Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Free Opera Webcasts from the Met!

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

The bad news:  The Metropolitan Opera has closed due to the health crisis.

The good news:  The Metropolitan Opera is providing nightly encore opera performances for free on its website.  A different opera every night!  The webcasts will continue for the duration of the closure.  The performances may also be viewed on all Met Opera on Demand apps.

See the performances here every night at 7:30 PM EDT (GMT-4).

Each performance will be available for 20 hours thereafter.  The operas are from the Met’s Live in HD series.  Below is the schedule for this week.  See this Met website page for more information on the performers and conductors.

 

Monday, March 16    Bizet: Carmen

Tuesday, March 17   Puccini: La Bohème

Wednesday, March 18   Verdi: Il Trovatore

Thursday, March 19   Verdi: La Traviata

Friday, March 20   Donizetti: La Fille du Régiment

Saturday, March 21   Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor

Sunday, March 22   Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin

 


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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 dso.org/live 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, wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Rubinstein.
  3. https://juliawolfemusic.com/music.


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Free Concert Webcast:  Tchaikovsky’s Fourth and More!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Saturday, November 17 at 8:00 EST (GMT-5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a free live webcast of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4.  John Storgårds will conduct.  The webcast will also feature violinist Pekka Kuusisto.  The webcast can be seen at https://www.dso.org/live.  Here’s the program.

George AntheilOver the Plains

Daniel Bjarnason: Violin Concerto

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 4

 

By the way, you should really read George Antheil’s bio.  It’s rare to find a composer who developed a radio guidance system for torpedoes (with actress Hedy Lamarr, no less; I am not making this up), and who was a friend of the poet Ezra Pound.


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Free Concert Webcast: Tchaikovsky’s Sixth and Two World Premieres

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 26, 2018 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will offer a live webcast. Jennifer Koh will be the featured violin soloist, and Peter Oundjian will conduct.  You can see the webcast at dso.org/live.  Here’s the program:

Roshanne Etezady:  Diamond Rain (World Premiere)
Chris Cerrone:  Concerto for Violin and Orchestra “Breaks and Breaks” (World Premiere) (read the composer’s notes on the piece in his May 22, 2018 News entry here)
Tchaikovsky:  Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique”

The webcast will begin an hour before the concert with interviews with composers Roshanne Etezady and Chris Cerrone.  You can see the concert notes on the conductors and pieces here.


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Free Live Webcast:  Tchaikovsky’s 5th, Stravinsky, and a New Work by Wynton Marsalis; or, Cossacks, Elephants, and a Hootenanny

On Friday, June 2, 2017 at 10:45AM EDT (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will offer a free live online concert that will include a new work by Wynton Marsalis featuring violinist Nicola BenedettiHere is her official website.  Here’s the program:

Stravinsky: Circus Polka
Wynton Marsalis: Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5.

The circus polka was composed for a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus.  It was performed by fifty elephants and fifty ballerinas.  Balanchine said he phoned Stravinsky:1

“I wonder if you’d like to do a little ballet with me,” Balanchine said.
“For whom?”
“For some elephants.”
“How old?” Stravinsky asked.
“Very young,” Balanchine assured him.
There was a pause.  Then Stravinsky said gravely, “All right. If they are very young elephants, I will do it.”2

I have to hear this now.  By the way, the elephant ballet was only performed for a short time, after which it became popular among solely human dancers.

I’m also eager to hear Wynton Marsalis’s Violin Concerto.  From the reviews I’ve read, it is a thoroughly American concerto, with movements titled Rhapsody, Rondo, Blues, and Hootenanny.  Marsalis packs the work to overflowing with musical ideas and notions, and the work you hear on Friday may differ from previous performances—it seems to be a work in evolution.  A documentary has been created, The Making of a Concerto, which you can see at the link.  Here is the trailer.

Rounding out the program is Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony, in which Tchaikovsky wrestles with the concept of fate.  And in the finale, the wrestling becomes fierce.  Check out this wild review from 1892, written by William Foster Apthorp, who was no great fan of “modern” music:8

In the Finale we have all the untamed fury of the Cossack, whetting itself for deeds of atrocity, against all the sterility of the Russian steppes.  The furious peroration sounds like nothing so much as a horde of demons struggling in a torrent of brandy, the music growing drunker and drunker.  Pandemonium, delirium tremens, raving, and above all, noise worse confounded!9

Wow.  Elephants, a hootenanny, and pandemonium.  Don’t miss it!

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circus_Polka
  2. Krista, Davida. George Balanchine: American Ballet Master. Minneapolis: Lerner Publication, p 72.
  3. http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/11/01/500059901/the-transatlantic-collaboration-behind-wynton-marsalis-new-violin-concerto
  4. http://wyntonmarsalis.org/news/entry/nicola-benedetti-performs-wynton-marsaliss-violin-concerto-los-angeles
  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/nso-offers-exuberant-marsalis-concerto/2016/10/27/b5c1c3cc-9cb9-11e6-b4c9-391055ea9259_story.html?utm_term=.f1f925b105e4
  6. http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/music/reich/ct-cso-marsalis-review-ent-0714-20160713-column.html
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/nov/08/london-symphony-orchestra-nicola-benedetti-james-gaffigan-wynton-marsalis
  8. http://www.sfsymphony.org/Watch-Listen-Learn/Read-Program-Notes/Program-Notes/Tchaikovsky-Symphony-No-5-in-E-minor.aspx
  9. Boston Evening Transcript, October 24, 1892 via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._5_(Tchaikovsky)


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Haiku Wednesday: Music That Gets Stuck in Your Head

What can you do when
Music gets stuck in your head?
I guess it depends.

If it’s some horrid
Tune, ill conceived or performed,
You must replace it.

But a fine tune can
Resonate through the day, a
Personal soundtrack.

It’s happened to all of us: something sparks the memory of a tune, or you hear a snippet on the radio, or from a passing car.

And suddenly it’s stuck, your brain rehearsing the notes in an infinite loop.  If you’re lucky, it’s more than a few lines.

Some people call it an earworm, a uniquely unappealing term, though I suppose it’s apt if the song in question is something you probably didn’t want to hear the first time you heard it.  For me, there is an abysmal song from the 80s that, once sparked, will.not.go.away until I Berlioz-blast it from my brain.  I won’t tell you what it is, because that would be wrong.

But sometimes, the sticking of a tune can be a delight, and that happened to me yesterday.  I’m not saying I want it to get stuck in your head, but I think you’d like to hear it.

I was checking out some Deutsche Grammophon listings on Spotify (Essential Liszt, Essential Bach), when I saw Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist.  So I started clicking.

Everything stopped when I played Tchaikovsky’s Romance in F Minor (Op. 5) performed by Joseph Moog (here’s the album listing from the record company).  It caught my ear.  It stayed with me all afternoon, and I was ok with that.  It begins with a sentimental minor-key melody that reminds me of a thought-filled walk along a riverside in the fall, the ornaments glistening like sun sparkling on the water.  The middle section is suddenly lively, as if one had to cross a busy intersection before continuing along the river.  The middle section gradually subsides into calm and returns to the main theme.

This is Opus 5?

Then I found out Tchaikovsky had written a cantata, overture, symphonic poem, symphony, and two operas before he got around to writing the Romance.  But he was so exacting that he destroyed the poem and the operas, and probably winced every time someone brought up the cantata, overture, and symphony.  But he kept the Romance, and it is a well-loved piece.

Here is Moog’s performance on YouTube for those of you who do not have Spotify.

Of course, before I found this YouTube video, I found two other interesting performances, by Mikhail Pletnev and Sviatoslav Richter, that I thought you might enjoy.

You can find the sheet music here.

References

  1. Leonard, James, Romance, for piano in F minor, Op. 5, Allmusic.com, http://www.allmusic.com/composition/romance-for-piano-in-f-minor-op-5-mc0002659624
  2. Jakubowski, Kelly, “Earworms: why some songs get stuck in our heads more than others,” The Conversation, https://theconversation.com/earworms-why-some-songs-get-stuck-in-our-heads-more-than-others-68182
  3. Kelly Jakubowski, Sebastian Finkel, Lauren Stewart, and Daniel Müllensiefen, “Dissecting an Earworm: Melodic Features and Song Popularity Predict Involuntary Musical Imagery,” Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, November 3, 2016, http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/aca-aca0000090.pdf


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Free Webcast Concert: Berlin Phil, Mehta, Zukerman Play Tchaikovsky and Elgar

On Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 3PM EDT (8PM in Berlin, UTC -4) the Berlin Philharmonic will present a free concert on its website.  The concert will feature Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, and the program will include Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Elgar’s Violin Concerto.   The concert is a benefit concert for UNICEF.