“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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Kiitos! Thank You!

Thank you to all who attended the sold-out Bloomington Symphony Orchestra and Suomi Finland 100 Chorus concert at the Masonic Heritage Center on October 8!

If you are planning to attend future Bloomington Symphony Orchestra concerts, we urge you to order your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment on the day of the concert!

For the November concert, call the Artistry Box Office at 962-563-8575 or click here.

For the February and April concerts, call the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office at 952-948-6506 or click here.

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Suomi… How We Love You! :: Concert Preview No. 4

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 “Suomi… How We Love You!” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

 

Jean Sibelius, composer

I mentioned that one of the most powerful aspects of Jean Sibelius’ skills was the ability to inspire, and it’s true. We all understand the unique power of an anthem to roil the blood to action, to stir the heart from passive inactivity to rolling up a people’s collective sleeves.

In 1899, the man who would write Oma Maa and the descriptive Symphony in E minor would also, before the turn of the century, write a short piece so powerful that it is still, over one hundred years later, regarded as Finland’s “second national anthem.” Originally, it was to be titled “Finland Awakens” but because of governmental restrictions would hide under the name Impromptu. It was decided later to be known as “Suomi” in Finnish, or more familiarly to non-Finns, “Finlandia.” Even though the music was not conceived to have lyrics, they were added in 1941 at the consent of Sibelius by Koskeniemmi.

Every part of this music has deep meaning. From the grumbling anger in the low brasses and timpani and the emotive swelling in the strings, to the metaphorical train inviting those that wanted a free Finland to jump aboard, to the machine gun-like rhythms and triumphant voices in the middle and final bars, “Suomi” remains in its rightful place as a piece designed to remind Finns and non-Finns alike, that the gift of freedom is an earned one.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Suomi… How We Love You! featuring the Suomi Finland 100 Chorus, Eeva Savolainen, director, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 8, 2017, 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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Suomi… How We Love You! :: Concert Preview No. 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 “Suomi… How We Love You!” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

Jean Sibelius, composer

While the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Opus 39 is Sibelius’ first attempt at the form made famous by luminaries such as Beethoven, he showed that waiting for the relative maturity of 34 years would bring him an enviable skill for atmosphere, melody, rhythmic drive, and story-telling orchestrations.

The symphony, while not programmatic in the style of his Bavarian contemporary Richard Strauss, has images that are undeniable. “A cold wind blows in from the sea” gives us a chill and smell of ocean spray through careful use of rapid bows across strings, lonely rising and falling woodwinds, and well-placed pizzicati.

As Minnesotans that stay for our winters, we can relate to his idea for the second movement which operates under the assumption that “the pine of the North is dreaming of the palm of the South.” The textures are as soft as young fur to provide contrast for the jagged interjections from the brass. “The Winter’s Tale” takes us from the longing melancholy of the slow movement to a lively scherzo that has a primal dancing rhythm led by the timpani. The woodwinds gambol about, nymph-like in their renderings.

The last movement is a programmatic mystery, however. Sibelius abandoned, or so it seems, a literary reference that would supply him with what he needed to compose. So, what, then? It is unclear, but he left behind cryptic references to the French composer Hector Berlioz in the margins of his score. This finale is dramatic in the operatic and poetic style. It is in this movement that Sibelius truly shares the voice he is to have in so many subsequent works. The orchestra soars melodically and in such a familiar way when we consider so many of the later expansive themes we know from Sibelius’ output.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Suomi… How We Love You! featuring the Suomi Finland 100 Chorus, Eeva Savolainen, director, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 8, 2017, 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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Suomi… How We Love You! :: 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 “Suomi… How We Love You!” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

Jean Sibelius, composer

The motivations and births of great works are as varied as the number of great composers writing them. The lovely ode to his homeland, Oma Maa, was an opportunity to do what he seemed to do best: inspire. Imagine watching your country come to the danger of having its soul torn apart to the point where you have to go into seclusion for your own protection and you’ll understand a bit of what Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was experiencing during the time when he wrote Oma Maa. The title roughly translates to “My Homeland.” It was the time directly aft er the Russian revolution and Finns had become divided about the direction of their country and separated into the Red and White Guards. Understanding that he was living under threat by the Russian-influenced Red Guard, he stayed with his brother, a professor at a mental hospital in Lappviken. It was here that he penned the lovely, flowing, and quietly sentimental cantata to the country which he wished to see once again unified, buoyed by the fact that the days of the Red Guard seemed numbered.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Suomi… How We Love You! featuring the Suomi Finland 100 Chorus, Eeva Savolainen, director, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 8, 2017, 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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Suomi… How We Love You! :: 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 “Suomi… How We Love You!” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 8, 2017.

Cantus Arcticus

If, while listening to the Cantus Arcticus by the late Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), you find yourself conjuring the rich bass voice of beloved actor Morgan Freeman to act as de facto narrator, do not feel self-conscious. It would be a natural occurrence, given the way you are embraced by the sounds of the work delivered both through live musicians and recorded sound. This concerto for birds and orchestra operates much in the way of a standard concerto for a solo instrument with orchestral accompaniment. It is conversational as well, with the occasional display of rarely heard bird calls. Vivaldi and Beethoven called us to understand that nature could be sensed through musical sounds in the Seasons and the Pastorale Symphony respectively. Respighi would go further by being the first to use the recorded sound of a nightingale in his Pines of Rome. Rautavaara sought to engulf us in the sounds of Arctic avians in order to assure that we would use our imaginations fully. The sounds incorporated in this work go from simple cooing sounds to rude squawks! The orchestra both accompanies and also imitates, just as one would when out in a field or forest encountering an interesting call from a hidden winged companion. Perhaps we do it to compete or merely communicate. This work will make you smile at the sounds of the birds and competing orchestral forces or even, perhaps, make you laugh. Either way, this piece will engage your ear as a zoological aviary would your eye.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Suomi… How We Love You! featuring the Suomi Finland 100 Chorus, Eeva Savolainen, director, and the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 8, 2017, 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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