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In 2009, Lithuanian composer and conductor Mindaugas Piečaitis created a CATcerto for the Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra. The piece, intended for a family audience and especially young listeners, takes edited videos of Nora – a YouTube starring cat that plays piano – and builds a beautiful classical work around this found medium. Nora, a U.S. resident, did not attend the concert, but was presented on a video screen above the orchestra. What could have been a disposable novelty was turned into an event that continues to draw new fans years later.

The story might have lived and died five years ago if it was not for the complete sincerity of the work. Piečaitis became known for this piece (YouTube cats know no national boundaries), but his career has long focused on connecting with new audiences through unexpected channels. Enjoy the chamber orchestra performance below, along with a (translated) Lithuanian TV interview with the composer. If you have a hankering to experience another side of classical music live, the Cleveland Orchestra presents a Sci-Fi Spectacular with guest narrator George Takei this Sunday (7/13) at Blossom.

Performance of CATcerto

Interview with Mindaugas Piečaitis

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Marketplace had a good story about the connection between George Frideric Handel and Jimi Hendrix (yes, there actually is one), and I thought it was worth you checking out on the Marketplace page.

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Last month, PBS’s Charlie Rose interviewed James Levine, the world-famous pianist and conductor.

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This is from 1988.  It really was TV worth watching.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iS3hl1fRnvg

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Wolfgang Sawallisch
Wolfgang Sawallisch

Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch died on Friday (22 February) at his home in Grassau, Germany. He was 89.

Wolfgang Sawallisch was highly regarded for his interpretation of the Germanic classics, particularly Bruckner and Richard Strauss.

He’s perhaps best known to American music lovers for his decade as music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1993. Eugene Ormandy had first invited Sawallisch to guest-conduct in 1966, and over the years he’d made several recordings with Philadephia. When Riccardo Muti was ready to relinquish the Philadelphia podium, it happened that Sawallisch was equally ready to move on from Munich, and the deal was sealed.

Curiously, though, one of Sawallisch’s most famous Philadelphia concerts didn’t actually involve conducting the orchestra.

It was in February of 1994. A blizzard had effectively shut down Philadelphia, and most of the orchestra members couldn’t get to the Academy of Music. Sawallisch didn’t miss a beat. At his prompting, the Academy threw open the doors to the public – no admission charge. About 600 stalwart concert goers, including the few orchestra members who’d made it to the hall, heard Sawallisch play the scheduled Wagner program on the piano, including the first act of Die Walküre. This was no mean feat! Piano reductions of Wagner’s music are fiendishly difficult. However, Sawallisch had been working with opera singers since his teenage years. This music was in his bones and his fingers.

Although he continued to guest-conduct the orchestra after making the transition to conductor laureate in 2003, in 2006 Sawallisch announced that he was retiring from active conducting. He said was afflicted with orthostatic hypotension, a malady characterized by sudden and unpredictable declines in blood pressure which can cause fainting and dizziness.

Further reading:

Wolfgang Sawallisch obituary at New York Times (registration may be required)

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