The Week in Hope-Inspiring Spontaneous Music Online, Op. 10

May 19, 2020, 10:26 AM · Lockdown may have exiled performers to basements and bathrooms, but in an effort to "play on," venue changes haven’t stopped them. Musicians continue to find clever, creative ways to express themselves and share their music with us — simply refusing to let the music stop.

This week we feature a superstar piano trio playing Mendelssohn (glorious), a cellist who plays standing up (I’m not kidding), a violist concertizing in his basement (in full black tie), a conductor reading poetry (it took a lockdown), a one-man orchestra (playing Stravinsky, no less), and two violinists playing video game music (one good reason to let your kids play Nintendo). Don’t miss two renditions of Bach transcriptions — one by a multi-talented bass player who tackles three instruments and the other by a gifted solo violist.

Violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Steve Isserlis, and pianist Jeremy Denk perform the "Andante" from Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1, Opus 49. (Proof that Mendelssohn truly wrote some of the most beautiful melodies ever.)

For those of you who had/have kids who play the Super Mario Brothers video games (or play them yourself), you’ll enjoy violinists Julian Rhee and Sirena Huang demonstrating the techniques behind the jumps, dives, falls, and triumphs of the characters. (Don’t miss Julian on FIddler's Favorite Recipes preparing Jjajangmyeon.)

Cellist Mike Block, of Yo-Yo Ma’s famed Silk Road Ensemble, gives us Bach in the Bathroom, specifically, J.S. Bach’s "Allemande" No. 6. (I guess I’m glad he’s standing given the only other seating option in there would be….) contributor, stand-up comic, and violist Scott Slapin gives us a comprehensive history of the viola. Best part: He accomplishes this historic feat in under 10 minutes. (His subtitles are helpful and hilarious.)

Pasadena Symphony & Pops Conductor David Lockington puts down his baton, picks up his pen, and brings us an enchanted reading of his original poem, “Music contains the mysteries.” (Audible Books, take note!)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Pasadena Symphony and POPS (@passymphpops) on

Michael Brook, Boulder Bach Festival violist, offers a spectacularly beautiful in-home performance of the "Largo" from J. S. Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C Major, transcribed from violin. This is part of BBF's Music Meditations: Solace Series. (Just to digress, one of the wonderful byproducts of searching for clips is stumbling over an artist such as Michael. I adore his sound, his sensitivity, and his honest approach.)

Colorado Symphony Principal Bass Steve Metcalf plays the "Aria" from J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations in a one-man, three instrument arrangement for mandolin, guitar, and bass. (If this were a paying gig, I think it officially counts as a triple!)

For our grand finale, conductor and violinist Carlos Ocaña offers up a one-violin orchestra version of Igor Stravinsky’s "The Rite of Spring, Worshipping the Earth." He literally played and recorded every voice. (Bravo, Carlos!)

With symphony performances almost universally on hiatus, we've put "The Week in Reviews" on hold and instead bring you this roundup of online "lockdown" 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.

You might also like:


May 20, 2020 at 07:27 PM · Loved the Super Mario. And I agree the violist from Boulder is superb.

May 20, 2020 at 07:57 PM · Another wonderful collection, Diana! It was especially fun for me to see David Lockington again. I used to play in the Cheyenne Symphony when he was the conductor there. He always had such a charming way in rehearsals of suggesting that we didn't get it quite right and that we could possibly try it again, perhaps a bit slower once to focus...

May 21, 2020 at 04:13 AM · Once again you have found marvelous examples of how this awful pandemic has created new ways of bringing music to us. I especially loved the Mendelssohn. I guess I’m partial to Mendelssohn because when I was in high school, I played the piano accompaniment of the first movement of his Violin Concerto with my then girlfriend who played the violin. And, I could spend my life listening to andante movements. Bring them on please! And more triple threats like Steve Metcalf please.

Lots of fun in some of these selections too. The Super Mario Brothers would be a wonderful way to turn kids on to music! And what a sense of humor Scott Slapin has! I laughed out loud at the subtitles. I can’t imagine how much work went into creating so many of these technically especially the Stravinsky! Thanks again for this week’s outstanding music!

May 21, 2020 at 01:20 PM · Another buffet of interesting and most satisfying performances from Diana's video restaurant. Maestro Ocana's rendition of the opening of "Le Sacre" was brilliantly executed and most appetizing but it took us only to the beginning of the volcanoes in Disney's 1940 FANTASIA. If he stays locked down for another month perhaps he will thrill us with the Dinosaur sequence!

May 24, 2020 at 12:45 AM · Wonderful selections this week. When I read your column and listen to these wonderful artists, it brings back wonderful memories of playing the violin and the viola. Although it has been years, you make me feel like I am a string player again. And I'm start to talk like one. I recently participated in a scheduling system webinar. When it was over, I was asked to comment on its effectiveness. I replied "I feel like I am 10 years old again and just walked into Mrs. Ginsberg's studio. She handed me a violin for the first time and said "In 2 hours you will be playing the Bach double with the New York Philharmonic." Of course, the person I was talking to had no idea what I was talking about!

May 24, 2020 at 03:09 PM · Many thanks to all those who made such lovely comments!

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Anne Cole Violin Maker
Anne Cole Violin Maker Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine