“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: Part Three” Concert Preview No. 3

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.

Symphony #3 in C minor, Op. 78 “The Organ” by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

“I have given everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” – Camille Saint-Saëns

CSaint-SaensWhile those words are mildly prophetic, one has to smile when his concerti, opera, and various other works are considered. Nonetheless, the scope of this piece with its requisite organ soloist and four-handed piano duo in the second part are noted is all at once as delicate as a fleur de lis and as imposing as the Eiffel Tower. While the piece is not religious in intent, there is a self-conscious humility that pervades the opening and its subsequent offbeat staccatos that give way to a truly “French” second theme of joy.

The sincere beauty and simplicity of the slow section makes for a lovely duet between organ and orchestra. The Second part continues with a scherzo that is reminiscent of the Spanish Fandango challenging the woodwinds and strings to virtuosic exchanges as we settle into a fugato that previews thematic material from the Finale. This finale is blazing as it reintroduces the organ with all its majesty in conversation with the orchestra’s brass until the end. If the theme seems familiar to you, you may recall that this music from this Finale figured prominently in the 1995 film, Babe.

 

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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BSO 2015-16 Print Materials

If you haven’t seen a hard copy of the BSO’s 2015-16 Print Materials, please download them from this page! It contains all of the information you need to know about this year’s concerts and how to purchase tickets! (Click on the images to enlarge!)

BSO 2015-16 Mailer Front

BSO 2015-16 Mailer Back

 

BSO Fall 2015 Postcard Back

BSO Fall 2015 Postcard Front

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BSO Announces 2015-16 Concert Season

02bwThe Bloomington Symphony is thrilled to announce its 2015-16 concert season. Music Director Manny Laureano has put together a season of programs that will delight listeners young and old alike. Listeners will travel to many places through music – Spain and Italy, a trumpet player’s journey from beginner to the world of jazz clubs, the land of Lincoln and through the orchestra itself.

Featured soloists are BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, the Charles Lazarus Quintet, Narrators James Lileks, Yuri Ivan, Obiele Harper, Quinton Wormald, Organist Jane Horn and the winner of the Mary West Solo competition, to be announced in December. We are especially excited to play our first full orchestra concert at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. Tickets for that concert are reserved, so please book early for the best seats.

For more information, please visit the page for each concert.

October 11, 2015 :: In the Spanish Style

November 22, 2015 :: Journeys

February 21, 2016 :: Play Me a Story

April 17, 2016 :: Music in 3D: Part Three

Tickets are available in advance through 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. 1

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 next week for more of “Manny’s Musings”!

The story of Le Chasseur Maudit (1883) comes to us from a poem by Gottfried Berger, a German writer from the late 1700s who had borrowed and altered the original Norse legend of “The Wild Hunter.”

Cesar Franck, composer

Cesar Franck, composer

From the start, let’s be clear about one thing: the “Accursed Hunter” Frenchman Cesar Franck portrays in his tone poem has not a particularly winning personality. A devoted Catholic church organist, Franck provides for us a vivid musical cautionary tale about observing the Sabbath. The Huntsman has a fairly odious habit of going hunting on the Lord’s Day despite the presence of a White Knight who appears to admonish him not to do so for once but an influential Black Knight helps the Hunter choose otherwise.

Strike one.

On his way to the forest he is beseeched by an old woman to not travel through her field with his entourage of horses and men for it would surely ruin her harvest. Once again, the White Knight appeals to him to do the right thing only to be subverted by the Black Knight. The Hunter runs roughshod over the woman’s field and ruins her future meager earnings.

Strike two.

The Hunter finds his prey in short order, a beautiful stag, who seeks refuge in the home of an old hermit. The hermit makes an impassioned plea on behalf of the animal but the Hunter’s heart is tainted beyond repair and remorse. He orders the old man’s house burned in order to smoke the animal out so it can be taken as his prize.

Strike three

Strike three.
The Hermit is killed in the fire and at the moment he dies the Hunter finds himself changing, his very soul transfiguring into that of a phantom. He is surrounded by the most evil of spirits but particularly those of his once-loyal dogs who have now been charged with chasing him through eternity with a yearning to tear him to shreds.

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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A season-ending thank you!

Thank you to all who attended the final concert of our 2013-14 season. We had a wonderful time transporting you to the afterlife, performing a little-known piece about a dying swan and surrounding you with the sounds of the Pines of Rome. We hope you will join us for one – or all – of the concerts in our 2014-15 season, which we will be announcing soon.

One of the ways that you can support the Bloomington Symphony, besides attending concerts, is to join us as a donor. More information about how to donate is available on our Support page.

Please be sure to check back here in the coming months to hear the announcement of our new concertmaster, and to learn more about our upcoming season. You can also join our e-mail list by completing the form at the bottom of the page and “like” our Facebook page.

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BSO to perform with Emily Saathoff, Violin in April 2014

April 13 seems a long time from now, but we are looking forward to the opportunity to play the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Emily Saathoff at our concert, “Music in 3D.”

Ms. Saathoff was recently named the Grand Prize winner of MNSOTA (Minnesota String Orchestra Teachers Association) Mary West Solo Competition. Part of the prize is the chance to play with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra – Minnesota. Please join us in congratulating Ms. Saathoff and come to hear her play one of the violin’s great concerti!

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