Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 3 of 3


Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Dmitri Shostakovich

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Continued from Part I

As it happened, Josef Stalin, the brutal dictator of the Soviet Union, would attend certain musical events and managed to find himself at a performance of Lady Macbeth. His reactions during the performance were clear and seen by all in attendance. They were not good and Stalin made sure Shostakovich knew it. He directed an article to be written in Pravda (ironically, that translates to “Truth“) the state organ of news and comment, called “Chaos Instead of Music.” Within days, one of Shostakovich’s new ballets, Bright Stream, also came under heavy criticism. Shostakovich was crushed. So much so, that he canceled the premiere of his freshly-written Fourth Symphony while he figured out a way to keep from being sent to a gulag or, worse yet, “disappearing.” He was now a “target.” Thus, did Shostakovitch write what came to be known by some as a musical apology, his Fifth Symphony? He was now fearful. Was this the real Shostakovich?

With the above as your backdrop, this D Minor Symphony begs to be listened to with fresh ears. The jagged argument that opens the first movement is serious, because it is a display of conflict that settles into meditative thought. Does one go this way or that? Does one satisfy the soul or the desire just to live? There are so many moments of sunlight that attempt to break through, that the first movement almost works as an extended introduction for the remaining three movements. The brass stomp through like an invading force, only to give way to a peaceful state of eternal questioning of the self. The scherzo is a paean to the composing style of Gustav Mahler, whose music was loved by Shostakovich. If there is a way to portray loneliness and the suffering it brings when relief is not in sight, the third movement does so with such tremendous pathos as to induce heartbreak or catharsis. You will decide, dear listener.

As for the finale, I can do no better than to leave you with the words of Shostakovich as quoted by the man who assisted with his memoirs, Solomon Volkov:

“I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in what happens in Boris Godunov. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,’ and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, ‘our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.'”

Testimony by Solomon Volkov

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra
Manny Laureano, Music Director & Conductor
photo by Leslie Plesser

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 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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Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 2 of 3

Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Dmitri Shostakovich

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.


Dmitri Shostakovich, composer

It is always a dilemma to write about Dmitri Shostakovich, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1906 under the Tsarist rule of “Bloody” Nicholas II and who died in Moscow in 1975 under Soviet domination led by Leonid Brezhnev. In effect, baby Dmitri was born in a Russia that had suffered the violent conflict of a failed revolution against Nicholas II a year before. By the time he broached adolescence, a new future for Russia was on the horizon with new leaders and new problems. Somehow, a young and somewhat sickly—but prodigiously talented—boy would try to perform on the piano while developing his gift for composition. The dilemma comes in trying to know who the real Dmitri Shostakovich is.

His musical parents gave him what he needed, to attend the Conservatory in what was renamed Petrograd, at the age of 13. He studied piano with a vengeance, but his composing skills were rapidly increasing. He loved the musical examples he heard in the works by Rimsky-Korsakov. They gave him the road to follow in his quest to learn how to best use the instruments of the orchestra. His orchestral language and wit were present in his First Symphony, a student piece that would be the envy of many 20th century composers to follow. He also benefited from the opportunity to use his improvising skills at the piano to accompany movies live. Was this young man the real Shostakovich?

He set upon writing his Second and Third Symphonies, both of which had contemporary political statements as their centerpieces with titles like To October and The First of May. Such music could not have displeased the local Communist leaders, could they? They included choruses and new sounds for that relatively new century. The fact is, they were not well-received and there would be a six year lapse before Shostakovich would provide another symphony for public consumption. There was more music to write, anyway. He wrote operas, chamber music, ballets, and a concerto for trumpet and piano. Even though it would not be performed for quite some time (until 1960) Symphony No. 4 did roll out of his pen. It was however, on the heels of his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District or Lady Macbeth of Minsk. All was well and Dmitri was being performed consistently. Was this driving force in Soviet musical art the real Shostakovich?

To be continued!


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 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 3 of 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 “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.


Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 73

by Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms, composer

Johannes Brahms, composer

I will ask the readers of this particular set of notes about the Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) to indulge the author in a bit of sentimental folly. The hope of yours truly is that the recollection that has made this work such a favorite of mine would give Brahms cause to smile.

As a fledgling trumpeter in New York City, I had the opportunity—nay blessing—to play the first movement of this work by the man who shook the dust of his native Hamburg, Germany, from his feet, to be known more as a Viennese composer and artist—something for which the citizens of his birth city have still not forgiven. I was instantly enraptured by the sounds of this opus 73 of his. There was much for me to absorb, to be sure, but I was mesmerized by a theme that he had written earlier (to honor the birth of a child) that found it’s way into this Pastoral D Major symphony. So much so, in fact, that in my reverie I missed my next entrance! You, as the listener, will have no such problem since you are encouraged to dream away in the comfort of your seat.

There’s plenty from musicological and historical vantage points to appreciate here, from the summer getaways in the south of Austria to the impeccable structures of each movement that serve as the fabric he uses to weave his melodic/harmonic portraits. However, the magic in this music for the first-time listener is set firmly in the way it evolves so naturally. That is not to imply at all that the music is predictable. Far from it! Rather, it changes like a color wheel that is filled with warmth and stark hues.

The rolling cellos and basses introduce a duet by two horns that will be heard throughout the first movement as the first violins sit patiently, waiting to play what seems like nothing more than an etude of widening intervals. The sweetness of that simplicity is answered by a chorus of monk-like low brass that introduces a beautiful arching theme, once again, in the hands of the violins. The once-rolling theme is animated shortly thereafter and it is at that point that the listener realizes that the first movement will be full of many more climaxes and also charming surprises, particularly at the end coda.

The thoughtfulness of the second movement is a display of the beauty of the low and tenor instruments of the orchestra. There will be ample opportunity for the soprano members of the orchestra to sing in solo settings and also en masse. Brahms shows his handy ability to shift his rhythmic flow from straight 4/4 time to a 12/8 “swing” that brings to mind the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach.

What’s a Brahms symphony without an opportunity to be a bit playful? The third movement gives him a chance to, once again, play with pulses and time signatures to give the illusion that he has written everything in the movement in the same time signature. In fact, he goes from 3/4 to 2/4 to 3/4 to 3/8 to 9/8 and finally back to 3/4 in the sliest manner! He has taken a walk and every time he turns his head he sees a different scene, barely ever stopping to stand still.

If D Major was a key that Bach used to celebrate in a joyful manner, well, that was good enough for Brahms. The quiet murmuring that begins the finale gives way to unrepentant joy in Brahms’ hands. There are moments of introspection and development that are ravishingly atmospheric to give us a moment to breathe. Make that recovery quick, though, for Brahms is at his joyful best as the coda challenges the orchestra to race to the finish line as the low brass remind us what key we are in!

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)

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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From Boisterous to Pastoral :: Concert Preview 1 of 3


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 “From Boisterous to Pastoral” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

Roman Carnival Overture

by Hector Berlioz

For a man who complained as much as he did about Rome, French composer Hector Berlioz (1803-1869) kept that dislike a secret, if we are to judge by the quality of his output on Italian themes while he worked and finished his studies during the 1830s. In addition to his work for solo viola and orchestra, Harold in Italy, he completed a large, two-act opera called Benvenuto Cellini.

Photo of Hector Berlioz, composer
Hector Berlioz, Composer

One never knows exactly why audiences take to a work or greet it with raised eyebrows. In any case, the opera had only mild reaction but the overture was greeted with a bit more enthusiasm. Still, the entire work never really caught on during his lifetime. He did revisit it, though and even Franz Liszt took interest enough to revive it in Weimar. It was during that time that Berlioz thought it wise to draw a variety of themes from the opera and fashion an overture of a programmatic sort. That overture, Roman Carnival, is a robust medley of brash opening fireworks, a hopeful ballad from the English Horn that wafts infectiously from section to section, and a lively saltarello that builds, ebbs, and builds again into the boisterous finale this concert promises to deliver.

Buckle up.

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)

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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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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Karen Baumgartner shares about Grant Luhmann’s Flute Concerto

We had the opportunity to sit down with Karen Baumgartner, to discuss the collaboration with composer Grant Luhmann, in anticipation of the Flute Concerto which will receive its world premiere on Sunday, February 19 at the BSO’s Youthful Celebration concert.

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Musician’s Musing – February 2017

Karen Nordstrom, former BSO cellist and current concert sponsor

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by former BSO cellist and current concert sponsor, Karen Nordstrom. Karen and her husband Dr. Leonard (Bud) Nordstrom, have been longtime chair sponsors. They recently decided to sponsor a concert and their first recognition as concert sponsors will come in April 2017. We asked Karen to share a few words of experience and this is what she wrote. 

From the time I was a very young girl growing up in Milwaukee, music was a big part of my life. My mother played the piano. Mom and Dad sang with the Arians, a great Milwaukee choir. I sang with the Junior Arians. Mom began encouraging me to play piano at a young age and taught me where middle C was on our piano. When our church organist, Elfrieda Winninger, asked me at church one Sunday where middle C was, I said it was at home. Well, they decided to wait a bit with piano lessons. Mrs. Winninger would one day be my piano teacher for 7 years.

Mom and I attended Milwaukee Symphony concerts, sitting very close to the front in my warm blanket coat and sometimes nodding off, but still listening. I had two much older sisters, Gloria and Joyce, who as young girls played cello and violin, respectively. However, before I reached the age of having memory, those girls were off to college and I never did hear them play their instruments. One day I decided to try the violin. It was a more manageable size. That wasn’t for me. So at age 11, I chose Gloria’s cello, taking lessons, and loving it—my mellow cello. It was an easier instrument to play, by far, than the violin.

As a youth, I participated in our high school orchestra as well as CAP, Children’s Art Program, in greater Milwaukee, an orchestra that met down at the War Memorial building on the shore of Lake Michigan. Those were very enjoyable years and cemented friendships that carry through to this day.

Off to St Olaf College in 1959, and packing my cello, I auditioned for the St Olaf Orchestra and made it! As a nursing student, it perhaps wasn’t a wise thing to do, as with the tough science courses plus all the rest, I should’ve been studying more. When for a brief time I was “on probation” due to grades, it was suggested I perhaps quit the orchestra freshman year, I declined that suggestion, and just buckled down a bit more. WHEW! I made it through.

After graduation in 1963, I took a few years off from even thinking about joining an orchestra. Working 40 hours a week as a pediatric nurse, I was too busy to manage the practicing required I would need to be in a good orchestra. In 1966, I tried out for the Minneapolis Civic and played with that group until 1987 when I joined BSO, playing until ulner neuropathy began in my fingering hand. The numbness, tingling, and reduced strength of that left hand caused me  to leave my beloved BSO several years ago. But I had played for almost 60 years and that was a good thing. Now my husband and I enjoy attending the concerts and seeing this great orchestra blossom and thrive. My cello awaits my 11 year old granddaughter who as a 5th grader here in Bloomington, decided on the cello. She is a third generation cellist, her dad being the second, and I am relishing passing mellow cello on to the next generation.

My husband, Bud, too feels that this is a priority with our giving to our beloved Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, one of the crown jewels, which makes this city great!

Thank you, Karen and Bud, for your faithful donations and concert attendance! To learn more about how you can support the BSO’s efforts – no matter the level – visit the Support page on this website.

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