New Works and Old Friends :: Concert Preview No. 4

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about Sibelius’ music that has made it such a favorite of Minnesotans. Learning that Sibelius will be played somewhere is cause for bundling up the family and driving a reasonable number of miles of frigid winter darkness to hear it, whether by a local professional ensemble or a community group like your BSO. It may be that we identify with the kind of weather Sibelius knew or the heartiness required to live through a harsh winter. Finns and Minnesotans seem to relish the suffering, whether from sowing the seeds of freedom for a nation or living through just one more season of Vikings Football. In either case, hope springs eternal.

By the time Sibelius set about writing his wonderful Second Symphony, to be premiered just a month away from the promise of spring, he had attained a form of heroic status among musicians and the Finnish public. He also found a place for himself as a conductor of his own music, leading no less than the Helsinki Philharmonic for that premiere. The boy who would be a great violinist found himself in the position of being a voice for his people instead. It seemed the Finns were not in as much need for a star violinist as they were a voice the world would be able to recognize for his superb craft in melody, harmony, and construction.

Black and white photo of a stern looking middle aged man
Jean Sibelius, composer

The dedication to Baron Axel Carpelan, a noted hypochondriac who was unlucky at love and once smashed his own violin in a fit of frustration seems unlikely, but Carpelan had the gift to be a source of inspiration for Sibelius. In fact, he was the fellow who egged on Sibelius to write a the celebrated Finlandia. He continued to badger Sibelius to travel and take in the world so that he could continue to feed his talent. Carpelan was proved right as Sibelius did absorb the ideas that come through exposure to new situations. It was not easy since the recent death of daughter Kirsti Sibelius left an indelible mark on her grieving father. Music was what saw Jean through, nevertheless.

This symphony offers itself as an interesting contrast from the gloomy First Symphony in E minor. This D Major jaunt is sunny from the outset. You can literally feel the sun on your face from the opening bars. That’s not to say that the symphony doesn’t offer moments of introspection and self doubt. It is a deep symphony that speaks poetically. The “walking bass line” of the second movement is just one of the moments of what seems to be a look into the soul of someone whose brain is so busy as to be housing multiple personalities. Sibelius continues his habit of ending movements of his symphonies almost abruptly, without the usual grand ritardando and long held note. He seems to be eager to get on with it.

So he does with his third movement scherzo which is constructed almost exactly like a Beethoven scherzo. Its busyness pauses momentarily for what can only be described as a song for various woodwind soloists with a pastoral quality that makes the interrupting brass that return us back to the scherzo seem like a practical joke, again, much like Beethoven would have done.

The seamless transition to the finale… well, after so many suppositions as to what Sibelius “meant” by this heroic, bold music with its undeniable fervor, it must be left up to the listener to decide whether this is a bit of nationalist pride or an unabashed celebration of D Major merely for its own sake. He negotiates the waters of modulation from major to minor and back again in as expert a manner as one could imagine like characters in an opera. Sibelius pulls out all the stops and, as he does so beautifully in his earlier Finlandia, he makes you wish you were a Finn by the time the last chords ring like a peal of bells.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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New Works and Old Friends :: Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the third entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

When you think of composers who had a large output of music of all types, one has to go to the usual suspects like Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. If one was to further assume that it was one of those aforementioned gentlemen who held some sort of record for the most music written, you would be close but this is serious musicological business, not horse shoes. Nay, that record has to go to Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) with about 900 pieces of music to his credit! This is not bad, considering that the young Georg was almost prevented from fulfilling his desire to be a great musician by his mother who believed that no good could come of this music obsession he had. My favorite quote about that was the admonition from some of the congregants from the Lutheran church he attended that he would turn out “a clown, a tightrope walker or a marmot trainer.” Never have seen a trained marmot, I don’t know that I would have minded that he learn the craft. At any rate, rodents were not in Telemann’s future and he set about studying a wide variety if musical instruments on his own in secret. He wrote and wrote as he matured and traveled to work in many important musical capacities for the great and near great. This came with a cost, however of a couple of marriages that didn’t end well. He did live a long life, dying at the age of 88.

A black and white etching of composer Georg Philipp Telemann wearing a white powdered wig and robes over his writing outfit
Georg Philipp Telemann

Telemann left us with a cornerstone of the viola repertoire, his Concerto for Viola in G Major which was written over a five year period between 1716 and 1721. I’m not sure what the hold up was, but it was the first concerto ever written for the instrument and I suppose he wanted to make sure he got it right. Apparently he did, since the four-movement, slow-fast-slow-fast structure was very appealing. The concerto exploits the wonderful alto voice of the instrument under a variety of articulations and sentiments. If you listen carefully, it will seem that the viola has a uniquely human character and it is perhaps that quality that makes it such a compelling voice to hear in the relationship between instrument and chamber orchestra.

African American violist George Taylor, wearing a robin's egg blue button down shirt, navy suit coat and holding his viola, stands against a colorful wallpapered wall.
George Taylor, viola soloist for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra concert “New Works and Old Friends” on Sunday, October 6.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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New Works and Old Friends :: Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the second entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It is always an interesting debate to discuss what makes composers free in terms of how they express themselves. Are they free when they latch on to a current convention, perhaps writing in a style that is challenging for challenge’s sake? Are they freest when they write for themselves or the listener? This is the debate you may have when you listen to the music of Adolphus Hailstork (born 1941 in Rochester, NY). Hailstork is a true eclectic, as he doesn’t seem to feel the need to wed himself to any one musical language. He is at home in any structure he chooses to write.

African American composer Adolphus Hailstork, wearing a black tuxedo, against an ivory colored background
Adolphus Hailstork, composer

His works cover the gamut of styles and types of ensembles available for musical expression. He has written for band, orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, and an array of chamber ensembles. This is reasonable, given his equally diverse mentors with whom he studied beginning in the early 1960’s including luminaries such as Nadia Boulanger, who was a prime influence for Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland, for example. He also worked with American composers David Diamond and Vittorio Giannini. What you think Hailstork “sounds like” really depends on which of his works you happen to be listening to.

Today, you will listen to his foray into the tonal qualities of the viola with chamber orchestra in Two Romances for Viola and Chamber Ensemble. His conversational and flowing style is a bit like the musical version of a color wheel which holds a melody that wafts from one instrument or sections of the orchestra to the solo viola. The BSO is proud to join the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony, and Detroit Symphonies, to name a few, in this celebration of the music of one of our own American composers.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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New Works and Old Friends :: 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

At first blush, there doesn’t seem to be anything remarkable about the development of Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) from a budding violinist to Denmark’s best-known composer. In fact, critic Michael Steinberg’s description of the three year-old boy’s fascination with the different pitches coming from striking fire logs is downright cute. It sounds like something that could happen at anyone’s home today. His interest in the violin and the impressive qualities of the piano gave him an outlet for his expression that gave way to composition after the hearing the great masterworks during his teen years. He developed his ear and his talent at the Copenhagen Conservatory, earning money playing at Tivoli Gardens and even learning to conduct well enough to achieve respect among his peer musicians. His output was generous and undeniable in invention and in quality with six symphonies, several diverse concerti, chamber music works, and operas that put him at the top of the Danish musical food chain.

A black and white photograph of Danish composer Carl Nielsen from 1931
Carl Nielsen, composer

In his three-act comic opera, Maskarade, Nielsen seems to have taken his cue form the light wit of Johann Strauss Jr.’s operetta, Die Fledermaus, as a cue for some of his plot. It is essentially a farce revolving around, you guessed it, mistaken identities. The gist of the plot involves Leander and Leonora, who have met at a dance and become smitten with each other. Now this would be fine except that it was a masquerade ball and the infatuated pair wore masks. They had no way of knowing that they had already been promised one to the other by their fathers! Well no matter, as they have two more acts to get it all straight so that a happy ending can be declared with a final chorus of triumph and laughter. If only life were like that: confusion and bumbling that always ends up with song and a champagne toast in a scant three hours!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 952-948-6506.

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From Boisterous to Pastoral :: Concert Preview 2 of 3


Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the second edition of the “Musings” for the “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor

Camille Saint-Saëns

Imagine how wonderful it would be to be a gifted composer! Melodies and harmonies would flow from you to your pen (perhaps a computer in today’s world) as you needed them. Now imagine the luxury of having at your disposal some of the world’s greatest soloists, eager to play the music you have written for them. This was the world Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) lived in, as he was able to write this work for Pablo de Sarasate, a luminary of the violin world from Spain who was only a tender fifteen years of age!

What is remarkable about this concerto is revealed in the single movement you will hear at this BSO concert. It is common for composers of this time and before to write their finales in rondo form. That is to say, that one theme will have the opportunity to come back repeatedly, an economical way of writing and a good way to have your audience leave whistling the tune. Saint-Saëns eschews that form with a curt “Non, non!” and proceeds to use no fewer than five separate themes that tie together in the way that only a genius could dictate. Not since Mozart do we have a composer “throw away” themes in a playful manner and with such success. One theme in particular is so serene and pastoral as to put on display Saint-Saëns’ Catholic faith. Its tranquil beauty returns as a powerful hymn played by the brass section against the busy strings, each complementing each other.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “From Boisterous to Pastoral” featuring Catherine Carson, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition as soloist for Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 24, 2019, at 3 p.m. at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington).

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Introducing Catherine Carson, Violin

Catherine Carson, Violin

Catherine Carson (Cate) is from Northfield, MN, and is a violin student of Sally O’Reilly. She is in 11th grade and is in the Pre-Conservatory program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. She has been playing the violin since she was four years old. Cate is a prize winner in many competitions, including the Thursday Musical Competition, the Schubert Club Competition, the YPSCA Competition, the Rochester Music Guild Competition, the Mary West Solo Competition, and the 2018 Senior Level MTNA Competition, West Center Division. 

Cate has performed in the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine, California Summer Music in Sonoma County, and the Bravo Festival in Minnesota. She has worked with Almita Vamos, John Gilbert, Robin Scott, Renée Jolles, and Susan Crawford, and has participated in masterclasses with Jennifer Koh, Gwen Thompson, and Nicola Benedetti. Her orchestral experiences include both the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, serving as concertmaster twice. Her favorite academic subjects are English and history, but when not practicing or studying, Cate enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and her cat.

Join Cate for her performance of the final movement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra on Sunday, February 24. The BSO is grateful to the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teachers Association and the coordinators of the Mary West Solo Competition in identifying this fine soloist!

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Support the BSO today!

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has had a wildly successful year, selling out concerts at the Masonic Heritage Center and the Schneider Theater, welcoming over 200 students to our concerts, and by taking on increasing musical challenges through the performance of masterworks by Debussy, Bernstein, and Tchaikovsky.

The BSO is working hard to enrich the lives of our audiences and musicians with outstanding performances of challenging, educational, and thoughtfully selected orchestral repertoire through our concerts and weekly rehearsals. To continue this work, we need your help!

Your support helps us provide this music at a low ticket price for audiences, and admit students for free, in fine venues close to home. It also helps support our appearance at the Bloomington Orchestra Festival, where hundreds of Bloomington Public Schools string students get to hear the BSO play in their school, and perform side-by-side with high school musicians.

If you are able, we would love for you to contribute to help us achieve our mission of enriching lives through orchestral music. You can give in three tax-deductible ways:

  • Send a check made out to “BSO” to our office at 1800 West Old Shakopee Rd., Bloomington, MN 55431
  • Online via our PayPal link
  • Online via GiveMN
All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent of the law and donors will be recognized in our concert programs. To discuss recognition opportunities at the $500 level and above, contact Sara Tan, General Manager via email. Thank you in advance for your support of the Bloomington Symphony and for helping us keep this beautiful art form vibrant, here in the Twin Cities!

PS — Our Board of Directors is continuing to match donations up to $5,450. We are 65% of the way there, and every gift at any amount will help us meet this match!

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Announcing the 2018-19 Concert Season

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce the 2018-19 concert season, it’s sixth under Music Director and Conductor Manny  Laureano.

October 7, 2018 :: Musical Milestones || BUY TICKETS

November 18, 2018 :: Romantically Yours || BUY TICKETS

February 24, 2019 :: From Boisterous to Pastoral || BUY FLEX TICKETS

May 5, 2019 :: Music in 3D: #6 || BUY FLEX TICKETS

We are excited to perform works ranging from Bach to Bernstein. We hope you will join us for any or all of the season concerts. To learn more, click on the title of the concert and purchase tickets with the link to the right.

You can also click on the images below to download our 2018-19 Season Brochure.

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String Audition Date Announced – September 16

For more information, visit our Auditions page or email auditions@bloomingtonsymphony.org


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“Stories and Enigmas” :: 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “Stories and Enigmas” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

Edward Elgar, Composer

Imagine you are a very strong country whose empire is so large that it would soon be said that the sun never set upon it, as there is always some part of the globe you conquered that’s lit up by some part of the sun’s rays. Not only that, you are the reigning monarch of the English language, as you have few that match you in your use of prose. An influential queen is on the throne. You rule the seas and all that. You have it all.

Not quite.

While the written arts were on display in every library on the planet, you do lack in a couple of areas that much of the world find important. There are no current household names that gave you equal notoriety in the art of painting nor that one other artistic endeavor: classical music. There are sea shanties and folk tunes that were recognizable across borders but symphonies and the like? Not so much.

And so it came to pass, that England was quietly in search of a national composer who would write music that the world found itself embracing. God provided in the form of one Edward Elgar (1857-1934) who was born to a family who owned a music shop. In essence, he was always surrounded by music and musicians. It also gave him the chance to learn several instruments, some nominally and others well. Of the ones he grasped with greatest intent were piano and violin.

Growing up Catholic in a predominantly Protestant area drew forth many of the same challenges that Gustav Mahler would find in terms of prejudices, except that Elgar found the strength to hold onto his faith through the woman he would eventually marry. She was his final and most enduring love, named Caroline Alice. Again, he bucked the traditional British class by marrying “up” while she, the daughter of a well-known major, married “down” for the time being, at least.

Slowly and impressively, Elgar honed his style until it became unmistakably his. The fullness and cleverness of his orchestration in the work, “Variations on an Original Theme,” known more familiarly as the “Enigma Variations,” are a marvel to anyone who studies the work in its written form. His use of dynamics, voicing balances, and the oh-so-right instrument choices are fodder for modern-day film composers. Every time you hear the piece it is like reading Shakespeare: you find something new with every hearing.

Thus, the British Empire would lay claim to a champion for the music of the concert hall and smaller venues with his chamber music, as well. He would also lay claim to that which is desired by every British boy and that was knighthood, as it happened for him in 1904. This honor was just the beginning of such that he would receive worldwide. How do we tend to honor him in America? Go to any college graduation and listen to the music played while the students process down the aisles and you will almost always hear a household tune always associated with that occasion: Pomp and Circumstance #1 in D major.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Stories and Enigmas featuring Michael Sutton, violin, and Gary Briggle, narrator. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 25, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.

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