“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 5

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 “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

La valse
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

It is a delicious irony of a musical life that Maurice Ravel, an Impressionist composer of colors and atmosphere, was so fastidious in the way he did things. This talented, artistic, bachelor “neat freak” might have easily played the role of Felix Ungar had Neil Simon been around at the time.

If one were to open a score to his atmospheric 2nd Suite to Daphnis and Chloe, the eyes would be immediately met by an array of notes so seemingly complex that one would have to wonder how musicians were able to play the thing at all! So it is with his tribute to (and destruction of) the Viennese waltz of the day, La Valse (1920).

It begins with a quiet grumbling in the basses, divided to trill and then play pizzicati that serve as the heartbeat that gives the waltz it’s first life. You might be tempted to scream out loud “It’s alive!” but hold on, for this is just the beginning. He uses his brilliant understanding of orchestration and mind-numbing detail to create a mist-like veil that is lifted slowly like a sunrise to eventually reveal first light. It’s not really about one waltz but, in the manner of Johann Strauss Jr., it is several waltzes played one after the other, some with smooth transitions and others not.

Originally conceived as a ballet, it has received many, many more performances as a showpiece for orchestras showing off their myriad talents and section sonorities. It is all superbly organized to take both orchestra and listener on what is at first a comfortable ride of sensual swings and loops only to become a demonic exaggeration that ends with a comic punchline in 4/4 rather than three quarter time. Advisedly, I say to be wary of finding any deeper meaning in this music than what it is: taking an emotion to its zenith. That said, when you hear the original theme return… buckle up!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 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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“Music in 3D: #5” Concert Preview No. 4

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the fourth edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Fêtes from Trois Nocturnes, L. 91
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

It is always interesting to see how the visual arts and music seem to express themselves similarly through the ages. From the complex nature of Baroque paintings which often sought to render emotion without the benefit of great exaggeration to the suggestive Impressionist period, music seemed to be a willing accomplice at nearly the same times.

Great composers through the years have never been short on imagination. The greatest of those were always sure to compose and imply rather than hit you over the head with an idea. Whereas Renoir and Monet were content to let you do some of the work with your eye and your mind’s eye, so was Claude Debussy. He risked much in doing so, as his early works and chord progressions were pronounced “bizarre” by the professors at the French Academy in Rome. It was likely that his exposure to various forms of music, such as that produced on the Indonesian Gamelan, acted as a catalyst to an an already active imagination.

Of the Three Nocturnes (1899) the most popular is Fêtes. It is also the most diversely colorful. Set yourself in Paris as evening descends and find yourself in a flurry of human activity. Take a moment to enjoy a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe as a military band approaches from afar until it is right on top of you. Find yourself near the Seine as the last remnants of music fade into the night.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 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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“Music in 3D: #5” 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Danse Macabre, Op. 40
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1922)

Camille Saint-Saëns, composer

Think of Camille Saint-Saëns as a 19th century composer version of actor Tom Hanks. That is to say that he not only had a wonderful talent for composing stirring and compelling works, but he was able to provide his audiences of both then and now with works that tremendously diverse in spirit and personality. The man that gave us a magical and witty Carnival of the Animals, a darkly majestic Organ Symphony, a peaceful and sensual 3rd Violin Concerto in B minor, and standard-setting A Minor Cello Concerto, would reach into his dark side and take us on a midnight trip to a graveyard for his most-played work, the Danse Macabre (1874).

While it is a tone poem, it is not heavy of plot. It is more about atmosphere with just a few clear indications of a tolling midnight bell (played subtly by the harp) and an early-morning cock crowing which is given voice by the solo oboe. He does provide us with some innovations to stir the imagination in the form of a solo violin with playing a strident tri-tone. He accomplishes this by having our concertmaster tune his open E string down to an Eb. This changes the familiar perfect 5th of the open E and A into the tri-tone originally referred to as diabolus in musica and banned by the church many centuries ago. Another new sound was that of the xylophone making its orchestral premiere in this work. Its brittle sound portrays the terpsichorean talents of the skeletons who take advantage of the lonely and deserted cemetery to revel until the morning sun threatens to reveal them.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 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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“Music in 3D: #5” 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Composer

How much we are in the debt of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy? Never mind his own great compositions such as the the string symphonies he wrote between the tender ages of 12 and 14, or his lyrical Piano Concerto in G minor. Forget his Fourth Symphony (so-named the Italian) which, even though written in an elegant classical style, broke rules by being still the only symphony to begin in a major key only to end in an explosive minor saltarello. We won’t mention his contribution to the field of oratorios with his piously beautiful Elijah.

If all he had done was to bring back the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to the consciousness of the music-loving public, as he did with his performance of the St. Matthew Passion it would have been enough to secure his place in musical history… but no. He also managed to write the most easily recognized violin concerto in history with his E minor concerto. While he conceived the piece in 1838, he was not able to finish it until quite some time later–in 1844–for his close musical associate and friend, Ferdinand David.

This music is sweet without being maudlin or overdone. It is bold without being brash. It’s first-movement cadenza follows a classical approach without self-indulgent pyrotechnics. It has spoken quite well for itself as a standard-bearer for great violinists for about 170 years!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 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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“Music in 3D: #5” 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 “Music in 3D: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Rakoczy March from The Damnation of Faust, Op. 24
Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Hector Berlioz, Composer

When Hector Berlioz wrote his work, The Damnation of Faust, he took a risk by writing a hybrid work. It traversed the worlds of both grand cantata and opera and the audiences that attended the first performances weren’t quite sure what to do with it. He likely would have preferred clear dislike of the piece but was more upset by what was indifference by the opera-going Parisians. After all, the novel was something that had provided Berlioz with his latest obsession. In human terms, it is easy to understand why the lack of validation for his interest would be disappointing to him. Time changes hearts and minds and the construction and thematic material became more appreciated as evidenced by the many performances that happen world-wide on a yearly basis.

The Hungarian March or Rakoczy was added to accentuate the cynicism that was a part of Faust’s character. This march, which was written earlier and separate from the opera, provides Faust with the opportunity to wonder how soldiers could be so infernally happy (see what I did there?) when he perceived life to be so useless and bereft of anything to celebrate, much less being an enlisted man.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #5 featuring Katia Tesarczyk, violin, and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition sponsored by MNSOTA. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 22, 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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Live Performance of “Nimrod” from Enigma Variations

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra with Manny Laureano, Music Director and Conductor, performs “Nimrod” from Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at the Masonic Heritage Center in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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

Camille Saint-Saens, composer

Relationships formed through music often turn out to be ones that are the motivation for great works and smaller, flashier works that also invite a look into the characteristics of a performer. “I like this about you and I’m going to exploit those things you do well in a piece I want to write for you.” I would imagine initial conversations about a proposed work go along those lines. Brahms had Joachim and Camille Saint Saëns (1835-1921) had Pablo de Sarasate whose virtuosity was a standard during the day.

Sarasate was a true musical prodigy with an ability to perform that were unquestionable beyond his years. Born among the bull bull runners of Pamplona, his father saw to it that he would begin his music studies early. Great musicians tend to meet over the course of their lives and the friendship that ensued between the two artists brought forth several larger works including two of Saint Saëns’ concerto and the very popular “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.” The work is predominantly in A minor with a cheerful nod to a lighter dance-like section in C major that is clearly an acknowledgement to the Spanish heritage of his premiering soloist. In fact, the entire piece has that Moorish quality that may take us away from the usually bitter cold of our local weather and take us to sunnier climes!

Enjoy this preview of Michael rehearsing with the Bloomington Symphony – Manny Laureano, conductor

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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“Stories and Enigmas” :: 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 “Stories and Enigmas” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

Sergei Prokofiev, Composer

The Russian people, whether they were under Tsarist opulence and poverty or Communism and oppression, could always be sure of one thing: they would never be lacking for ironic humor. Before the age of film, Russian literature was rich with harsh philosophical realism. When films became popular and capable of having the sound of voices and music, Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953), in search of a way to ingratiate himself to the Soviet authorities, was an eager participant in his first such project, “Lt. Kijé”. It’s not that he was a big fan of the new regime. He left a year after it had been installed and didn’t return until 1930 after feeling homesick. But work is work, and it might prove to be a chance to bring Soviet art to the west.

The plot is simple and farcical. In order to cover up a moment of amorous indiscretion and a concurrent clerical error, a savior is created in the pseudo-persona of Lt. Kijé. The non-existent Kijé is given credit for a number of things that would aggrandize Tsar Paul the 1st, an insecure martinet who sees to it that Kijé (whom he never meets, of course) is married and promoted to commander of the Russian Army only to eventually “die,” demoted and disgraced. One of the most popular movements in this suite is the song of the three-horse sleigh or “Troika,” in which two officers, drunk out of their minds, go for a ride singing at the tops of their lungs. Listen for the discordant scream coming from the low brass as one of the riders falls out of the troika!

If you’d like to see the movie, check it out here, on YouTube!

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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Musician’s Musing – February 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Principal Percussionist, Paul Madore.

 

From Jazz to Classical

 

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved music. So much so that my earliest childhood memories center on drums, phonograph records, or a combination of the two. I distinctly remember pounding away on a Quaker Oats oatmeal canister, trying to play along with the calypso rhythms I heard as “Belafonte Sings of the Caribbean” spun around on our RCA “suitable for mono” portable record player. (Yes, I realize I’m showing my age here.)

Before I was old enough to read, I could go through my parents’ LP collection and pick out whatever they requested, much to my mother’s delight and bewilderment.

From there, it was a short leap from just listening to music to wanting to learn how to actually play it, and I begged my parents to let me take drum lessons. My mother spoke with a local drum instructor who advised her to wait until I reached the ripe old age of seven before making that commitment.

When my seventh birthday finally arrived, my parents could no longer delay the inevitable and told me I could start my drum lessons. I was so excited! I still remember my first lesson with Mr. Riccardo. He had a music studio set up in the finished basement of his house. As I walked down the stairs, I peered up at the photos on the wall of his trio playing at the “Marco Polo”, a local Italian restaurant that featured live music.

At the foot of the stairs was the main area of the basement, and as I rounded the corner, an alcove transformed itself into a musical Valhalla, with a piano, a stereo, and most importantly, a real set of 4-piece Slingerlands in blue sparkle finish! I had never seen a real drum set before, and was surprised to find a foot pedal behind the bass drum. Having previously only seen pictures of a drum set photographed from the front, I had somehow imagined that the bass drum’s only purpose was to support the small tom-tom and ride cymbal. Clearly I had much to learn…

Fast-forward to 6th grade, and I by now I was playing in a real rock and roll band! The original band name was “Mantissa”, which is some mathematical term that I’m still unfamiliar with. We quickly opted for the easier-to-understand and more picturesque “Red Moon”. We were a power trio of sorts, and did covers of classics like “Honky Tonk Women” and “Smoke on the Water”, along with some half-baked instrumental originals with inscrutable titles like “Japan” and “Corn Kernels”.  I felt super-cool, because the other 2 guys were in high school, and here I was with them playing at high school dances that I would have been too young to attend, had I not been one of the performers on stage.

As I grew older, my musical tastes became more refined, and in addition to playing in the school concert band and jazz band, I enjoyed listening to jazz and funk, and tried to emulate the style of my favorite drummers. I was a big fan of that outdated musical hybrid term “Jazz/Rock”, and I immersed myself in the crisp drumming styles of Bobby Colomby (“Blood, Sweat and Tears”) and Danny Seraphine (“Chicago”).

When I was 15, I auditioned for and won a spot in the percussion section with “America’s Youth In Concert”, a nation-wide concert band and choral group that played such venues as Carnegie Hall in New York and the bicentennial in Philadelphia, before embarking on a month-long tour of Europe.

After graduating from high school, I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, where I studied jazz theory and jazz drumming, played in various big band ensembles and received my Bachelor of Music degree in performance.

While living in Boston, I lived the aspiring “musician’s life” of working a day job to pay the bills, and playing various gigs at night to fulfill my musical passion. That template remained more or less intact, even after moving to Minnesota during the great Halloween storm of 1991.

Since moving to Minnesota, I became more involved in classical music, performing with the Dakota Valley Symphony, while continuing to play in various horn-driven funk/R & B bands, such as “Down Right Tight” and “Under Suspicion” and jazz bands such as “The Stan Bann Big Band” and “Beasley’s Big Band”.

My first experience performing with the BSO was back in 2003, when I was hired as an extra to play triangle and tam-tam in Mahler’s Second Symphony, “The Resurrection”. I was very impressed by the high level of musicianship of the players, and completely blown away by the magnitude of this magnificent work! Having at the time only a limited familiarity of Mahler’s music, I eagerly began exploring his other works and today consider Mahler one of my all-time favorite composers.

Around 2010 or so, I made the conscious decision to concentrate exclusively on performing orchestral music, primarily with the BSO, but also subbing with other orchestras, such as the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Saint Paul Civic Symphony.

When approached about writing this edition of the Musician’s Musings, I was asked to write about my experiences moving from jazz to classical. I’ve always likened the idea of a musician playing different styles of music as akin to a skilled athlete playing different sports. Proficiency at one sport is no guarantee for success at another. And yet, there is a common ground that some people skilled in athletics share. The hand-eye coordination that is required in one game may present itself differently in another game’s execution, but that basic coordination will still be required in some shape or form.

It is the same in the world of music. Certainly there are common fundamental requirements in order to play the correct notes, sing the correct pitches, etc. Stylistically, though there can be many subtle and not-so-subtle differences. Each musical style presents its own inherent logic and set of rules with which a musician must be familiar, or risk sounding amateurish.

A good example of this is evident in Jazz music. When all the players are in sync rhythmically, the music is considered “swinging”. Jazz music is triplet-based, with a typical ride cymbal pattern driving the rhythm: quarter note, 1st & 3rd triplet, quarter note, 1st & 3rd triplet, etc. Though it’s played like triplets, this rhythm is often written as: quarter note, dotted 1/8th & 16th, quarter note, dotted 1/8th and 16th, etc.)

A common mistake for “legit” or classical musicians is to play this rhythm strictly as written, which sounds “square”, “unhip”, and definitely NOT swinging. In order to sound correctly, a certain creative license must be employed, which means the player must not play exactly what is written on the page.

On the flip side of the coin is the seasoned jazz musician, who may know all the standard tunes in the repertoire by heart, or by reading off a lead sheet (a sort of musical shorthand that shows just the melody line and the chord changes), but may not have the sight-reading skills necessary if called upon to sub for a symphony orchestra. And all those European musical terms might feel like a foreign language, because they actually are!

Of course, there are many versatile musicians these days who can bridge both jazz and classical styles. Perhaps the most famous is Wynton Marsalis, whose trumpet virtuosity has extended into highly acclaimed recordings and performances in both sound worlds.

Since orchestral music can have limited percussion parts (or no percussion at all, in some cases), I sometimes get asked if I get tired of waiting to play, or having to “count so many bars of rests” before making an entrance. On the contrary. One of the great things about performing as part of an orchestra is that you get to listen and bask in the collective sound of the group as a whole. This is true even when you’re not playing, sometimes even more so. While I love playing a busy, challenging part and the “go-for-broke” spirit that goes with it, it can be equally enjoyable to just sit back and listen. In fact, I’d rather listen to music that moves me even if there is no percussion, than to play something I don’t connect with emotionally just for the sake of playing. I’ve always believed that to be a good musician, you must first be a good listener. I can think of no greater thrill than being on stage with the BSO when we’re making music at our highest level.

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