Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Aurora Australis

Stick figure in parka looks up at Southern Lights

Since everyone seemed to like my matching of the Llandudno goats video to Prokofiev’s Montagues and Capulets, I’ve decided to bring you another mashup.
First, I saw this beautiful time-lapse footage of the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) over Antarctica. [1]  If the only thing you do is watch this video, your day may improve. The soundtrack for this video is a piece called Diana by Tony Anderson, and it works wonderfully with this video. If you enjoy the video, check out Timestorm Film’s YouTube channel for more videos (in particular, Nox Atacama. Wow.)

But I wanted to try something different.

I found this video of violinist Mari Samuelsen playing Max Richter’s November live in Beijing. If you only listen to this, your day may improve.

Now for the mashup. Open the two videos in separate tabs. Start the video of November. Once the orchestra starts to play, start the video of the Southern Lights in Antarctica, but mute its sound. The timing is not critical.

I think you will enjoy the result.

Wishing you peace and good health.

 

Extra note for Max Richter fans: If you are in the UK or Europe, BBC3 and the European Broadcasting Union will broadcast Max Richter’s Sleep, all eight hours of it, beginning 11PM London time on 11 April 2020. Read more about BBC’s Culture in Quarantine program here.  Not in Europe?  Need Sleep now?  You can find it here on YouTube.
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1. Clara Parkes is providing a daily moment of calm, with photos or videos to provide a moment of peace, or a smile, to your day. It is called The Daily Respite. Past days have included a photo of the Maine sky, a dog jumping into piles of leaves, the Llandudno goats, and today’s Southern Lights video. You can check it out at the website, or if you subscribe, it will be sent to your inbox each day. See details at the link above.

Image attribution: Drawing by C. Gallant (c) 2020.


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Paganini, Berlioz Live Concert Webcast and a Virtual Museum Tour

Globe with eighth note

Get ready for a whirlwind of a concert!

On Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 3:00 PM EST (GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert webcast.  The concert will feature Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini’s First Violin Concerto.

Here’s just a taste of the violinist’s Paganini flare:  Augustin Hadelich playing Paganini Caprice No. 5.

The second half of the concert will feature the wild ride of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie FantastiqueJader Bignamini, the DSO’s new music director, will conduct.  You can see the concert here.

Paganini and Berlioz met in Paris, and became regular correspondents.  Both enjoyed guitar music, and Paganini gave Berlioz a guitar.  Both signed the guitar, which still exists and is at the Musée de la Musique in Paris. [1]   Berlioz donated the guitar to the museum when he was its curator.  And here it is:

Photograph of guitar signed by Paganini and BerliozCloseup photograph of signatures of Paganini and Berlioz on guitar

You can take a fascinating virtual tour of the museum at this link.  You can even download a museum map to facilitate your tour. Click the pictures; any picture with a compass on it will allow you to wander through the museum and view the exhibits.  Other pictures will provide slideshows with musical clips.  Enjoy!

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References

  1. Niccolò Paganini, Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niccol%C3%B2_Paganini.

Image attributions:  Globe with eighth note, C. Gallant, 2019.  Paganini, Berlioz guitar, Musée de la musique, Paris / A Giordan – http://mediatheque.cite-musique.fr/musee [Public domain] via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Nicolas_Grobert_-_Early_Romantic_Guitar,_Paris_around_1830.jpg.


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Free Live Webcast: Mendelssohn and More!

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present a live concert webcast on December 6, 2019 at 10:45 AM EST (GMT -5).  The concert will feature Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, performed by violinist James EhnesJuanjo Mena will conduct.  You can see the concert at dso.org/live. Here’s the program:

Haydn  Symphony No. 44 in E minor, “Trauersinfonie”

Mendelssohn  Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 64

Schubert  Symphony No 9 in C major, D. 944, “The Great”

 


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A Mysterious World Inside a Cello

Sketch of a cello made of two question marks, one upside down.

Artist Adrian Borda used a miniature camera to photograph the insides of musical instruments.  The result is magical.  The inside of a cello could be a cathedral, or the interior of a forgotten mansion, or some secret cabin on an ancient sailing ship. Borda has also taken a series of photos inside a violin, saxophone, and guitar.  These are in addition to a print campaign that he created for the Berlin Philharmonic.

What better music to explore these landscapes than music from Bach’s cello suites?  Here is Bourrée I and II from Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, performed by Yo-Yo Ma.

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References

Behold Mystical Photographs Taken Inside a Cello, Double Base, and Other Instruments, Josh Jones on openculture.com, http://www.openculture.com/2018/09/behold-mystical-photographs-taken-inside-cello-double-bass-instruments.html?fbclid=IwAR21ZM9yd0uG8fZcOyVR0ZUy-q8jRb7-7z4jaRXJb2LVq06ge-XJ4tz0pjc

Hidden Landscapes Inside Musical Instruments, https://twistedsifter.com/2012/03/hidden-landscapes-inside-instruments/

Adrian Borda’s art gallery http://www.adrianborda.com/

Adrian Borda’s photography https://500px.com/adrianborda

Adrian Borda’s artwork https://www.deviantart.com/borda

Image attribution:  Cello, sketch by C. Gallant, copyright 2019.


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Free Concert Webcast Today: Beethoven’s Fifth and Brahms’s Violin Concerto

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

In just two hours from now (10:45 EST, GMT -5), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present the Brahms Concerto for Violin, featuring Christian Tetzlaff, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, conducted by Carlos Miguel Prieto.  You can see it at https://www.dso.org/live.

If you’ve already missed it, or if it doesn’t fit into your schedule, I’d like to mention that a $50 donation (or more) to the Detroit Symphony comes with a one-year subscription to Replay, the orchestra’s online library of concerts, which includes their last four seasons as well as the Brahmsfest, Mozartfest, and Frenchfest series of concerts, over 200 works to choose from, as well as artist interview and pre-concert lectures.

Enjoy!

 


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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 Live Concert Webcast:  Prokofiev, Elgar and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

On Sunday, October 7, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, will present a free concert webcast.  You can see the webcast at https://www.dso.org/live.

Here’s the program:

ErbThe Seventh Trumpet

ProkofievViolin Concerto No. 1, Gil Shaham, violinist.

Elgar: Variations on an Original Theme (also known as the Enigma Variations)

If you’d like to learn more about Elgar’s variations (and see a cute animal video while you’re at it) see my post about Variation XI and Bulldog Dan here.


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Free Concert Webcast: Vaughan Williams, Gounod, Dvorak, and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra has just added a new concert to their free on-demand concert libraryYou can see the concert here.  Here is the program:

Charles GounodPetite Symphonie for Wind Instruments

Lembit Beecher: The Conference of the Birds

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for Strings

While you’re there, check out other performances in the library, which you can browse by composer, genre, nationality, conductor, or performer.

Enjoy!


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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 https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#public 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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Haiku Wednesday: Toccata

Flashing fingers fly
And dance across the keyboard
Weaving their magic.

Feet too join the dance
Executing bass figures,
Sliding as on ice.

The word toccata
Means to touch—fingers, yes, and
Heart and soul and mind.

The toccata is by nature a flashy piece of music.  It typically includes fast runs of notes, and can sound like an improvisation.  It is a showcase for a musician’s skills.  Toccatas are typically written for a keyboard instrument, but that’s not a requirement—toccatas have been written for string instruments, and even for orchestra (the prelude to Monteverdi’s opera L’Orfeo is a toccata).  While the form had its heyday in the Baroque period, with Bach, master improviser, at the summit (Toccata in D Minor, the toccata everyone knows), the form never entirely went away.

Schumann wrote a Toccata in C (Op. 7) which he believed was the most difficult music at the time.  In this video, you can follow the sheet music, which will give you an idea of the complexity.  Liszt also gave it a whirl (Toccata, S. 197a).

Ravel included a toccata in his Le Tombeau de Couperin, and Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie from Estampes is a toccata as well.  One can also look to the finale of Widor’s Symphony No. 5 for a fine example of a toccata.  You can find some videos of the finale here, including Widor himself playing the toccata.

Khachaturian wrote a toccata that became very popular (the suite it came from is nearly forgotten).  The link features pianist Lev Oborin, who was the first to perform it.

For some real flash (and the piece that prompted this post) check out Prokofiev’s Toccata Op. 11.  Here it is on a piano.  Now add feet:  here is the same toccata on an organ.

Benjamin Britten’s Piano Concerto begins with a toccata.  The last movement of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Symphony No. 8 contains a toccata.  Also check out John Rutter’s Toccata in 7.

And now for the strings!  The last movement of John Adams’s Violin Concerto contains a toccata, and Hindemith’s Kammermusik No. 5, a viola concerto, also contains a toccata (he also wrote a Toccata for a Mechanical Piano, meaning a player piano, which you can see here).

If you’re ever having a blah day, and need a quick pick-me-up, try a toccata!