Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Free Concert Webcast Tonight: Overtures and Suites from Schumann, Strauss, and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Tonight, conductor Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra present an evening of Strauss (Johann II and Richard) and Schumann.  The concert will feature cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.  You can see the concert at  Here’s the program:

Johann Strauss II.:   Overture to Die Fledermaus
Robert Schumann: Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
Robert Schumann: Overture to Manfred
Richard Strauss: Suite from Der Rosenkavalier


To the Sun:  Classical Music and an Exciting NASA Mission

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun. Credit: NASA/SDO

Many composers have written music to evoke the mood of seeing the rising sun, and I thought I’d bring some of this music to you today because an exciting new scientific mission is about to begin.  Early Saturday morning, NASA, the American space agency, is sending an unmanned spacecraft closer to the Sun than ever before to study its many mysteries.  It is the Parker Solar Probe.

NASA has wanted to implement this mission since the dawn of the space age, but it is only now that the technology is available to make it possible.  Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield will withstand temperatures of 2500 degrees Fahrenheit (1377 Celsius) while the measuring instruments in its shadow will remain at a comfortable room temperature.

You can see live coverage of the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, named for pioneering scientist Eugene Parker, at starting at 3:00 AM EDT (GMT-4) on Saturday, August 11, 2018 (the launch window begins at 3:33 AM).

And now to the music.  We must start with an excerpt of Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, iconic sunrise music if there ever was any.

You can see Gustavo Dudamel conduct the entire piece with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra here.  And here is an audio recording of Richard Strauss conducting his own piece in 1944 with the Vienna Philharmonic.

For a calmer start to your morning, I suggest Grieg’s Morning Mood.

Here is the beautiful and haunting On the Nature of Daylight (Entropy) by Max Richter.

You may also enjoy Aulis Sallinen’s Sunrise Serenade, Op. 63 for two trumpets and orchestra.  And here is Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Op. 17.

Reaching back in time, here is Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in B flat Major, Op. 76, No. 4 “Sunrise.”

Finally, here is the oldest surviving music about the sun, nearly the oldest surviving written music, the Hymn to the Sun by Mesomedes of Crete, second century CE.

Wishing NASA the best of luck with its pioneering mission, and wishing all of you sunny days ahead!


Previous space-related posts you may enjoy

Haiku Wednesday:  Beyond–Bach in Interstellar Space

Beethoven’s Cavatina–The Universe in the Palm of Your Hand

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Two Live Concert Webcasts Tonight!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Decisions, decisions!  There are two live concert webcasts tonight.  Which will you pick?

Tonight, April 7, 2018, at 8PM EDT (GMT-4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and violinist Yoonshin Song will present Béla Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 2.  There will be a pre-concert interview with composer Steven Bryant at 7PM.  You can view the DSO concert here.  Here’s the full program:

Steven Bryant: Zeal (world premiere!)

Béla BartókViolin Concerto No. 2

Richard Wagner: Siegfried Idyll

Richard Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks

At 9PM EDT (GMT-4) The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and violinist Maureen Nelson will present Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark AscendingYou can view the SPCO concert here.  Here’s the full program:

Charles Gounod: Petite symphonie for Wind Instruments

Lembit BeecherThe Conference of the Birds

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for Strings

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a free app available for iPhone, iPad, and iTouch so you can enjoy their live concert webcasts and concert library wherever you go.  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has a free DSO To Go app which is available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

What if you can’t make either concert?  The SPCO has a free concert library that you can watch on demand.  The DSO has their Replay performance archive, which is available for a year with a $50 donation to the DSO.

I hope you will enjoy the concerts!

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Free Concert Webcast: Salome by Strauss

Dance of the Seven Veils, painting by Armand Point

Join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for their last free webcast, and wow, what a way to end the season!

On Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 3 PM EDT (GMT -4) the orchestra will present the opera Salome by Richard Strauss in concert format.  Leonard Slatkin will conduct.

See the concert at

This opera was shocking when it was first performed.  It can still be shocking today.  It was banned in some cities for a time due to Salome’s dance of the seven veils and her final kiss given to John the Baptist.

To learn more about Strauss, visit the photo-filled website.    Here is a quick introduction to Salome from Carnegie HallHere Alex Ross provides a helpful listening guide.  The San Diego Opera has produced a number of videos on Salome, including a video on leitmotifs in Salome, art at the time of the premiere of Salome, and the historical background of the opera.


Image attribution: Dance of the Seven Veils, painting by Armand Point, c 1890 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.


Brahms Speaks and Plays in 1889 Recording


In 1889 Thomas Edison sent a representative to Europe to demonstrate his new invention, the phonograph.  Gatherings would be held where prominent figures of the day could hear this new marvel of technology, and they were encouraged to set up sessions to make recordings as well.  In Vienna, one of these individuals was none other than Johannes Brahms.

Brahms was quite taken with the new device.  It is said that he wrote to Clara Schumann, “it’s as though one were living a fairy-tale.”[1]  And so, a recording session was arranged.

An account of the recording session was given by the son of the man in whose home the recording was made.  He describes Brahms as excited, and one might say he sounds like it in the recording.  After identifying himself, he immediately launches into his Hungarian Dance No. 1.  On the recording he also plays a snippet of Die Libelle by Strauss.  Here is Brahms.

I am amazed that this recording exists, and it’s wonderful.  There is a wealth of historical recordings of classical music played by the very composers who wrote it, and I will bring more of them to you over time, but this is one of the oldest and, to me, most exciting.

Click here for more details about this recording and its history.

The Smithsonian Institution is partnering with a number of other institutions to preserve the many early recordings in their collection.  Here’s an article on their efforts to preserve the earliest sound recordings.  The scientifically minded among us will enjoy this presentation on the techniques used to non-invasively retrieve the data on these fragile recording media (more extensive paper here).

And now for an encore.  Brahms was a close friend of violinist Joseph Joachim.  Here is a recording of Joseph Joachim made in 1903.




Image attribution

Edison wax cylinder phonograph, photo by Norman Bruderhofer, (own work (transferred from de:File:Phonograph.jpg))[CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Johannes Brahms