BSO’s Youthful Celebration – Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of the “Musings” for the “BSO”s Youthful Celebration” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

Celebrating Youth in Music

It is my intent to one day program a concert for the BSO that celebrates the gentle beauty of maturity but for this concert I decided to take a look at the earlier attempts of composers in the primary and developing parts of their careers. So, for the seasoned members of our audience, fear not, as your day will come!

Aaron Copland, Composer

An Outdoor Overture (1935) of Aaron Copland (1900-1990) covers a few areas of today’s musical subject. Since Copland had the good taste to be born in 1900, we know that he was 35 when he received the request from the principal of the brand new High School of Music & Art in New York City to write a piece of music for its orchestra. As the principal, Alexander Richter, listened to Copland’s rendering of the piano version. It seemed clear that the harmonies and melodic contours gave it an expansive feeling of, well, the outdoors, its themes are simply stated and without regret. From the opening trumpet solo to the skittering woodwinds and strings that follow to the final triumphant and optimistic march it was clear that it was a perfect fit for the fledgling school which celebrated the artistic talents of American youth in the 1930s. It was a perfect match that would see a premiere by the students three years later, in 1938. Coincidentally, both my wife, Claudette and I, who are co-directors of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, are proud alumni of that wonderful school, class of ’73.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO’s Youthful Celebration” featuring flutist Karen Baumgartner, performing the world premiere of Grant Luhmann‘s Flute Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Kennedy High School Auditorium (9701 Nicollet Avenue, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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BSO & Beethoven Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final edition of the “Musings” for the “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Beethoven and His Seventh Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany and named aft er his grandfather. Neither parents nor grandparents could have known that their progeny would be the most critical link between the Classical period of music and the subsequent Romantic. He would turn formal music on its head with innovations that untied the hands of his contemporaries and set a new standard for those that followed.

His symphonies began innocently enough with his ?rst, following all the rules of sonata-allegro form. However, even in the elegant simplicity of this ?rst symphony in C major he left us with a new form of writing: the scherzo. Whereas a minuet was the norm for most symphonies in a moderate three quarter time, he increased the tempo dramatically and thus was born the brisk one-two-three that became so widely imitated by others that followed.

By the time December of 1813 rolled around, Beethoven had changed the meaning of the introduction for the ?rst movement of a symphony. In his third, two loud E? chords su?iced as introduction before launching into the exposition and for his ?fth, an angry outburst of four notes became the most famous in musical history becoming his signature forever.

So, it is interesting to observe that this Seventh Symphony goes back to his roots with a slow introduction of strong chords with woodwind solos suspended in mid-air as in his ?rst symphony. The introduction becomes a competitive game as the winds and strings toss sixteenth notes back and forth to each other. Eventually, what seems like an academic exercise becomes a cheerful dance that develops provocatively with gentility and sheer anger.

The second movement opens with the winds establishing a serious-sounding A minor. The lower strings set a pace that is oft en regarded as a funeral march but Beethoven never said any such thing. With a bit of imagination it can easily be perceived as a dance but with slow, measured steps that give way to a sunny major section. Back and forth, the major and minor struggle for dominance before the winds end the movement exactly as they began it.

The scherzo that Beethoven invented comes back in an infectious ?t of good humor that is a treat for the eyes as well as the ear in the way that motifs are thrown from player to player in an almost dizzying fashion. Beethoven uses the repeat to play a game with the listener involving the trio sections and a ?nal deceptive cadence that, well… let’s not spoil the surprise.

Finally, Beethoven proves his greatness with the ability to sustain a whirling dervish of rhythm and simple melodic material that never lets up in its intensity. He manages to develop two sixteenth notes and an eighth note… a fanfare, nothing more… and couple it with a string ?gure that spins into one of the most blazing ?nales in the symphonic literature.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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BSO & Beethoven – Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of the “Musings” for the “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Overture to William Tell

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

RossiniIt would fairly easy to argue that being able to essentially retire in your mid-thirties a millionaire and a household name is definitive of one’s professional success but that is precisely what the composer of the opera William Tell did. Born the son of a trumpet player in Pesaro, Italy, Rossini grew to be someone who lived to the fullest in many ways including making it to then the then-ripe old age of 76!

His early studies in music included learning the horn under his father and other instruments under the instruction of local priests. By the time he began more formal studies in the city of Bologna, to where the family had relocated, he was ready to receive vocal instruction and the requisite keyboard studies he would need. By 1806 he was accepted to the Liceo Musicale. His musical career truly had an ideal trajectory from that point. From his first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio to his final, William Tell, his rise was meteoric as he became the standard for simple and also florid, ornate melodies that challenged the singers of the day to expand their vocal technique in order to sing his music.

While his retirement was figurative rather than literal, he did some composing of non-operatic music including choral works, solo pieces, and chamber music. He enjoyed a vivacious social life and was something of a chef, creating recipes that were enjoyed by gourmands the most famous of which is Tournedos Rossini.

Mozart ColorWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and his violin concerti

The name “Mozart” is one of those that is synonymous with great music. This comes with good reason as he was from the start a genius able to compose from the age of 5. He studied piano and violin and used these as conduits for his art writing over 600 works for varied combinations of musicians. Understand that many of these works were multi-movement in nature. Therefore, like J.S. Bach., Mozart’s output numbered in the thousands!

In specific regard to his violin-playing abilities, his father, Leopold, encouraged his teen-aged son to add more spirit and fire and play as though he were the greatest in all of Europe. Whether he did or didn’t remains to be seen. Nevertheless, his legacy includes five concerti for violin, the final three of which are the most popular of the set. He wrote the last four of the five in one astonishing year (1775) of composing. This, of course, is in addition to everything else he wrote that year.

The Fourth Concerto in D major has a spritely opening theme that has the characteristics of a trumpet fanfare. Leopold had tried in vain to get young Wolfgang to like the sound of the trumpet and perhaps this is a humorous reference to that lifelong disdain using an instrument he did love. The remaining themes are optimistic and exemplary of the charm we associate with Mozart’s writing.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Ar.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Music in 3D: Part Three” Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of three “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: Part Three” concert that will be performed on April 17, 2016.

Symphony #3 in C minor, Op. 78 “The Organ” by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

“I have given everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” – Camille Saint-Saëns

CSaint-SaensWhile those words are mildly prophetic, one has to smile when his concerti, opera, and various other works are considered. Nonetheless, the scope of this piece with its requisite organ soloist and four-handed piano duo in the second part are noted is all at once as delicate as a fleur de lis and as imposing as the Eiffel Tower. While the piece is not religious in intent, there is a self-conscious humility that pervades the opening and its subsequent offbeat staccatos that give way to a truly “French” second theme of joy.

The sincere beauty and simplicity of the slow section makes for a lovely duet between organ and orchestra. The Second part continues with a scherzo that is reminiscent of the Spanish Fandango challenging the woodwinds and strings to virtuosic exchanges as we settle into a fugato that previews thematic material from the Finale. This finale is blazing as it reintroduces the organ with all its majesty in conversation with the orchestra’s brass until the end. If the theme seems familiar to you, you may recall that this music from this Finale figured prominently in the 1995 film, Babe.

 

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: Part Three” featuring violinist Louisa Woodfull-Harris and Jane Horn, Organ. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

 

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“Music in 3D: Part Three” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of three “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: Part Three” concert that will be performed on April 17, 2016.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Minor Op. 47, by Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius, composer

Jean Sibelius, composer

My first encounter with this concerto of Sibelius (1865-1957) was as a student at the Juilliard School. It was completely unfamiliar to me yet it gripped me from the start. This piece, which took about three years (1902-1905) to write and revise, speaks poetically and passionately from beginning to end. From its indistinct and humble opening that speaks sensuously, scales and arpeggios and octaves that seem to mock hard-working students, and a brusque theme that is evocative of a masculine bar song sung by Nordic fishermen, Sibelius claims a rightful title as not only the greatest of all Finnish composers but as one of the most thoughtful composers in history.

Louisa Woodfull-Harris, Violin

Louisa Woodfull-Harris, Violin

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: Part Three” featuring violinist Louisa Woodfull-Harris, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Music in 3D: Part Three” Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of three “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: Part Three” concert that will be performed on April 17, 2016.

Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

In today’s world one can be stimulated to travel by a number of sources whether it be television, cinema, radio, or the internet. In 1880 all one had available were books and firsthand accounts of those you knew that had traveled. Perhaps some books had drawings or colorful pictures or even the relatively new phenomenon of something called a photograph. Great composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) did what other composers had done and added to the musical portrayals like his Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture to the mix. Certainly, describing settings was almost as old as music itself, but providing a listener with a flavor of sights and sounds was another challenge.

As a result of a trip to Rome with his brother in 1880, Tchaikovsky found himself fairly intoxicated by all which he encountered there and hastily wrote notes of the rhythms and harmonies that struck him as they would serve as future fodder for musical expression. From the day-marking bugle calls emanating from the military barracks next door to Hotel Costanzi where they stayed, to the never-ending stream of music that faded from one to the other at the carnivals he enjoyed, to somber and warm melodies and a saltarello of his own invention, Tchaikovsky shows that he did more than just visit Italy: he lived it!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: Part Three” featuring violinist Louisa Woodfull-Harris and Jane Horn, Organ. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 17 at 3 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Play Me a Story” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final “Musings”  that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Play Me a Story concert on February 21.

Aaron Copland, Composer

Aaron Copland, Composer

America’s composer, Aaron Copland (1900-1990), when asked to compose a piece of music that would celebrate the spirit of America after its entry into World War Two, was given a variety of choices of luminaries both living and dead. Copland chose Abraham Lincoln not only because he was such an important figure in our history but because his actions and words were so well-suited to that current critical time. In particular, the words spoken at Gettysburg bore a strong tone of admonition to the Americans of 1942 when the work was conceived, written, and performed by the Cincinnati Symphony. Lincoln’s words were part of a drive that came from many corners to remind Americans of their greatness and place on the world stage. The words seem to directly confront the losses suffered at Pearl Harbor and also to say that despite our imperfections, America had a responsibility to overcome the evil brought about by those that would seek to enslave others by tyranny. Thus was born Lincoln Portrait.

Benjamin Britten, composer

Benjamin Britten, composer

If Sergei Prokofiev sought to cultivate the love of music in Russian children and make them aware of the instruments of the orchestra, then Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) took it a step further. Borrowing a tune written by fellow Englishman Henry Purcell, he uses that tune to introduce and dissect the sound of an orchestra, section by section, instrument by instrument. Interestingly, of the three works you will hear, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is the only one that was conceived as subject and accompaniment to a film about the symphony orchestra, called The Instruments of the Orchestra, which was to be shown in 1946. While Disney did also indeed make a film about Peter and the Wolf, it was an afterthought to Prokofiev’s original project. Speaking of films, if Purcell’s theme sounds familiar to you, it may be that you recognize it from the soundtrack of the most recent version of Pride and Prejudice from 2005.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Play Me a Story” featuring narrators Yuri Ivan, Obiele Harper, and Quinton Wormald. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 21 at 3 p.m. at the St. Michael’x Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Play Me a Story” Concert Preview No. 1

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of two “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Play Me a Story concert on February 21.

Hearing a piece in which there is narration that accompanies the music is certainly not unusual. It may not be commonplace but it is something we’ve all experienced at some point or other. Most often, it occurred when we were young and perhaps even as a first trip to a concert hall. The speaker was often a local personality such as an actor. It may have been a celebrity that had a professional tie to the subject matter of the work that was performed. For example, the first time you heard Casey at the Bat by American composer William Schuman, it might have had a local baseball player as the speaker. Or maybe you heard Lincoln Portrait read by a former or current member of Congress or even an ex-president.

There have been times when an author, taken with the beauty or power or charm of a piece of music, decided that it needed a bit of narration even though the composer never intended it originally. Ogden Nash wrote a set of verses that, on occasion, serve as prelude to each of the movements from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s suite to The Nutcracker.
So, then… what comes first: the narration or the music? In the case of our three works featured today, the narratives were conceived along with the music but with different ends in mind.

Sergei Prokofiev, Composer

Sergei Prokofiev, Composer

When Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) was commissioned to write his now-beloved Peter and the Wolf it was a clearly designed to send a message to young Russian children that they should learn the importance of music and cultivate a life-long love for it. His passion for the project was so great that he dove into it and completed his best-known work in just four days! Astonishingly, this work we have all known since childhood was poorly received back in 1936. That poor reception was short-lived as various orchestras and narrators have competed to make wonderful recordings since then with each narrator putting his or her stamp on it, providing each of us with some version that suits us. It is also available in a variety of languages, as well. I even had the opportunity to narrate it in Spanish in a performance in the Twin Cities. Some of the various narrators on recording range from Peter Ustinov to Sean Connery, Captain Kangaroo, Patrick Stewart, Eleanor Roosevelt, William F. Buckley Jr., Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton, and even the late David Bowie.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Play Me a Story” featuring narrators Yuri Ivan, Obiele Harper, and Quinton Wormald. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 21 at 3 p.m. at the St. Michael’x Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Journeys” Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55, “Eroica”

circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

To say that the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is remarkable is a classic understatement. His eschewing of some parts of classical form, the almost-complete deafness he suffered, the political turmoil of the time, and his ability to express personal frustration were part of the art he expressed. The deafness, that irony of ironies for a musical genius, began to take hold as the 19th century turned and was at first, admitted only to close associates. Yet, he continued to compose with each work displaying further his ability to shift from beautiful melody to raging developmental climaxes, from tenderness to melancholy, with seamless transitions or abrupt halts that preview later great symphonic works. Originally, it was his plan to dedicate his Third Symphony to a then-hero of the French people, Napoleon Bonaparte. He proudly named the French revolutionary on the front page of the new work, which also innovatively started with two opening hammer blows. When it came to be known that Napoleon would declare himself emperor, Beethoven angrily erased the name from the dedication, so much so, that the paper tore through to the other side. The dedication was replaced with one to Prince Lobkowitz, a patron whose historical palace can be seen in a first edition copy of the symphony today.

As far as the composition itself, gone is the usual sort of slow introduction which would normally serve as prelude to the first two themes. In its place are two E? major chords that are sometimes interpreted with majesty and other times with crisp severity. The rolling, almost waltz-like quality of the themes is constantly interrupted by angry interjections that remind us that a punishing climax is waiting in the work’s development section. The last two bars of the movement create an unprecedented musical ring by repeating the first two!

The Funeral march that makes up the second movement is, in this writer’s opinion, the most human bit of composition set to pen for a symphony orchestra up to that point in musical history. Its settled sadness, the look at clouds parting in order to remember an unnamed hero, and the sheer rage at perhaps God himself, is chilling! Was Beethoven mourning a person… or the loss of one of his five senses?

The scherzo brings us back to a playfulness that marks Beethoven’s compositions without exception in his symphonies. He even plays a game with the listener during the famous trio asking the horns to repeat a hunting call, only to fade away deceptively to a different resolution. Surely, the first listeners to this work must have smiled at the teasing from Beethoven.

The finale is full of fire – one that momentarily lets the listener wonder whether it will be a serious blaze in a minor key, only to present us with a dominant chord which resolves to a clear E? major. You are then charmed by what can only be referred to as a romp that reminds one faintly of the French Alouette song of childhood. The romp gives way to song and then a fugue in C minor follows, only to return to the major key with a foothold into a world of mad joy. The madness is halted for a moment while Beethoven breaks all convention and has the orchestra embrace music in a slower tempo that soars eventually leaving us with a busy coda to end the work establishing E? major as the key of heroes.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. 

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Journeys” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the first of three “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.

 

Journey Into Jazz (1962)

Gunther Schuller, composer

Gunther Schuller, composer

When it comes to the late Gunther Schuller (1925-2015), it can truly be stated that he led one of the most interesting lives you can imagine.

He was born a New Yorker as the result of his father’s employment as a violinist with the heralded New York Philharmonic. One would think a job like that would be enough to tie the Schullers to America forever but when Gunther was quite young they naively sent him to a boarding school in his ancestral home of Germany… in 1932. Predictably, things did not go well. Between a rather unfortunate accident involving a knife which cost him an eye and the mandatory enrollment in the Hitlerjungend he was unhappy enough to plead to come home to New York City leaving a good deal of ugliness in his life behind him.

Musically, he proved to be prodigious in many ways. His first efforts where in vocal music and he moved to the horn where he ascended to some notoriety. So much so, that he earned the opportunity to play in the New York Philharmonic as a substitute under task master Arturo Toscanini. He dropped out of high school, never went to any music school or conservatory, and called the conductors he played under and the scores he studied his teachers!

What splendid teachers they must have been as Gunther satisfied his thirst to share his musical knowledge with students at the Manhattan School of Music, Yale, and the New England Conservatory. During his tenure as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra his interest in composing and conducting grew to the point where he left in order to devote his time to writing.

By this time his fascination and love for modern jazz led him to meet up and get to know the luminaries of the jazz world such as Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, and singer Sarah Vaughn. Jazz began to creep its way into his classical writing. Indeed, one of the movements of his most well-known composition,  Seven Studies on Themes by Paul Klee, contains a piece called “Little Blue Devil”, whereupon the 1st trumpet must play complex lines in a be-bop style.

So, it is no surprise that Schuller was interested in tracing the musical growth of a fictional young trumpeter in his piece, Journey Into Jazz. Protagonist Eddie Jackson learns to play the trumpet in a typical path until he meets some young men who play jazz regularly together. What Eddie learns is that expressing oneself is more than learning technique and notes and rhythms. It is about using an instrument to speak a language from the heart after many years of studying with your head.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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