well as a visit to his home.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra has a page devoted to video performances of works of Sibelius, including Symphonies 1 and 5 (the website also has performances of works by other composers, so click around!).  There is also a page on the life of Sibelius.

Collins Classics has made available the full album of its recording of Four Legends and Finlandia by Jean Sibelius (the Collins Classics YouTube channel features a large number of full albums by a variety of composers, so don’t miss it!)

Here is the Sibelius Violin Concerto presented by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra with soloist Ray Chen.

And we can’t leave out a performance of Finlandia.  Here it is performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

Hyvää päivänjatkoa [Have a nice day!]


Image attribution:  Jean Sibelius, 1939 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Opera in Pajamas

(you, not the performers.  Although that would be interesting)

Can’t make it to Milan to see an opera at La Scala?  I feel your pain.  Maybe this will help.

If you’re curious about opera, but didn’t know where to start, here’s a low-budget way (meaning, in this case, free) to see what it’s all about…in your pajamas if you’d like.

The Opera Platform website is intended for those new to opera as well as seasoned attendees and is intended to promote European opera companies.  A number of operas have been made available as video on demand and include subtitles.  A new opera is added each month, and is available on demand for six months.  See their About Us page for more details.  The site features operas by Wagner, Sibelius, and Verdi (La Traviata) to name a few, and Puccini’s La Boheme will be added soon.

Another venue for full opera performances is the Warner Classics TV channel on YouTube.  And the Metropolitan Opera offers a free 7-day trial to their Met Opera on Demand streaming service.

Need a little background info before you dive into the operas?  There are numerous books dedicated to demystifying opera (headed to the library?  Dewey decimal number 782.1).  Don’t have that much time?  Sinfini Music has put together a number of comic strips outlining the plots of famous operas.  You can find the comic strips here.

While these are great on-ramps to opera, there is no substitute for the thrill of live performance.  If you like what you hear, check the web for local opera companies and performances in your area.  There are a lot of talented folks out there who would love to have you come out and enjoy all the hard work, time, and devotion they put into their craft.   They’d also prefer that you not attend in your pajamas.

No opera in your area?  Head to your local library or favorite online merchant.  Many operas are available not only on CD but DVD as well (including BluRay).  Nothing beats a live performance, but the sound and visual quality of the recordings are typically top-notch.  I saw Les Troyens by Berlioz on BluRay and it was spectacular.

So settle into your chair, wherever it may be, and get ready for a treat.  If you see something you think is great, let us all know so we can see it too!

Postscript:  After writing this, I found two great operas on pristine LPs at my local thrift shop.  Total cost:  $3.90.

  • Wagner’s Tannhäuser, with soprano Birgit Nilsson and tenor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Deutsche Oper Berlin conducted by Otto Gerdes
  • Verdi’s Aida, with soprano Montserrat Caballé and tenor Placido Domingo, New Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Riccardo Muti.

which led me to find the Riccardo Muti’s recording label website on which one can stream Verdi’s Requiem and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under his direction.

Must. stop. finding. links.