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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“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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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. 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: #5” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Composer

How much we are in the debt of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy? Never mind his own great compositions such as the the string symphonies he wrote between the tender ages of 12 and 14, or his lyrical Piano Concerto in G minor. Forget his Fourth Symphony (so-named the Italian) which, even though written in an elegant classical style, broke rules by being still the only symphony to begin in a major key only to end in an explosive minor saltarello. We won’t mention his contribution to the field of oratorios with his piously beautiful Elijah.

If all he had done was to bring back the music of Johann Sebastian Bach to the consciousness of the music-loving public, as he did with his performance of the St. Matthew Passion it would have been enough to secure his place in musical history… but no. He also managed to write the most easily recognized violin concerto in history with his E minor concerto. While he conceived the piece in 1838, he was not able to finish it until quite some time later–in 1844–for his close musical associate and friend, Ferdinand David.

This music is sweet without being maudlin or overdone. It is bold without being brash. It’s first-movement cadenza follows a classical approach without self-indulgent pyrotechnics. It has spoken quite well for itself as a standard-bearer for great violinists for about 170 years!

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. 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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BSO’s Youthful Celebration – 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”s Youthful Celebration” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 19, 2017.

Celebrating Youth in Music

It is my intent to one day program a concert for the BSO that celebrates the gentle beauty of maturity but for this concert I decided to take a look at the earlier attempts of composers in the primary and developing parts of their careers. So, for the seasoned members of our audience, fear not, as your day will come!

Aaron Copland, Composer

An Outdoor Overture (1935) of Aaron Copland (1900-1990) covers a few areas of today’s musical subject. Since Copland had the good taste to be born in 1900, we know that he was 35 when he received the request from the principal of the brand new High School of Music & Art in New York City to write a piece of music for its orchestra. As the principal, Alexander Richter, listened to Copland’s rendering of the piano version. It seemed clear that the harmonies and melodic contours gave it an expansive feeling of, well, the outdoors, its themes are simply stated and without regret. From the opening trumpet solo to the skittering woodwinds and strings that follow to the final triumphant and optimistic march it was clear that it was a perfect fit for the fledgling school which celebrated the artistic talents of American youth in the 1930s. It was a perfect match that would see a premiere by the students three years later, in 1938. Coincidentally, both my wife, Claudette and I, who are co-directors of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies, are proud alumni of that wonderful school, class of ’73.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “BSO’s Youthful Celebration” featuring flutist Karen Baumgartner, performing the world premiere of Grant Luhmann‘s Flute Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 19, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Kennedy High School Auditorium (9701 Nicollet Avenue, 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 & 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.

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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.

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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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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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