The Week in Hope-Inspiring Spontaneous Music Online, Op. 7

April 28, 2020, 7:26 AM · This week’s roundup features surprise visits by a ballerina, opera singer, and gastroenterologist (not in the same clip, thank goodness). It includes music by Bach, Beethoven, and Bériot (a violinist favorite). It showcases two illustrious members of the United States Marine Band (yes, there are string players in the US Marine Band, I've now learned). It offers two completely different renditions of "Ave Maria," both warm and heartfelt. (I urge you to listen to both, as each has its own particular poignancy.) Most significantly, the roundup houses a moving tribute to one of the string communities’ own who succumbed to the virus (please join me in paying our heartfelt respects to a wonderful artist).

In the short time this feature has been in existence, I’ve been struck by people’s creativity, tenacity, and willingness to freely share their talents. I hope you enjoy these clips and that they bring you peace, hope, and comfort.

Superstar mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato joins violists of the Metropolitan Opera in tribute to fellow violist, Vincent Lionti, who passed away as the result of the virus. It is a beautiful rendition of Handel’s lovely aria "Ombra mai fu" by Mr. Lionti’s fellow section players. In addition to playing in what is arguably the best opera orchestra in the world for more than three decades, Mr. Lionti took the time to conduct the Westchester Youth Orchestra. The link above will take you to his New York Times obituary. (Our hearts go out to Mr. Lionti’s family.)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra Principals Hannah Hammel and Kevin Brown perform the famous Badinerie from J.S. Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2. This is part of the DSO’s innovative 'Play on Your Porch' series — quite an endeavor given temperatures in Detroit. (Hannah won the DSO Principal seat last fall. Her fans here in Knoxville miss her very much, but we are so proud!)

Johnny Gandelsman’s famed quartet Brooklyn Rider performs an other-worldly version of the third movement of Beethoven’s String Quartet, Opus 132. They 'signed' their performance: “With love from Johnny, Colin, Nick, and Michael in New Hampshire, Brooklyn, Boston, and Manhattan.” (Guys, we love you back.)

Vlad Stanculeasa, Concertmaster of both the Gothenburg Symphony and Barcelona Symphony Orchestras plays the first movement of Ysaye’s Sonata No. 2 midst gorgeous scenery in the Isola Maggiore region of Italy. I’m grateful to Laurie for giving me a brief tutorial on the piece, which was unfamiliar to me. This movement is titled "Obsession," which weaves in the composer’s obsession with Bach in his rather plagiaristic nod to the Prelude from Partita No. 3. You'll also hear hints of the Dies Irae, yet another obsession. At the end of this visually stunning clip, Vlad writes: "Music is a life to be lived together." (Vlad, we couldn’t agree more.)

Master Gunnery Sgt. and contributor Peter Wilson provides a Marine Musical Moment with the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria." He not only plays the violin, but accompanies himself on piano. (Gotta love a violinist in uniform!)

Sisters Danielle and Sarah Liu perform Charles Auguste de Bériot's Duet Concertante No. 3. Danielle is an alumna of the Pacific Symphony Youth Ensembles, while Sarah is a current member. (All I can say is, WOW!)

Cellist Jonah Kim and his dance-partner/fiancé Julia Rowe perform a stunning adaptation of Mascagni’s "Intermezzo" from Cavalleria Rusticana. Jonah dedicates his performance to our medical professionals, saying: "Thank you reminding me of the value of art, and that spiritual healing is also important." (This performance was brought to my attention by neurosurgeon Dr. David Yeh, who was once featured on

Violist Gunnery Sgt. Sarah Hart uses her two-year-old son’s building blocks to explain musical groupings. She takes it to a completely different level through the Prelude of Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major. (I promise, this tutorial will not disappoint!)

And now for our second rendition of the Bach/Gounod "Ave Maria." Clad in a protective gown and mask, Gastroenterologist Dr. Maxton Pitcher takes up his violin in honor of a patient who is being discharged from Northwick Park Hospital in London. (Get your tissues ready and stay tuned to the end!)

With symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of online "quarantine" performances. If you’d like to share links of performances you’ve enjoyed, please do so in the comments or e-mail me for possible inclusion in a later opus.

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April 28, 2020 at 09:54 PM · What terrific finds, Diana! Celebrations of string playing, all! Thank you!

April 28, 2020 at 11:58 PM · Such a beautiful tribute to the violist! He was obviously very much loved by his colleagues. That was touching to see.

April 29, 2020 at 10:20 PM · To 207: Thank you! Yes, great string playing from bass, to viola, to violin.

To 87: I thought it was such a touching tribute as well and a beautiful arrangement of the aria.

April 30, 2020 at 02:24 AM · Oh my! I don’t know where to start on this one! Where do you find all this art! Not only was the music gorgeous, but the different styles of presentation were so creative - the look of the Beethoven, the dance in the gorgeous Mascagni, the tutorial with blocks, the idea of playing on your porch… Each selection outdid the previous one. I loved the Liu sisters. They were charming, adorable and played beautifully! The first Ave Maria brought tears to my eyes, but the 2nd, at the hospital, made me sob and was beauty arising out of tragedy.

At the start of the Ombra mai fu I thought I was listening to the 2nd movement of Bach’s Double Concerto for 2 Violins. You were right about the Bach plagiarism in the Ysaye. I recognized the Partita immediately. Seems there’s a string of Bach plagiarism in these selections! Hard to Handel!

But the piece de resistance was the quote “Music is a life to be lived together.” Yes.

April 30, 2020 at 01:50 PM · A greatly appreciated collection of musical expressions during this tough time. And yes, we very much miss flutist Hannah Hammel in Knoxville!

April 30, 2020 at 11:31 PM · Joe: What a wonderful comment! Many of the ideas for these clips came to our attention via readers! And there is simply a wealth of great content out there as artists continue to seek ways to reach out through their music. I had never made the connection between the Handel aria and the slow movement of the Bach double before, but you're right... it's there! I was so confused by the Ysaye on first listening that I thought Vlad was warming up on the E major partita. (Thank goodness for Laurie's help on that one!) If there is a positive aspect to the quarantine, it's that I'm being introduced to artists and repertoire that I had not known before. Thanks again for weighing in!

17: Thank you, to another Knoxvillian!

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