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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“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. 2

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 on Friday for the final entry of “Manny’s Musings”!

Henryk Wieniawski, Composer

Henryk Wieniawski, Composer

Henryk Wieniawski and his Concerto No. 2 in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra occupy a stable place in the repertoire for talented violinists. Born in Lublin, Poland, he was exposed to music along with each of the sons produced by his parents, Regina and Tadeusz. He showed promise quickly and it came as no surprise that he would eventually be admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris at age ten with great enthusiasm by its director at the time, Daniel Auber.

As though being a dazzling young violinist weren’t enough, young Henryk or Henri, as he would become known in France, added to the concert repertoire he learned by composing his own music. Thus, the inevitable comparisons to composer/virtuoso performer Nicolo Paganini started to form when Henryk’s talent became undeniable as he approached his 20s. His output included pieces such as concert etudes, Three Romances, an air with variations, and a concerto for violin in D major, part of which has been lost with only a fragment surviving.
Wieniawski’s life as a musician proved rewarding and prolific as a composer as he continued to write and perform, receiving accolades from respected luminaries of the day such as Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz who bemoaned Henryk’s leaving Paris to concertize in Russia. He was even lucky in matters of the heart when he was allowed to become engaged to the lovely Isabella Hampton of London, despite the raised eyebrows of her father who was not keen on the idea of his daughter marrying a musician. Love conquered in the end (along with a £200,000 life insurance policy) and they were married.

The Second Concerto had originally come to life in 1862 and dedicated to another fine virtuoso of the day, Pablo Sarasate. With the wisdom of the years come improvements and revisions to many composers and he published his final, improved version in 1870. It is, however, unfortunate to note that Wieniawski’s years were not as many as we would have liked. He developed a heart condition which came to a head while, ironically, performing the Concerto in D minor you will hear at this performance. He collapsed on stage yet marshalled the strength to finish his tour and improve slightly until he finally succumbed a few months later despite the loving care of Isabella.

Sara Melissa Aldana, Violin

Sara Melissa Aldana, Violin

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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Sara Melissa Aldana to solo with the BSO

15323296784_5639094914_kThe Bloomington Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce that Sara Melissa Aldana, winner of the Mary West Solo Competition’s CodaBow Award, will perform the first movement of Henri Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 at the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s final concert of the year on Sunday, April 19, 2015.

Learn more about Sara Aldana here.

Learn more about the BSO’s concert, Music in 3D: The Sequel.

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“Anybody Here Speak American?” Concert Preview

Before each concert, we share Manny’s Musings, thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. Please enjoy this concert preview!

We Americans are a unique bunch. We eat differently from the rest of the world, from the size of our portions to the variety of cultures that have affected our diet. Our pastimes are hard-nosed and energetic and we root for our teams with faithful enthusiasm. We come together in times of great joy and national tragedy with hearts on our sleeves. We even have a different way of speaking the Queen’s English… in almost every state you travel to.

So it is not surprising that our music in the concert hall is not unlike the way we express ourselves verbally. It is almost impossible to establish a manner of speaking that is the same, even within our own borders. We are a nation that has inherited its myriad voices from those of our ancestors. Of course, we are such a relatively young country that our ancestors were probably born somewhere else. East Coasters are notorious for a brusque and impatient staccato. The flowing Southern drawl is the archetype of so many Hollywood movies that introduce others abroad to a more friendly, down-home character we’re known for. Midwesterners are proud that their way of speaking is the standard when it comes to pronunciation. Woe be unto you if you are not privy to the latest slang expressions that pepper the conversations of those on our West Coast, for you shall be lost!

One of the wonderful paradoxes of the American concert hall is how Aaron Copland (who had the good taste to be born in the year 1900), a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, New York, would become associated with a sound that reflected open plains and legendary aspects of our “Wild West.” In point of fact, his earliest efforts revealed his strong interest in emerging jazz harmonies and rhythms. Yet, in his Quiet City, the deft use of the open fifths that typified his expansive voice are used here to help us envision an urban landscape late at night. It is as though the shepherd’s calls by the English horn in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique are answered by the familiar sound of the modern jazz trumpet. Both rich voices rest on vaporous string writing that complete the texture. This is Copland at his intimate best (even with the failure of the play of the same name by Irwin Shaw, for which the music was written).

There are several legends that surround the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. The most often-told story is that of the young, emerging talent, Iso Briselli, whose adoptive father wished to commission a concerto for him. It was suggested that an up-and-coming composer by the name of Samuel Barber (1910- 1981) would be a good choice, as he had already commanded the attentions of several great conductors and orchestras of the day. So while Aaron Copland was setting about writing his incidental music for a doomed play in 1939, Barber was concurrently setting the stage for an interesting scene of his own. As the story goes, Bruselli was displeased with the first version of the finale and actually wanted half of the money paid by his father, Samuel Fels, to be returned! In very short order, Barber is supposed to have composed the perpetual motion that would be the final finished product. Now, Bruselli claimed it unplayable, forcing Barber to enlist the aid of another young violinist from the Curtis Institute to learn the piece in two hours and prove the piece was playable. Whether the story is accurate or apocryphal, Barber’s creation is in another voice that we can claim as American. There is much tenderness in Barber’s writing, as well as wit, running the gamut of violinistic possibilities.

If Americans are known for an indomitable spirit and rugged individuality, the Symphony No. 1 of Charles Ives (1874-1954) portrays those qualities but only in a nascent form. Ives set about composing the work during and after his studies at Yale University with the choirmaster, Horatio Parker. The symphony comes as a great surprise when one considers the impressions of the Ives we think we know. The influences of a father (George E. Ives) who reveled in the sound of two bands passing each other playing different melodies give way to a truly romantic style of writing for the first three movements. Immediately, one is enchanted by the waltz that is reminiscent of the music of Dvo?ák and various other composers. Speaking of Dvo?ák, do not be surprised if the English horn solo that begins Ives’ slow movement reminds you of another rather famous one. His scherzo is charming and conversational in its lightness. It is, however, in the finale where the shadow of his future self is revealed, challenging the orchestra to create fireworks in a theme that is quintessentially Yankee. His nod to Tchaikovsky is proud and open, much like an American announcing pride for a heritage of many branches. Papa Ives must indeed have been proud at hearing the development is his son’s writing. After hearing his first attempt at a symphony you may well find yourself arguing Ives to be the most American of the three composers you hear at this performance!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Anybody Here Speak American?” featuring BSO concertmaster Michael Sutton as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, November 16 at 3 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. To learn more about the concert, click here, or to order tickets, follow this link.

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Sutton on Barber

We asked our concertmaster and soloist for this concert, Michael Sutton, to share a few words about Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Here is what he said:

“When Manny asked me what I would like to play with the BSO, the very first thing that came to mind was the Barber. And Manny swears he knew I would choose it before he even asked.

“I often play the first 90 seconds of the piece to test the capabilities of a violin, because it demonstrates many of the things a fiddle needs to be able to do.

“The second movement has that trademark Barber heartfelt quality heard in his Adagio for Strings. It has a great deal of meaning to me personally, as I have played it (per their request) at two of my grandparents’ memorial services.

“The third movement is pure energy combined with controlled chaos, and is one of the most technically demanding 6 minutes in the violin repertoire.”

Michael will be playing the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra at the BSO’s concert, “Anybody Here Speak American?” on Sunday, November 16. To learn more about the program, visit the November concert page. To order tickets, click here.

We hope to see you on November 16!

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