“Music in 3D: #4” 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Berlioz and his Dream Girl(s) {part 2 of 2}

Read the first part of this Musings here.

It takes him five separate movements, each one so well-written that it could stand alone, to describe a story of passion, tenderness, anger, and chilling terror.

Estelle, the object of Berlioz’s affections

The work opens with a self-reflective raising of the curtain and a theme in the violins that actually dates back to his first love Estelle, and eventually gives way to a joyous theme of love that makes its appearance in every movement in some mutated form. This is known as the idée fixe. The theme develops and Berlioz takes us on a wild ride of passion that seeks religious redemption at the end of the movement. The waltz that follows is a first date of sorts. and we know he’s with his Dream Girl as soon as we here the idée fixe. The walk in the country that serves as he third movement is a beautiful nod to Beethoven replete with dueling double reeds, each on their own hillsides, one near, one far. Dark thoughts invade the artists mind as he rages jealously. One of the shepherds returns, only to have his song mocked by looming thunderclouds.

Those thunderclouds tell us the honeymoon’s over as the artist has been sentenced to death for killing his Dream Girl while under the influence of a controlled substance. Don’t do drugs, kids. The artist is not just marched to the scaffold, rather he is pushed to it, as the gathered public wants blood—lots of it. Just before his head goes for a bouncing jaunt down the steps in 4/4 time, he thinks of his Dream Girl one last time.

As in a bad Hollywood horror movie, our artist comes back to find that his Dream Girl is now a witch and she’s come back with a coven of friends. Berlioz goes all out with cackling sounds, bells of doom, a Dies Irae theme that shows God is NOT happy, and the wood part of bows striking strings in order to paint a frightening picture of love gone wrong.

But what of that first sweetheart, Estelle? It turns out that she and Berlioz were reunited as friends and companions very late in their lives. This welcome relationship came after all three of Berlioz’s wives died prematurely as did Estelle’s husband. A happier ending than the Symphonie!

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, 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: #4” 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: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Berlioz and his Dream Girl(s) {part 1 of 2}

Hector Berlioz

If love is the sickness, then composing is the cure, or such was the experience of a young Hector Berlioz (1803-1866) who, from the start, was the quintessential incurable romantic. Lucky thing, that, as France and the rest of Europe were well into the throes of the Romantic era by 1930, when the Symphonie fantastique was premiered. Berlioz discovered love and its partner, jealousy, in the form of a comely 18-year old summer neighbor named Estelle when he was 12 years old. Think about Michael Corleone being struck by “The Thunderbolt” in The Godfather and you will have an idea of how the boy felt. Estelle was amused and flattered but a relationship was out of the question… for the moment. Also, bear in mind that Berlioz began his musical studies at that very age, rather than much earlier as we are accustomed to hear about the great composers.

Berlioz was not shy about his passionate nature as he grew older, either. He was engaged to be married to a Mlle. Estelle Moke, but while he was away studying music in Italy he received a letter from his would-be mother-in-law informing him the marriage was off. Berlioz flew into a rage and plotted a triple murder and suicide plot involving elaborate disguises and double-barreled pistols. He cooled off and continued studying.

This personality had produced a tremendous work that was based on “The Life of a Young Artist” the year before. In fact, Berlioz had single-handedly, over the early years of his composing, changed the size and orchestration of the 19th century orchestra. Imagine a piece of music from the first third of the 19th century that features two harps, an English horn and an E? clarinet, a piccolo, two cornets and trumpets, two tubas, two sets of timpani, and two Liberty Bell-style bells, in addition to the rest of a large orchestra and you have the ingredients for his Symphonie fantastique, a five-movement foray into intimate and extroverted passion.

His now-familiar relationship with actress Harriet Smithson makes more sense given what we’ve learned about his personality before and after the Symphonie. He was obsessed with her and sent letters that went unanswered and put on concerts to attract her attention. He finally woke up from his dream when he was informed of rumors involving Smithson and her manager. It was that jolt which drove him to write… and write he did.

{Part 2 will be posted on March 30}

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, 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: #4” 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: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Concerto for ‘Cello in B minor by Antonín Dvorák

Antonín Dvorák

Some composers find their niches quickly and write defining pieces soon in their careers. Others learn more and truly deliver the works that become associated with their names, later in life. This was certainly true of this magnificent work for ‘cello by Antonín Dvorák (1841 – 1904). He had written a piano concerto which has gone into the dustbin of musical history. His next effort, the Concerto for Violin in A minor, has become somewhat of a standard for great soloists, but has not occupied the same place as those by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius, Beethoven, or Mozart. To be sure, when one hears the Violin Concerto, it leaves one wondering why it’s not heard with greater frequency.

The fact is that Dvorák simply didn’t believe that the solo ‘cello was a powerful or compelling enough voice to soar over the body of an orchestra. Fate took a hand, however, when he decided to go to hear a premiere by a composer and education colleague at New York City’s National Conservatory, where Dvorák served as director. That colleague was Victor Herbert, whose Cello Concerto convinced Dvorák that he had been under a misconception. Dvorák set to work for two years, and in 1896 was able to have the noted English ‘cellist, Leo Stern, play the solo part at a premiere performance in London that changed the world order for the instrument forever.

In listening to the first movement, one is truly struck by the conversational quality of the relationship between orchestra and soloist. The opening is generous and takes its time introducing the solo voice of the ‘cello. When the ‘cello enters, its voice is stentorian and poetic. It shifts from anguished to playful to thoughtful, all the while demanding the best in the soloist’s technical prowess. This movement gives us a peek at a beautiful work of art that occupies a solid place in the repertoire.

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, 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: #4 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: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

La forza del destino

Giuseppe Verdi

It’s inevitable. Composers live their lives and eventually confront the events that make them who they are or prevent them from having what they want. Beethoven was forced into a life of ironically cruel deafness. Berlioz was dogged by the deaths of three wives. Tchaikovsky avoided but then could not deny his homosexuality. The Jewishness in Mahler’s background would never be accepted by the Viennese, regardless of his religious conversion to Catholicism.

It is easy to hear the frustrated outbursts in the music of these men, whether it comes in the form of a jagged motif which begins a Fifth Symphony or powerful brassy blasts that recur in an F minor symphony. Sometimes the angst is more subtle when heard as musical sighs or weeping.

When Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) dedicated an entire opera to the power of destiny, he had long since eschewed the merry romp that an Italian opera overture would often be, such as the kind Rossini would write to engage his audiences. After all, when Verdi wrote his operas, the so-called Age of Enlightenment was well upon European audiences and their respective cultures. Tragedies became synonymous with operatic plots, now that people’s eyes were being relentlessly opened to human suffering.

Verdi wastes no time in establishing the three knocks of destiny, or fate, with powerful octave shouts from the orchestra’s brass section. An intense, undulating theme rises and falls in the strings to compete in a different way with the rest of the orchestra. The tender moment that reveals the theme sung by tragic heroine, Leonora, is overcome by the gyrations of the earlier minor material. A sustained theme of hope is heard accompanied by two harps. Surely all will end well? Will the Deus ex machina appear in the form of the warm brass chorale save our heroine?

Well, it is, after all, a tragedy.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, 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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Announcing April Soloist :: Nygel Witherspoon

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Fifteen year old cellist Nygel Witherspoon will perform the first movement of Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto with the Bloomington Symphony at their Music in 3D: #4 concert on Sunday, April 2. The concert will be held at the Jefferson High School Auditorium in Bloomington at 3 p.m., and will be conducted by Music Director Manny Laureano.

Mr. Witherspoon is the Grand Prize winner of the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teacher’s Association (MNSOTA) Mary West Solo Competition, which was held in November 2016. The Grand Prize is a $250 cash award and the opportunity to solo with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

To purchase tickets to the concert, please visit the Bloomington Box Office online or in person. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door (cash or check only).

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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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Announcing Louisa Woodfull-Harris, Violin Soloist for April 17 concert

Louisa Woodfull-Harris, Violin

Louisa Woodfull-Harris, Violin

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce that Louisa Woodfull-Harris will perform with the orchestra on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 3 p.m. Woodfull-Harris was the grand prize winner of the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teacher’s Association (MNSOTA) Mary West Solo Competition which was held in November 2015.

Woodfull-Harris will perform the first movement of the Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius at the concert which will also feature Capriccio Italien by Piotr Tchaikovsky and Camille Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, “Organ Symphony.”

To purchase tickets, visit the Bloomington Box Office. Tickets are also available at the door (cash or check only).

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“Music in 3D: The Sequel” 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 2014-15 season. We hope you enjoy this preview of “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Modest Moussorgsky (1839-1881) and his Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Maurice Ravel occupies a cornerstone of the orchestral literature both as a masterwork of inspired composition and brilliant orchestration. There are over two dozen versions of the Russian Moussorgsky’s piano piece but the popularity of this orchestration by Ravel endures as the favorite of concert audiences. To be fair, it is the most often-played version and most people have not heard the other versions. A partial listing might include the first orchestration by Mikhail Tushmalov or Sir Henry Wood or Leopold Stokowski. There’s an arrangement for brass choir by Elgar Howarth for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. In 1977, I went on tour as principal trumpeter for the rock trio Emerson, Lake & Palmer and played their version. Even a version for solo trumpet and organ was written by the American trumpeter Vincent DiMartino. Clearly, the music is evocative enough to bring clear images to the mind and compelling enough to incite musicians to try their hand at making their own personal statement. But cream does tend to rise and Ravel’s orchestration continues to be the favorite world-wide.

You may remember from our previous discussions of Borodin that Moussorgsky was one of a group of Russian composers known as “The Five” who tasked themselves with creating concert music that would be representative of a Russian musical language and style. Moussorgsky’s modal key centers and free use of changing time signatures stays within that language in an exemplary fashion. It was then up to Frenchman Maurice Ravel to set about doing what he did best as one of the pre-eminent orchestrators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and bring Moussorgsky’s piano music to life with vivid instrumental color.

The pictures from this particular exhibition came from the mind of a recently deceased painter and friend of Moussorgsky named Victor Hartmann. After Hartmann’s death from an aneurysm, Moussorgsky was driven to honor him with a piece of music depicting several of these Russian-themed paintings. Hartmann’s paintings aren’t the only depiction, however. The piece begins with a Promenade which is repeated in a variety of keys and characters throughout the 40-minute work. These Promenades have in common changing meters and strategically placed eighth notes that portray a less-than-graceful awkwardness. They fairly represent Moussorgsky’s moving from one painting to another with a heavy limp that revealed his own physiognomy. It may have even given us a peek at the alcoholism that began upon learning of the death of his mother, a passing which affected him greatly. Sometimes the Promenades precede each picture. Other times, Moussorgsky seems to be standing in front of two pictures and steals a gaze at one before completely finishing looking at the other. Ravel challenges the listener to hear sounds not always associated with a symphony orchestra such as a saxophone singing the ballad of a troubadour before an old castle. Then there’s the tuba in the altissimo register providing us with the complaints of an old ox pulling a loaded cart. A piccolo, snare drum, and tiny cymbals peck at an egg shell before the newly-hatched chick falls in exhaustion, his work accomplished. Snarling brass make a gnome seem larger than life. Seeing the pictures themselves is far less important than the pictures you conjure in the same way as Shakespeare exhorted you to “work your thoughts” (Henry V) in order to see the magic created by Moussorsgky and then Ravel many years later after the composer’s death.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: The Sequel” featuring Sara Melissa Aldana, winner of the CodaBow prize at the Mary West Solo Competition, as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 19 at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington. To learn more about the concert, click here, or to order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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“Music in 3D: The Sequel” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share Manny’s Musings, thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. Please enjoy this concert preview and check back on Friday for the final entry of “Manny’s Musings”!

Henryk Wieniawski, Composer

Henryk Wieniawski, Composer

Henryk Wieniawski and his Concerto No. 2 in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra occupy a stable place in the repertoire for talented violinists. Born in Lublin, Poland, he was exposed to music along with each of the sons produced by his parents, Regina and Tadeusz. He showed promise quickly and it came as no surprise that he would eventually be admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris at age ten with great enthusiasm by its director at the time, Daniel Auber.

As though being a dazzling young violinist weren’t enough, young Henryk or Henri, as he would become known in France, added to the concert repertoire he learned by composing his own music. Thus, the inevitable comparisons to composer/virtuoso performer Nicolo Paganini started to form when Henryk’s talent became undeniable as he approached his 20s. His output included pieces such as concert etudes, Three Romances, an air with variations, and a concerto for violin in D major, part of which has been lost with only a fragment surviving.
Wieniawski’s life as a musician proved rewarding and prolific as a composer as he continued to write and perform, receiving accolades from respected luminaries of the day such as Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz who bemoaned Henryk’s leaving Paris to concertize in Russia. He was even lucky in matters of the heart when he was allowed to become engaged to the lovely Isabella Hampton of London, despite the raised eyebrows of her father who was not keen on the idea of his daughter marrying a musician. Love conquered in the end (along with a £200,000 life insurance policy) and they were married.

The Second Concerto had originally come to life in 1862 and dedicated to another fine virtuoso of the day, Pablo Sarasate. With the wisdom of the years come improvements and revisions to many composers and he published his final, improved version in 1870. It is, however, unfortunate to note that Wieniawski’s years were not as many as we would have liked. He developed a heart condition which came to a head while, ironically, performing the Concerto in D minor you will hear at this performance. He collapsed on stage yet marshalled the strength to finish his tour and improve slightly until he finally succumbed a few months later despite the loving care of Isabella.

Sara Melissa Aldana, Violin

Sara Melissa Aldana, Violin

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: The Sequel” featuring Sara Melissa Aldana, winner of the CodaBow prize at the Mary West Solo Competition, as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 19 at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington. To learn more about the concert, click here, or to order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

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