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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

New Works and Old Friends :: 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 entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It’s hard to say exactly what it is about Sibelius’ music that has made it such a favorite of Minnesotans. Learning that Sibelius will be played somewhere is cause for bundling up the family and driving a reasonable number of miles of frigid winter darkness to hear it, whether by a local professional ensemble or a community group like your BSO. It may be that we identify with the kind of weather Sibelius knew or the heartiness required to live through a harsh winter. Finns and Minnesotans seem to relish the suffering, whether from sowing the seeds of freedom for a nation or living through just one more season of Vikings Football. In either case, hope springs eternal.

By the time Sibelius set about writing his wonderful Second Symphony, to be premiered just a month away from the promise of spring, he had attained a form of heroic status among musicians and the Finnish public. He also found a place for himself as a conductor of his own music, leading no less than the Helsinki Philharmonic for that premiere. The boy who would be a great violinist found himself in the position of being a voice for his people instead. It seemed the Finns were not in as much need for a star violinist as they were a voice the world would be able to recognize for his superb craft in melody, harmony, and construction.

Black and white photo of a stern looking middle aged man
Jean Sibelius, composer

The dedication to Baron Axel Carpelan, a noted hypochondriac who was unlucky at love and once smashed his own violin in a fit of frustration seems unlikely, but Carpelan had the gift to be a source of inspiration for Sibelius. In fact, he was the fellow who egged on Sibelius to write a the celebrated Finlandia. He continued to badger Sibelius to travel and take in the world so that he could continue to feed his talent. Carpelan was proved right as Sibelius did absorb the ideas that come through exposure to new situations. It was not easy since the recent death of daughter Kirsti Sibelius left an indelible mark on her grieving father. Music was what saw Jean through, nevertheless.

This symphony offers itself as an interesting contrast from the gloomy First Symphony in E minor. This D Major jaunt is sunny from the outset. You can literally feel the sun on your face from the opening bars. That’s not to say that the symphony doesn’t offer moments of introspection and self doubt. It is a deep symphony that speaks poetically. The “walking bass line” of the second movement is just one of the moments of what seems to be a look into the soul of someone whose brain is so busy as to be housing multiple personalities. Sibelius continues his habit of ending movements of his symphonies almost abruptly, without the usual grand ritardando and long held note. He seems to be eager to get on with it.

So he does with his third movement scherzo which is constructed almost exactly like a Beethoven scherzo. Its busyness pauses momentarily for what can only be described as a song for various woodwind soloists with a pastoral quality that makes the interrupting brass that return us back to the scherzo seem like a practical joke, again, much like Beethoven would have done.

The seamless transition to the finale… well, after so many suppositions as to what Sibelius “meant” by this heroic, bold music with its undeniable fervor, it must be left up to the listener to decide whether this is a bit of nationalist pride or an unabashed celebration of D Major merely for its own sake. He negotiates the waters of modulation from major to minor and back again in as expert a manner as one could imagine like characters in an opera. Sibelius pulls out all the stops and, as he does so beautifully in his earlier Finlandia, he makes you wish you were a Finn by the time the last chords ring like a peal of bells.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, 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.

Share

New Works and Old Friends :: 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 entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

When you think of composers who had a large output of music of all types, one has to go to the usual suspects like Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. If one was to further assume that it was one of those aforementioned gentlemen who held some sort of record for the most music written, you would be close but this is serious musicological business, not horse shoes. Nay, that record has to go to Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) with about 900 pieces of music to his credit! This is not bad, considering that the young Georg was almost prevented from fulfilling his desire to be a great musician by his mother who believed that no good could come of this music obsession he had. My favorite quote about that was the admonition from some of the congregants from the Lutheran church he attended that he would turn out “a clown, a tightrope walker or a marmot trainer.” Never have seen a trained marmot, I don’t know that I would have minded that he learn the craft. At any rate, rodents were not in Telemann’s future and he set about studying a wide variety if musical instruments on his own in secret. He wrote and wrote as he matured and traveled to work in many important musical capacities for the great and near great. This came with a cost, however of a couple of marriages that didn’t end well. He did live a long life, dying at the age of 88.

A black and white etching of composer Georg Philipp Telemann wearing a white powdered wig and robes over his writing outfit
Georg Philipp Telemann

Telemann left us with a cornerstone of the viola repertoire, his Concerto for Viola in G Major which was written over a five year period between 1716 and 1721. I’m not sure what the hold up was, but it was the first concerto ever written for the instrument and I suppose he wanted to make sure he got it right. Apparently he did, since the four-movement, slow-fast-slow-fast structure was very appealing. The concerto exploits the wonderful alto voice of the instrument under a variety of articulations and sentiments. If you listen carefully, it will seem that the viola has a uniquely human character and it is perhaps that quality that makes it such a compelling voice to hear in the relationship between instrument and chamber orchestra.

African American violist George Taylor, wearing a robin's egg blue button down shirt, navy suit coat and holding his viola, stands against a colorful wallpapered wall.
George Taylor, viola soloist for the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra concert “New Works and Old Friends” on Sunday, October 6.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, 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.

Share

New Works and Old Friends :: 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 entry of the “Musings” for the “New Works and Old Friends” concert that will be performed on Sunday, October 6, 2019.

It is always an interesting debate to discuss what makes composers free in terms of how they express themselves. Are they free when they latch on to a current convention, perhaps writing in a style that is challenging for challenge’s sake? Are they freest when they write for themselves or the listener? This is the debate you may have when you listen to the music of Adolphus Hailstork (born 1941 in Rochester, NY). Hailstork is a true eclectic, as he doesn’t seem to feel the need to wed himself to any one musical language. He is at home in any structure he chooses to write.

African American composer Adolphus Hailstork, wearing a black tuxedo, against an ivory colored background
Adolphus Hailstork, composer

His works cover the gamut of styles and types of ensembles available for musical expression. He has written for band, orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists, and an array of chamber ensembles. This is reasonable, given his equally diverse mentors with whom he studied beginning in the early 1960’s including luminaries such as Nadia Boulanger, who was a prime influence for Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland, for example. He also worked with American composers David Diamond and Vittorio Giannini. What you think Hailstork “sounds like” really depends on which of his works you happen to be listening to.

Today, you will listen to his foray into the tonal qualities of the viola with chamber orchestra in Two Romances for Viola and Chamber Ensemble. His conversational and flowing style is a bit like the musical version of a color wheel which holds a melody that wafts from one instrument or sections of the orchestra to the solo viola. The BSO is proud to join the ranks of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony, and Detroit Symphonies, to name a few, in this celebration of the music of one of our own American composers.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “New Works and Old Friends” featuring Eastman School of Music Viola Professor George Taylor as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 6, 2019, 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.

Share

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!

Share

Season Announcement on July 15

Come to our website on Monday, July 15 to find out what Manny has selected for the BSO in 2019-20! You will be able to learn about each concert and order tickets on that day.

We will happily send a brochure to your home if requested. Please send requests before July 8 to assure delivery. You can request this by filling out the form below:

You may also join our email list using this form:

Subscribe

* indicates required
Email Format

Share

Last call: Audition video due June 1

Auditions for cello viola violin on June 9
Videos for the June auditions are due on June 1.
Submit videos to auditions@bloomingtonsymphony.org
Share

Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 3 of 3


Symphony No. 5 in D minor, Op. 47
Dmitri Shostakovich

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: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Continued from Part I

As it happened, Josef Stalin, the brutal dictator of the Soviet Union, would attend certain musical events and managed to find himself at a performance of Lady Macbeth. His reactions during the performance were clear and seen by all in attendance. They were not good and Stalin made sure Shostakovich knew it. He directed an article to be written in Pravda (ironically, that translates to “Truth“) the state organ of news and comment, called “Chaos Instead of Music.” Within days, one of Shostakovich’s new ballets, Bright Stream, also came under heavy criticism. Shostakovich was crushed. So much so, that he canceled the premiere of his freshly-written Fourth Symphony while he figured out a way to keep from being sent to a gulag or, worse yet, “disappearing.” He was now a “target.” Thus, did Shostakovitch write what came to be known by some as a musical apology, his Fifth Symphony? He was now fearful. Was this the real Shostakovich?

With the above as your backdrop, this D Minor Symphony begs to be listened to with fresh ears. The jagged argument that opens the first movement is serious, because it is a display of conflict that settles into meditative thought. Does one go this way or that? Does one satisfy the soul or the desire just to live? There are so many moments of sunlight that attempt to break through, that the first movement almost works as an extended introduction for the remaining three movements. The brass stomp through like an invading force, only to give way to a peaceful state of eternal questioning of the self. The scherzo is a paean to the composing style of Gustav Mahler, whose music was loved by Shostakovich. If there is a way to portray loneliness and the suffering it brings when relief is not in sight, the third movement does so with such tremendous pathos as to induce heartbreak or catharsis. You will decide, dear listener.

As for the finale, I can do no better than to leave you with the words of Shostakovich as quoted by the man who assisted with his memoirs, Solomon Volkov:

“I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing is forced, created under threat, as in what happens in Boris Godunov. It’s as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying ‘Your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing,’ and you rise, shaky, and go marching off, muttering, ‘our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.'”

Testimony by Solomon Volkov

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra
Manny Laureano, Music Director & Conductor
photo by Leslie Plesser

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #6” featuring award-winning cellist Nygel Witherspoon soloist for the Cello Concerto. The concert takes place on Sunday, May 5, 2019, 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.

Share
MENU