BSO & Beethoven 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 edition of the “Musings” for the “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Beethoven and His Seventh Symphony

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany and named aft er his grandfather. Neither parents nor grandparents could have known that their progeny would be the most critical link between the Classical period of music and the subsequent Romantic. He would turn formal music on its head with innovations that untied the hands of his contemporaries and set a new standard for those that followed.

His symphonies began innocently enough with his ?rst, following all the rules of sonata-allegro form. However, even in the elegant simplicity of this ?rst symphony in C major he left us with a new form of writing: the scherzo. Whereas a minuet was the norm for most symphonies in a moderate three quarter time, he increased the tempo dramatically and thus was born the brisk one-two-three that became so widely imitated by others that followed.

By the time December of 1813 rolled around, Beethoven had changed the meaning of the introduction for the ?rst movement of a symphony. In his third, two loud E? chords su?iced as introduction before launching into the exposition and for his ?fth, an angry outburst of four notes became the most famous in musical history becoming his signature forever.

So, it is interesting to observe that this Seventh Symphony goes back to his roots with a slow introduction of strong chords with woodwind solos suspended in mid-air as in his ?rst symphony. The introduction becomes a competitive game as the winds and strings toss sixteenth notes back and forth to each other. Eventually, what seems like an academic exercise becomes a cheerful dance that develops provocatively with gentility and sheer anger.

The second movement opens with the winds establishing a serious-sounding A minor. The lower strings set a pace that is oft en regarded as a funeral march but Beethoven never said any such thing. With a bit of imagination it can easily be perceived as a dance but with slow, measured steps that give way to a sunny major section. Back and forth, the major and minor struggle for dominance before the winds end the movement exactly as they began it.

The scherzo that Beethoven invented comes back in an infectious ?t of good humor that is a treat for the eyes as well as the ear in the way that motifs are thrown from player to player in an almost dizzying fashion. Beethoven uses the repeat to play a game with the listener involving the trio sections and a ?nal deceptive cadence that, well… let’s not spoil the surprise.

Finally, Beethoven proves his greatness with the ability to sustain a whirling dervish of rhythm and simple melodic material that never lets up in its intensity. He manages to develop two sixteenth notes and an eighth note… a fanfare, nothing more… and couple it with a string ?gure that spins into one of the most blazing ?nales in the symphonic literature.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share

BSO & Beethoven – 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 the “Musings” for the “BSO & Beethoven” concert that will be performed on Sunday, November 20, 2016.

Overture to William Tell

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

RossiniIt would fairly easy to argue that being able to essentially retire in your mid-thirties a millionaire and a household name is definitive of one’s professional success but that is precisely what the composer of the opera William Tell did. Born the son of a trumpet player in Pesaro, Italy, Rossini grew to be someone who lived to the fullest in many ways including making it to then the then-ripe old age of 76!

His early studies in music included learning the horn under his father and other instruments under the instruction of local priests. By the time he began more formal studies in the city of Bologna, to where the family had relocated, he was ready to receive vocal instruction and the requisite keyboard studies he would need. By 1806 he was accepted to the Liceo Musicale. His musical career truly had an ideal trajectory from that point. From his first opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio to his final, William Tell, his rise was meteoric as he became the standard for simple and also florid, ornate melodies that challenged the singers of the day to expand their vocal technique in order to sing his music.

While his retirement was figurative rather than literal, he did some composing of non-operatic music including choral works, solo pieces, and chamber music. He enjoyed a vivacious social life and was something of a chef, creating recipes that were enjoyed by gourmands the most famous of which is Tournedos Rossini.

Mozart ColorWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) and his violin concerti

The name “Mozart” is one of those that is synonymous with great music. This comes with good reason as he was from the start a genius able to compose from the age of 5. He studied piano and violin and used these as conduits for his art writing over 600 works for varied combinations of musicians. Understand that many of these works were multi-movement in nature. Therefore, like J.S. Bach., Mozart’s output numbered in the thousands!

In specific regard to his violin-playing abilities, his father, Leopold, encouraged his teen-aged son to add more spirit and fire and play as though he were the greatest in all of Europe. Whether he did or didn’t remains to be seen. Nevertheless, his legacy includes five concerti for violin, the final three of which are the most popular of the set. He wrote the last four of the five in one astonishing year (1775) of composing. This, of course, is in addition to everything else he wrote that year.

The Fourth Concerto in D major has a spritely opening theme that has the characteristics of a trumpet fanfare. Leopold had tried in vain to get young Wolfgang to like the sound of the trumpet and perhaps this is a humorous reference to that lifelong disdain using an instrument he did love. The remaining themes are optimistic and exemplary of the charm we associate with Mozart’s writing.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO & Beethoven” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, who will play-conduct the Mozart Violin Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 3 p.m., at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington’s Center for the Ar.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share

“Journeys” 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 “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.

Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 55, “Eroica”

circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

circa 1800: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827), German composer, generally considered to be one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)

To say that the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) is remarkable is a classic understatement. His eschewing of some parts of classical form, the almost-complete deafness he suffered, the political turmoil of the time, and his ability to express personal frustration were part of the art he expressed. The deafness, that irony of ironies for a musical genius, began to take hold as the 19th century turned and was at first, admitted only to close associates. Yet, he continued to compose with each work displaying further his ability to shift from beautiful melody to raging developmental climaxes, from tenderness to melancholy, with seamless transitions or abrupt halts that preview later great symphonic works. Originally, it was his plan to dedicate his Third Symphony to a then-hero of the French people, Napoleon Bonaparte. He proudly named the French revolutionary on the front page of the new work, which also innovatively started with two opening hammer blows. When it came to be known that Napoleon would declare himself emperor, Beethoven angrily erased the name from the dedication, so much so, that the paper tore through to the other side. The dedication was replaced with one to Prince Lobkowitz, a patron whose historical palace can be seen in a first edition copy of the symphony today.

As far as the composition itself, gone is the usual sort of slow introduction which would normally serve as prelude to the first two themes. In its place are two E? major chords that are sometimes interpreted with majesty and other times with crisp severity. The rolling, almost waltz-like quality of the themes is constantly interrupted by angry interjections that remind us that a punishing climax is waiting in the work’s development section. The last two bars of the movement create an unprecedented musical ring by repeating the first two!

The Funeral march that makes up the second movement is, in this writer’s opinion, the most human bit of composition set to pen for a symphony orchestra up to that point in musical history. Its settled sadness, the look at clouds parting in order to remember an unnamed hero, and the sheer rage at perhaps God himself, is chilling! Was Beethoven mourning a person… or the loss of one of his five senses?

The scherzo brings us back to a playfulness that marks Beethoven’s compositions without exception in his symphonies. He even plays a game with the listener during the famous trio asking the horns to repeat a hunting call, only to fade away deceptively to a different resolution. Surely, the first listeners to this work must have smiled at the teasing from Beethoven.

The finale is full of fire – one that momentarily lets the listener wonder whether it will be a serious blaze in a minor key, only to present us with a dominant chord which resolves to a clear E? major. You are then charmed by what can only be referred to as a romp that reminds one faintly of the French Alouette song of childhood. The romp gives way to song and then a fugue in C minor follows, only to return to the major key with a foothold into a world of mad joy. The madness is halted for a moment while Beethoven breaks all convention and has the orchestra embrace music in a slower tempo that soars eventually leaving us with a busy coda to end the work establishing E? major as the key of heroes.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. 

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share

“Journeys” 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” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.

 

Journey Into Jazz (1962)

Gunther Schuller, composer

Gunther Schuller, composer

When it comes to the late Gunther Schuller (1925-2015), it can truly be stated that he led one of the most interesting lives you can imagine.

He was born a New Yorker as the result of his father’s employment as a violinist with the heralded New York Philharmonic. One would think a job like that would be enough to tie the Schullers to America forever but when Gunther was quite young they naively sent him to a boarding school in his ancestral home of Germany… in 1932. Predictably, things did not go well. Between a rather unfortunate accident involving a knife which cost him an eye and the mandatory enrollment in the Hitlerjungend he was unhappy enough to plead to come home to New York City leaving a good deal of ugliness in his life behind him.

Musically, he proved to be prodigious in many ways. His first efforts where in vocal music and he moved to the horn where he ascended to some notoriety. So much so, that he earned the opportunity to play in the New York Philharmonic as a substitute under task master Arturo Toscanini. He dropped out of high school, never went to any music school or conservatory, and called the conductors he played under and the scores he studied his teachers!

What splendid teachers they must have been as Gunther satisfied his thirst to share his musical knowledge with students at the Manhattan School of Music, Yale, and the New England Conservatory. During his tenure as a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra his interest in composing and conducting grew to the point where he left in order to devote his time to writing.

By this time his fascination and love for modern jazz led him to meet up and get to know the luminaries of the jazz world such as Miles Davis, Charlie Mingus, and singer Sarah Vaughn. Jazz began to creep its way into his classical writing. Indeed, one of the movements of his most well-known composition,  Seven Studies on Themes by Paul Klee, contains a piece called “Little Blue Devil”, whereupon the 1st trumpet must play complex lines in a be-bop style.

So, it is no surprise that Schuller was interested in tracing the musical growth of a fictional young trumpeter in his piece, Journey Into Jazz. Protagonist Eddie Jackson learns to play the trumpet in a typical path until he meets some young men who play jazz regularly together. What Eddie learns is that expressing oneself is more than learning technique and notes and rhythms. It is about using an instrument to speak a language from the heart after many years of studying with your head.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share

“Journeys” 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” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s Journeys concert on November 22.

Overture to the opera, “La gazza ladra

Who would imagine that the subject of an unjust application of the death penalty would be the impetus for an opera?

GiaochiRossinino Rossini (1792-1869) had suffered some previous critical failures when it came to premieres at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. Overall, he was doing well in his chosen career but La Scala hadn’t recognized his talents in a any significant way just yet. It was at that point that he came to know of a play called “La Pie Voleuse” or The Thieving Magpie. The story is centered around a young servant girl who is, naturally, in love with the son of the master of the home in which she serves. She has also attracted the attentions of the local Mayor who is summarily rejected by our heroine, Ninetta. Complicating her situation is her father who has deserted the army after having killed a captain and has recently returned to the town in secret.

As if that isn’t enough, a small silver spoon has been purloined by a magpie for her nest. The blame falls squarely on the hapless servant girl and she is sentenced to death. This part of the plot was influenced by a true event in England in which a servant girl by the name of Fenning had been sentenced to die after being accused of stealing. While no one can truly say whether she did indeed steal but most will agree that death was the harshest penalty she could receive.  In fact, the execution was met with great objection by the populace and helped change the laws later in London. Not to worry for our operatic heroine, as she was spared execution after the revelation that the real thief was a magpie who chose the bright silver spoon for her nest.

As far as the overture goes it is said that Rossini was having a bit of trouble getting things in on time. The deadline (the day before the premiere) for the score to the overture came and Rossini had produced nothing! It is said that he was rounded up and locked into a cell and forced to write it so the musicians would have something to play from. Imagine the scene as pages of the score flew out the window of his musical cell into the waiting hands of his copyist to be written out for the orchestra to play. The performance of the overture was wildly successful and the applause was sustained for a full five minutes… and the opera hadn’t even started!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Journeys” featuring Minnesota Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and his Jazz Quintet, as soloists, along with narrator James Lileks. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 22 at 3 p.m. at the Schneider Theater at the Bloomington Center for the Arts.

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share
MENU