The Colorful Music of Russia :: Concert Preview No. 2

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 “The Colorful Music of Russia” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 16, 2020.

Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36

Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky

Pretend for a moment that you are Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor and you’ve won a Grammy for “Most Dramatic Symphony Ever”… or something.

Look, just work with me for a moment.

Your award acceptance speech might go something like this:

“I’d like to thank Rudolph Kündinger for the early private musical lessons that my composer took even, though he never really believed Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) would amount to anything. I’d like to thank the Russian Musical Society and the St. Petersburg Conservatory for not only providing him with an opportunity to further his musical studies but saving him from a life as a civil servant. Next, I’d like to thank his fellow Russian composers for recognizing his talent and even allowing their own works to be influenced by his new style of writing music like me. This group includes that august cadre of nationalist composers known as “The Five.” You know who you are.

(At this point the you wink at composers Balakirev, Cui, Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and also Mussorgsky who—once again—has shown up drunk to the event.)

“Next, I’d like to thank my composer’s dear friend and confidant, Nadezhda von Meck, who stood by him through the tough times, especially that rather unfortunate marriage to that sweet girl, Antonina Miliukova. I recall she was a fine singer but really didn’t understand what she was getting into with him. It was a mess and didn’t last long at all, even by celebrity marriage standards. Anyway, thanks Madame von Meck, for inspiring my composer to work and financially supporting him so he could forge on. I’ll never forget that time you pestered him for an explanation of ‘our’ symphony even though he really didn’t have a specific program. Remember what he wrote to you?:

‘Fate, the decisive force which prevents our hopes of happiness from being realized, which watches jealously to see that our bliss and peace are not complete and unclouded, and which, like the sword of Damocles, is suspended over our heads and perpetually poisons our souls.’

“Dude… a bit much, no?

“Finally, I’d like to thank Almighty Beethoven for the influence that helped fashion that fate theme you all hear at the beginning of the first movement and keep bringing back, much the same way Beethoven used his famous four-note motif. I think it’s the most important part of my compositional structure as a symphony. I do have to mention the oboe solo that sets off my second movement and the unprecedented use of pizzicato in the Scherzo were pretty clever (by the way, the piccolo player would like a little more time playing instead of having to wait two-and-a-half movements before she plays a note—just sayin’). Even though my composer will likely go on to write some great music after me, I would wager that there will be no more exciting ending to a symphony than what he has me do in the Finale. Wow… talk about throwing in the kitchen sink…. good times, good times.”

At this point you make some rambling statements about the Tsar of Russia before you get hustled off the stage by the show’s producers.

A black and white photograph of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, composer

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “The Colorful Music of Russia” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 16, 2020, 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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The Colorful Music of Russia :: 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 entry of the “Musings” for the “The Colorful Music of Russia” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 16, 2020.

Two Works by Dmitri Kabalevsky

This concert by the BSO partially features a look into two well-known works by Soviet composer Dmitri Kabalevsky (1904-1987). He, like several other Russian composers, can truly be considered a child of two revolutions, as he began his formal studies in music at the Scriabin School at the age of 15 and later, at the Moscow School.

A black and white photograph of Dmitri Kabalevsky, with his autograph written in blue ink over his chest.
Dmitri Kabalevsky, composer

Upon listening, you can hear that his music is different from that of Shostakovich or Prokofiev even though they were contemporaries. He doesn’t challenge the listener to intensely private moments portrayed in his music or stir the queries of whether there are hidden meanings within it. His music is lyrical, yet never filled with the angst we associate with so many other Soviet composers of the time and hints more at trips to the circus in his youth. There is an enjoyable predictability when compared to other composers that grew up and developed at the same time in the same place as Kabalevsky. It is important to note that Kabalevsky was and still is, recognized for the piano music he composed for children, helping to hone their skills through fingerings and melodic lines that suited young hands with an emphasis on flowing melody lines and harmonies.

The Overture to Colas Breugnon (1938) is a pre-war romp based on the writings of French author Romain Rolland that became Kabalevsky’s first operatic venture. You could say that the boundless optimism of the protagonist suited Kabalevsky’s personality quite well and his music captures Colas’ personality perfectly. It is an early work that required the revisions it received in 1968 but the Overture has remained a concertgoer favorite ever since.

The Violin Concerto in C Major (1948) is a post-war, three-movement work that grabs you by the collar at its opening, releases you only briefly for one poignant slow movement, and then lifts you onto horseback for a wild ride, scimitar and all. Originally written for Igor Bezrodny, a budding Soviet violinist, the work immediately drew praise for the youthful optimism it displays from the start with its Spanish-style rhythms. It is a conversational work that features solo instruments within the orchestra to chatter back and forth with the primary violin solo part. The B? major second movement seems to not be able to contain its penchant for joy (even though it tries to be serious at first!) but remembers its role as a contrasting movement and settles down into peaceful beauty. For the finale, one is advised to buckle up for aforementioned ride, as Kabalevsky alternates from major to minor themes and larger-than-life characters culminating in a cadenza that invite “parental” admonishments from the orchestra. Like a clever child, however, the violin melts the heart and helps us end in youthful triumph, smiles abounding.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “The Colorful Music of Russia” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 16, 2020, 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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Dmitri Kabalevsky Stayed at My House by Michael Sutton

Sounds like the title for a children’s book. Maybe it should be.

It’s 1979, and I’m having a wonderful childhood. I go to school, play with my friends, etc. In my mind, it’s nothing out of the ordinary, except that I’ve been a Suzuki violin kid for five years, I practice every day, and I’m starting to get good at it.

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce my parents so this story makes more sense. My loving mother Phyllis is the backbone of the household, taking me to lessons and helping mepractice, while steadfastly supporting my talented dad. His name is Vern, and he is balancing a singing career while also being a professor, and head of the opera department at the University of Minnesota.

I realize now that my childhood was anything but ordinary.

My parents inform me that we are going to have company, and that it isn’t family. They set the usual ground rules, and added a new one; I was not to use the phone while he was here, so that we could focus all of our attention on our guest. That was OK with me, because as a nine-year-old I didn’t really use it that much.

I had no idea who our guest was, just that he was important.

At our South Minneapolis house, near the University, arrives Dmitri Kabalevsky. He is a kindly old man, very tall, softly speaking a language I have never heard before. Thankfully, he has a translator traveling with him! She is magnificent; beautiful and elegant, her English so perfect it sounds fake. She is always there to help, but never in the way. I don’t remember anything she says in particular, except that I am welcome to call her Tatiana, and him Dmitri. It’s a short visit, and he has a busy schedule. But we are able to share some meals together, after which I play my little heart out for him.

Our house and car are his lodging and transportation during his stay, so Dad chauffeurs him to his functions at the University. One magical time, I get to go along. We pile into the front seat of our maroon Chevy Malibu station wagon, Tatiana alone in the back. As I sit in the middle of the bench seat, Dmitri ever so gently cradles my hands, rubbing them like you would a newborn. I feel an overwhelming sense of calm. He turns his head to the side and speaks over my head to his translator. Tatiana explains he is saying I must take care of my hands, as they are my gift.

Fast forward to adulthood.

This part would not be in the children’s book. This part is called “come to find out.” When I was old enough to understand, my parents let me in on a few things about this incredible visit. The University invited Kabalevsky to be their guest as they put on a festival honoring him and his music. He asked to stay in a home rather than a hotel, and we got the nod. This meant a few things were put in place behind the scenes:
That old rotary phone I was told not to use had been tapped by the CIA. I hadn’t even noticed the unmarked van parked next to our house. We were followed everywhere. That’s what happens when a high-ranking KGB agent stays at your house during the Cold War. “Tatiana” as she called herself, was there to make sure Kabalevsky didn’t defect. Our government was making sure she wasn’t here to steal secrets from Minnesota companies who worked with the Department of Defense.

Hearing this for the first time was chilling. But after the initial shock, my memories warmed me back up: I was so grateful I saw the whole event through the innocent lens of a nine-year-old. None of the politics I was oblivious to would ever take away the unspoken emotional bond I shared with my new gentle friend, Dmitri.

A score to the Concerto for Violin, written from Dmitri Kabalevsky to a young Michael Sutton

Come and hear Michael Sutton play Dmitri Kabalevsky’s Violin Concerto on Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 3 p.m. Complete concert information is available here.

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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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“Musical Milestones” 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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

La Mer by Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, composer

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 (1862-1918).

Active imaginations are occasionally fed by real-life experiences or desires. Debussy, whose father had been a proud member of the French Navy, would remark one day when it became clear that the maritime life was not in the cards, “…I’ve retained a sincere devotion to the sea. To which you’ll reply that the Atlantic doesn’t exactly wash the foothills of Burgundy …! And that the result could be one of those hack landscapes done in the studio! But I have innumerable memories, and those, in my view, are worth more than a reality…” So, perhaps it was a good thing that Debussy’s renderings in his colorful work, La Mer, benefited from what what his mind saw, rather than his eyes.

It can be easily argued that Debussy’s craft here led to the single greatest work of the Impressionist period even though, as often happens, the initial critical reception was not stunning. Even critics who were friendly to the composer could not wrap their brains around what they had just heard in 1905. With our contemporary ears, the salt air, the freshness of a welcome breeze, and the sound of fish playing below the surface is inescapable to the point where Minnesotans may recognize a section that was used to sell local spring water on a television commercial!


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 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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“Musical Milestones” 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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach (aged 61) in a portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann.

You’re a composer and you love what you do. Furthermore, you want listeners to love what you do, because life is easier when you get a paycheck for doing what you love. Johann Sebastian (1685-1750) saw all of his musical output as a glory to God and he wrote music as a form of payback, whether secular or sacred in subject. So it stands to reason that helping people remember your themes through a clever technique called ritornello. The Italian ritornello means “little return” quite literally.

In other words, this technique which was used by Antonio Vivaldi, the Italian Baroque master, consisted of presenting a theme and bringing it back over and over but always with a hint of development to tease the ear and keep things interesting and compelling. Bach’s style in this first concerto for violin is almost aggressive in the way he pushes his themes at the listener as the intense conversation fairly rages between soloist and accompanying forces. The sweetness of the slow movement that follows in C major gives way to a lively dance in 9/8 time back in A minor.

Michael Sutton, Violin

Michael Sutton, Violin & Conductor
photo by Joel Larson


Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 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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“Musical Milestones” 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 “Musical Milestones” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 7, 2018.

Overture to Candide by Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein

Imagine a life that consists of working a decent job from 9 to 5, five days a week that has you looking forward to those blessed 2 weeks of vacation. There are promotions, a home upgrade or two, birthdays and graduations… all followed one day by a retirement and perhaps many days of earned fishing trips as you rest your head against the memories of a good life free of frequent drama.

The Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) that had one of the most productive 1954’s imaginable could never have sat still long enough to think of living a life as sedate as the one I described. In fact, this pianist/conductor/composer (put those in any order you like) from Lawrence, Massachusetts, was living a prolific and successful decade — one that could easily be the envy of any musician.

In that decade he composed minor and major works that helped develop the language that was clearly “Lenny” from a melodic and harmonic sense. Peter Pan, Trouble in Tahiti, Wonderful Town, the soundtrack for On the Waterfront and its corresponding orchestral suite, the Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, and finally, West Side Story were written and performed. All this while conducting ubiquitously, as well as being appointed to succeed Serge Koussevitsky as the head of conducting for the Tanglewood Music Festival, and producing television programs designed to educate all of America about classical music’s greatest works. He even allowed Felicia Montealegre to convince him that they should marry. Somehow, in the middle of all this, a collaboration with Lillian Hellman spawned a bitingly cynical bit of theater in 1956 called Candide.

Using Voltaire’s classic story as its basis, Bernstein managed to provide the perfect musical context to the acid-laced words from Hellman’s pen. Getting there was no easy feat, however, as the gallery of musical theater personalities all had different ideas about scenery, timing, and deadlines, and because Hellman had a reputation for taking her time. Of course, Bernstein didn’t help matters by going off to Rome to conduct opera performances with Maria Callas, leading to an interminable gestation for this wild musical child.

With Felicia now pregnant with their second child and bills piling up (the Bernstein’s knew how to spend money but saving it was not a huge priority) it truly is a wonder that the work ever got written. But written it was to tepid reception by the critics. It didn’t gain the respect it would eventually garner until the idea to engage noted Broadway Hal Prince in a much more successful revival in 1974. Prince was merciless in cutting what he felt was a bloated original version down to 105 minutes and preserving only the absolute best of the musical offerings.

The operetta brings to life the misadventures of a Professor Pangloss and his students Candide and his Cunegonde as they search for the best their lives can offer in this “best of all possible worlds.” They endure all manner of absurd hardships only to realize what Dorothy Gale learned with a click of her ruby slippers: After searching for their hearts’ desire, there really is no place like home.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Musical Milestones featuring Michael Sutton as soloist and conductor for Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 7, 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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Announcing the 2018-19 Concert Season

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to announce the 2018-19 concert season, it’s sixth under Music Director and Conductor Manny  Laureano.

October 7, 2018 :: Musical Milestones || BUY TICKETS

November 18, 2018 :: Romantically Yours || BUY TICKETS

February 24, 2019 :: From Boisterous to Pastoral || BUY FLEX TICKETS

May 5, 2019 :: Music in 3D: #6 || BUY FLEX TICKETS

We are excited to perform works ranging from Bach to Bernstein. We hope you will join us for any or all of the season concerts. To learn more, click on the title of the concert and purchase tickets with the link to the right.

You can also click on the images below to download our 2018-19 Season Brochure.

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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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“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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