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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Announcing the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 Concert Season

Music Director Manny Laureano has put together a season of concerts for the BSO’s 57th season that continue the BSO’s tradition of performing challenging, educational, and outstanding orchestral music for audiences and musicians alike. There will be old friends, and new music, Four by Four, Colorful Russian Music, and Mahler’s Fifth. Check each of the pages on our website to learn about all of the programs.

On the day of our 2019-20 season announcement, we encourage you to reserve the best seats in the house by ordering today! Instead of a season ticket, the BSO offers a flex ticket which offers the same discount and offers more flexibility for people who snowbird or want to take advantage of the discount for an individual concert. Flex Tickets are $13 for Adults and $10 for Seniors (62+). Purchase in a group of four or more for any concert, in any category and take advantage of this great price! Students are always free with an ID, but seats are reserved, so order those early to guarantee a seat!

Comment below with the concert or piece you are most looking forward to hearing the BSO perform in 2019-20!

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