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Music Inspired by the Night Sky

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The ancient Greeks believed that the stars, planets and other celestial bodies made music, spinning out harmonies audible to a select few. Centuries later, the astronomer, Johannes Kepler spoke of the harmonic nature of the cosmos.

Modern science may have proven the Greeks and Kepler wrong, but the night sky has inspired its share of glorious music. This spring, several institutions will celebrate nocturnally-themed gems. Here are the top five celestially-inspired performances you can experience this Spring:
1. Haydn’s comedic opera, Il Mondo della Luna, takes a curmudgeonly Italian nobleman on a trip to the moon. To make the journey authentic, Gotham Chamber Opera takes its show to the Hayden Planetarium’s dome at the American Museum of Natural History.

2. Gustav Holst looked to space to compose The Planets. So did the Houston Symphony when it added the suite to its season. Music director Hans Graf turned to astronomer-turned-filmmaker Duncan Copp to create an visual montage to accompany to the famous composition using footage from NASA’s recent expeditions. Stravinsky’s Scherzo Fantastique and Henri Dutilleux’s Timbres, Espace, Mouvement ou la Nuit Etoilée round out the January 28 concert at Carnegie Hall.

3. New York City Opera’s George Steel decided to open his company’s Spring season in March with a production of Emmanuel Chabrier’s L’Etoile. In this late-19th century French comedy, an astrologist consults the stars regarding the fortunes of two seemingly ill-fated lovers. Fortunately for the pair, either the stars or the astrologist was wrong.

4. Composer Sebastian Currier has long explored time and the ephemeral as well as the evening. In his composer portrait at Columbia University’s Miller Theater in March, the Argento Chamber ensemble will play Night Time, a short work of five movements: Dusk, Sleepless, Vespers, Nightwind and Starlight in addition to two pieces commissioned by The Miller.

5. Arnold Schoenberg’s seminal 12-tone composition, Verklarte Nacht, describes a forest walk on a moonlit night and is taken from Richard Dehmel’s poem of the same name. The Morgan Library offers two readings of Verklarte Nacht on April 13 in the first concert of its "Double Take" series. The traditional rendering by string sextet will start the evening followed by an arrangement for a piano trio.