Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Live Concert Webcasts: La traviata, Bruckner, Brahms and More

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

Today, May 24, 2019, at 19:00 CET (2 PM EDT, UTC -1), OperaVision will present Verdi’s La Traviata from the Icelandic OperaYou can see it here.

Tomorrow, May 25, 2019 at 8PM EDT (GMT -4), the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3Kent Nagano will conduct, and the program will feature pianist Beatrice RanaYou can see it here.

On May 31, 2019 at 10:45 AM (GMT -4) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra will present Brahms’s Symphony No. 4.  Also on the program is Webern’s Passacaglia, and Haydn’s Concerto for Two Horns.  You can see it here.


The 140 Note Quartet:  Introducing the #quartweet

The Signum Quartet, in conjunction with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, has introduced the Quartweet.  The challenge is to write a four-voice piece with a maximum of 140 notes, just like a Twitter post.  The initiative was recently discussed in an article by WQXR.

The quartet notes that this is not an entirely new concept (except for the Twitter part).  Bach’s chorale Christus, der ist mein Leben clocks in at 125 notes.  The quartet also cites Webern’s Bagatelles and some of the Microludes by Kurtág.

The Signum Quartet has set up a page for the quartweets and their scoresA number of quartweet performances can be seen on YouTube, along with other longer performances by the quartet.

Here is a tongue-in-cheek quartweet for your Monday morning.

And Bach shows us, as always, how it’s done, with Christus, der ist mein Leben.


WordPress tells me that the post above is exactly 140 words, however they reckon it.

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Second Viennese Schooled

It’s a new choir season, and I was listening to the music that we would be singing and looking at the sheet music, following along.  So I see this piece in German, and I’m reading it…and it’s getting more and more chromatic, and I find myself thinking “who wrote this?!”

So I page back.

Arnold Schoenberg.  Oh!

I wasn’t expecting Schoenberg.  In my head I’m hearing Monty Python’s “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”  Or Arnold Schoenberg for that matter.


Arnold Schoenberg was one of the key members of the Second Viennese School of composers, which also included the composers Alban Berg and Anton Webern and others.  Here’s a somewhat cheeky overview of the Second Viennese School (with examples) and a more straightforward description.

Schoenberg (1874-1951) is best known as the father of the 12-tone method  (sometimes called serialism), in which all 12 notes in an octave are used equally, and no one note has dominance over another.  This is very different from traditional music, which is written in a particular key, in which certain notes carry more “weight” than others, and there is a tendency to return to the “home” note of the key (e.g., C in the key of C).  The 12-tone method is a topic which engenders strong opinions and reactions because it is so different from what one typically expects in music.

So there aren’t many 12-tone lullabies (which I then Googled; but here’s one, and here’s a 12-tone Mary Had a Little Lamb).

Which in turn led me to this: the composer of the 12-tone Mary has a long YouTube video (30 minutes) on 12-tone composing and its history that is interesting and quirky (stick figure Stravinsky?).

But back to the unexpected piece in my choir binder.

Schoenberg didn’t start out writing 12-tone music.  His early work was consistent with the style of the late Romantic period (think Brahms and Wagner).  One of his best known early works is Verklärte Nacht (in English Transfigured Night, Op. 4, composed in 1899).  Here is a performance by the Emerson String Quartet.

The music in my binder is Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth, Op. 13, composed in 1907), a piece which was written as Schoenberg was making the transition from the harmonies of the Romantic period to something new and unexplored.

The transition is new and unexplored for me as well, but I’m sure it will be fascinating.


Image attribution:  Arnold Schoenberg by Man Ray [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.