“In the Spanish Style” 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 In the Spanish Style concert on October 11.

chabrierAlexis-Emanuel Chabrier was born in January of 1841 and died relatively young at age 53. He was, as we have seen now many times, one of those composers who went for a practical field of study only to turn toward art as his greatest form of expression. It’s not surprising to note that he was, at first, a law student whose musical training was largely self-taught (ironically, the title of one of his operas was A Deficient Education). He was also a devotee of the then-new style of Impressionism in painting even though his music didn’t particularly reflect that trend in composition. In fact, the opus we’re playing at this concert was referred to by him as “a piece in F and nothing more.”

As with many composers, it was a trip abroad that awakened his interest in the sounds, rhythms, and character of Spanish music. In 1882, he toured almost every region of Spain and the writings he left behind were an indication that he found the various musical styles irresistible. Conductor Charles Lamoureux was a champion of sorts of his music and was eager to embrace and perform Chabrier’s recently orchestrated work, España. Although the work was conceived originally as a piano duet named Jota, it was well-received at its premiere owing to its rich orchestration and infectious melodic and rhythmic content.

portrait by Valentin Serov (1898)

portrait by Valentin Serov (1898)

Finally, tonight’s concert will end with a Russian work that has become synonymous with Spanish musical styles. The Capriccio Espagnol of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov has been thrilling audiences since its premiere in 1887 in St. Petersburg.

Though he showed aptitude for math and science as a lad he fell prey to the muses and succumbed to a lifetime in art. So much so, in fact, that after meeting other Russian composers of the day and excelling in his piano studies, he became a member of what became known as “The Five.” The Five were Russian composers who made it their business to establish a clear identity for Russian music. Thus it was somewhat ironic that Rimsky-Korsakov would become so well known for his Spanish Caprice. Yet, perhaps not so much when we remember that he was the man who wrote a book on orchestration that would become a required text for study for many composers that followed after him.

The Capriccio was first thought of as a solo work for violin and orchestra but he thought better of it and spread the wealth of his composition among the various instruments in the orchestra. It is, for all intents and purposes, a five-movement concerto for orchestra!

It begins with a lively Alborada that celebrates our daily sunrise with full percussion complement and competitive solos by the clarinet and solo violin. The lovely Variazioni that follow are a smooth showcase for the horns and voluptuous strings, ending with a wandering flute that leads us to another Alborada but a half step higher and the sound of what is mostly a wind band. The penultimate movement, Scena e canto Gitano is a suite of opportunities for soloists and complete orchestra sections to, well, show off a bit at their own pace before we end with the Fandango Asturiano and its blindingly energetic whirling dance music. The pace is dizzying and intoxicating but this is Spain… eso es asi!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “In the Spanish Style” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 11 at 3 p.m. at 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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“In the Spanish Style” 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 of three “Musings” that will be posted in advance of the BSO’s concert on October 11.

Manuel de FallaManuel de Falla (y Matheu) was born in Cadiz in 1876. Like Richard Wagner, he had a great interest in literary works and felt a pull between music and writing. Music won out but not surprisingly, as he was exposed to a great many musical events in his younger life. However, it was his admiration for the work of the Norwegian Edvard Grieg that pushed him toward wanting to be a proponent of Spanish music and its national character. His tremendous work ethic and self-discipline paved the way for that to happen. Ironically, it was the work and recognition he received from fellow composers in Paris that helped him establish a foothold in musical circles as the 19th century turned into the 20th. He began to crank out success after success until he finally achieved immortality with his ballet/pantomime El Sombrero de Tres Picos or The Three-Cornered Hat.

The Second suite from The Three-Cornered Hat deals with the events in the latter half of the ballet. Essentially, the plot is farcical, dealing with stereotypical characters like the good miller and his wife, a lecherous and self-aggrandizing magistrate, and a bodyguard. Mistaken identities (the life-blood of theatrical works) and unrealistic situations that culminate in the powerful receiving their just desserts are the inspiration for Falla’s musical treat. Listen for the constantly shifting beat patterns that typify so much of the music from Spain. 6/8 time slyly becomes ¾ and vice versa. The sound of castanets tickle the ear as does the energetic restraint of Flamenco stylings.

Saint-SaensCamille Saint-Saens, born in Paris in 1835, was one of those Frenchmen for whom the captivating music of the Spanish tradition had great appeal. However, his contribution to this program comes through a different outlet. The source of the style comes from the island nation of Cuba, thus the title “Havanaise.” The Havanaise is typified by its rocking back and forth between a set of triplets and eight note duplets. The grouping is a gentle one-two-three, one… two, one-two-three, one… two. If it is reminiscent of the “Habanera” from the opera Carmen by Georges Bizet, then that is an astute observation on the part of you, the listener, as both rhythms come from the same source.

That Saint-Saens would be attracted to a musical form from outside the French tradition is not surprising considering that he also wrote music that gave a nod to the Russian style and he was also a fierce defender of the music of Wagner, a stance occasionally taken during a time when Wagner’s music was still considered somewhat revolutionary. Perhaps the young Saint-Saens’ efforts and dedication to art could be summed up best by countryman Hector Berlioz: “He knows everything but lacks inexperience.”

Since music is prone to being the stuff of legend, a popular notion is that the crackling of a fire in a pit at a hotel provided Saint-Saens with the crisp Havanaise rhythm that typifies the work. Of course, the violinist, Rafael Diaz, to whom the work was dedicated was, after all, a Cuban. Legend or not, Saint-Saens had a winner on his hands and the work was immediately popular.

The next Manny’s Musings with insights about Chabrier’s España and Capriccio Espagnol will be posted on Thursday, October 8. Check back for more about “In the Spanish Style!”

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “In the Spanish Style” featuring BSO Concertmaster Michael Sutton, as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, October 11 at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington.

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

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BSO 2015-16 Print Materials

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

BSO 2015-16 Mailer Front

BSO 2015-16 Mailer Back

 

BSO Fall 2015 Postcard Back

BSO Fall 2015 Postcard Front

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“Sit Right Back” on Sunday, November 24

BSO Trumpet William MunozJoin us for the concert, “Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear the Tale,” on Sunday at 3 p.m. The Bloomington Symphony, under the baton of Artistic Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, will play pieces by Borodin and Rimsky-Korsakov at Immanuel Lutheran Church (16515 Luther Way) in Eden Prairie. Join us for an afternoon of storytelling through music.

Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors and free for students with an ID. Tickets can be purchased in advance on our website (click on the Purchase Tickets link at the top of the page), by calling 952-563-8575 or at the door (cash or checks only at the door). The lines can be long on the day of the concert, so we encourage you to purchase in advance to avoid the wait.

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“Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale” Concert Preview No. 3

This  final “Concert Preview” will provide background information on the pieces the BSO will perform at its concert on Sunday, November 24. Each Concert Preview is written by the BSO’s Artistic Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and his misunderstood child: Scheherazade

Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov was born in 1844 into a celebrated naval and military family in Tikhvin, a provincial city in Russia. His gift for music was evidenced early on, as with Alexander Borodin, by playing previously-heard tunes and their harmonies on the piano. Also, like Borodin, his thoughts of a career were not aimed at music. Rather, it was on military service such as he saw his much older brother undertake. It is no surprise that he would one day join the cadre of Russian composers whose music would be considered nationalistic and representative of a certifiable Russian musical language.
Indeed, the name Rimsky-Korsakov is often at the lead of the so-called “Five” of Russian composers. They were Balakirev, Cui, Mussorgsky, Borodin, and Rimsky-Korsakov. These composers all knew each other and fairly mentored one another as they labored to embody harmonies and melodies that would be embraced by a culture.

Once again, as with Borodin, military duty got in the way of composing for young Nikolai. He became, in his own words, “an officer dilettante, who sometimes enjoyed playing or listening to music.” Not to worry, as Balakirev came back into his life and encouraged him to continue his work and finish his Symphony in Eb minor. This seemed to be all the push he needed in order to come back to composing seriously and in earnest. In yet another of relentless similarities with Borodin, it was a beautiful pianist named Nadezhda Purgold who helped publish her new husband’s arrangements and help keep him on track after their rather extensive honeymoon, of course.

portrait by Valentin Serov (1898)

portrait by Valentin Serov (1898)

His output of compositions was plentiful and Rimsky-Korsakov became a story-teller in operas and also tone poems. Chief among these musical paintings is the story of Scheherazade, based on the tale of 1,001 Arabian Nights. Nikolai had a tremendous gift for orchestration. It seemed that when he chose to portray a mood or character, he was never at a loss for the necessary color that his skillful imagination would provide.

In Scheherazade, his choice of the lower strings, woodwinds, and brass which open the tone poem are a stunning portrait of the Sultan who has wedded the anxious but clever Scheherazade. What sweeter voice could speak for our presumably doomed lass but the solo violin aided by the punctuation of rolled harp arpeggios as she spins tale after tale in order to save her life for almost three years? How else shall we summon the rolling waves of the sea but by having the strings undulate rhythmically underneath the quietly soaring themes of Sinbad’s ship?

But Rimsky-Korsakov was not limited to recreating a musical picture of objects, people, or events. He was also able to invoke emotions with his pen, as well. Through his woodwind chords he was able to portray the innocence of Scheherazade on her wedding night. Ascending and descending flutes lines easily illustrate the dizzying love between a young princess and her prince. His heart stopping use of speedy technical passages make the listener grip his armrest in the final race across the sands to the sea with horses straining against their reins. No, this is not what one would refer to as “easy listening.” It excites as easily as it soothes from one moment to the next.

The good news is that the programmatic aspect of this music has long-been overstated. The fact is that Rimsky-Korsakov was using the story of Scheherazade as a basis for his music but had no definite plot line in mind. The titles for the various movements were mostly afterthoughts that came at the behest of fellow composers. But he merely wished to create a work that would invoke images that would be personal to each listener. So, free yourselves from the bonds of what you may have read anywhere regarding who does what and where. Scheherazade is a musical gift for the mind to do with as the listener chooses. A wonderful post-concert activity would definitely be a comparison of mental notes that the music brings to mind for each listener. Such would not have displeased Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

Please join us for this concert, “Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale,” on Sunday, November 24 at 3 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church. To purchase tickets in advance, please visit our online box office here. Tickets are always available at the door.

 

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“Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale” Concert Preview No. 2

This is the second entry in a series that will be posted prior to each concert. This “Concert Preview” will provide background information on the pieces the BSO will perform next. Each Concert Preview is written by the BSO’s Artistic Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. Look for the next Concert Preview on Tuesday, November 19.

Prince Igor: A Life’s Work

Alexander Borodin tomb full view, Tikhvin Cemetery St. Petersburg

Alexander Borodin tomb full view, Tikhvin Cemetery St. Petersburg

Alexander Borodin literally made the feat of composing his one-and-only opera, Prince Igor, his life’s work. It was begun in 1869 while he was in the middle of working on his now-famous Second Symphony in b minor. Whereas many composers have the luxury of a librettist to provide the text, he took it upon himself to also write the words, as well as the music. This took a lot of time and research on Borodin’s part. He literally bounced back and forth between work on his symphony and the opera.

With his symphony long-since finished and premiered he continued to add to the opera, revise it, and add new touches as his compositional technique evolved. Sadly, he never got to see the premiere of his magnum opus as he succumbed to illnesses that eventually took his life. The overture that is heard on this concert was assembled by his colleague, Alexander Glazunov, based on the themes and melodies from the opera.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov also lent a hand in finishing the opera based on notes and sketches left by the now-departed Borodin. Ironically, after all the work and collaborations, the premiere was eclipsed by the premiere of another opera by another famous son of Russia, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The opera was Pique Dame or The Queen of Spades.

One of the difficulties Borodin had with writing the opera was the then-fascination with the recitative style of writing. Borodin was far more interested in writing actual songs rather than the extended sing/talk of the rectitative that seemed to be in fashion then. “I’m drawn to cantilena, not to recitative… the voices must be foremost, the orchestra secondary.” He held to Liszt’s advice and wrote an opera that is steeped in rich melodies and flowing harmonies.

Please join us for this concert, “Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale,” on Sunday, November 24 at 3 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church. To purchase tickets in advance, please visit our online box office here. Tickets are always available at the door.

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“Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale” Concert Preview No. 1

This is the first entry in a series that will be posted prior to each concert. This “Concert Preview” will provide background information on the pieces the BSO will perform next. Each Concert Preview is written by the BSO’s Artistic Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. Look for the next Concert Preview on Friday, November 15.

Alexander Borodin: music hobbyist?

Borodin
Who could have imagined that Alexander Borodin, composer of exquisite melodies, would have had as his first love chemistry? But so it was for this illegitimate son of one Prince Gedivanishvilli, born in St. Petersburg in 1833 to Evdokia Antonova. His name came from a one of the prince’s serfs, Porfiry Borodin. This did not, however, deny him the opportunity to grow up in a privileged setting. He grew up listening to music and, in particular, enjoyed listening to bands. His talent revealed itself when he would return home after a concert and plunk out many of the melodies he had just heard on the piano which had been provided for him. He later took up the study of the piano as well as flute and ‘cello.
Boys will be boys and the young Alexander Borodin enjoyed fireworks. This interest led to a fascination with chemistry for the sole purpose (at that time) of making his own fireworks. One thing led to another and the 17 year-old Borodin found himself studying medicine. However, music was always present in his life, much to the consternation of one of his mentors who said, “Mr. Borodin, busy yourself a little less with songs! I’m putting all my hopes into you as my successor but all you think of is music! You can’t hunt two hares at the same time!”

It was upon graduating that he met a newly commissioned officer named Modeste Mussorgsky at a military hospital to which he had been assigned. He did continue his work in medicine and returned to his first love, chemistry. Music remained a significant pastime for him, however. In fact, his interest in music was impassioned by his meeting and falling in love with a pianist named Yekatorina Protopova who made it her business to civilize Alexander by exposing him to the music of Chopin and Schumann. She also took him to his first opera (by Richard Wagner) and he was, by all reports, entranced by the art form.

In time, he met the other important Russian composers of the day such as Cui, Balakirev, and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, all of whom mentored and partnered with him at some point in his musical life. They saw him through his successes and failures as critics panned his first symphony in Eb Major even though the assembled public loved it! Even Franz Liszt said, encouragingly, “You are lucid, intelligent, and perfectly original. Work in your own way and pay attention to no one!”

After a lifetime of works in medicine, chemistry, and music Alexander died in 1887 of complications arising from cholera and heart problems.

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Thank you!

BSO2011Our 51st season got off to a great start on Sunday, October 6! Thank you to everyone who attended our first concert of the year. We enjoyed playing with Susan Billmeyer and were so grateful to perform for such a gracious and enthusiastic audience.

We are beginning rehearsals for our next concert, “Sit Right Down and You’ll Hear the Tale,” featuring programmatic works by Russian greats Alexander Borodin and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. That concert will be held on Sunday, November 24 at 3 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie.

Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for new photos which we’ll be sharing soon!

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2013-14 Season Announced!

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s newly appointed Artistic Director and Conductor Manny Laureano has put together his first season of programs for the BSO. The season promises to be a celebration of firsts, as the conductor and musicians begin a new era of making music together.

The BSO begins it’s 51st season on Sunday, October 6 with a concert called “Let Us Begin.” This concert will feature Shostakovich’s first opus, a Scherzo in f# minor, followed by Mendelssohn’s first piano concerto performed by Susan Billmeyer, the Minnesota Orchestra’s keyboard player. Brahms’ First Symphony completes this concert of “firsts.”

The BSO’s fourth annual concert at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, this year on Sunday, November 24, is entitled “Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear the Tale.” This concert includes programmatic pieces including Borodin’s Overture to Prince Igor, as well as the Polovetsian Dances from the same opera. The concert will end with Rimsky-Korsakov’s musical tale of Scheherazade.

On Sunday, February 16, 2014, the BSO will celebrate “The Passion of Rachmaninoff,” with a concert program of Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major and concluding with Rachmaninoff’s passionate Symphony No. 2. The BSO’s concertmaster, Rebecca Corruccini will make her annual solo appearance at this concert.

The BSO will conclude its 2013-14 season with “Music in 3D,” a nod to the imagination that music inspires. “Music in 3D” includes Death and Transfiguration by Strauss, The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius and Respighi’s well-known piece, The Pines of Rome. This concert will also feature a performance by the grand prize winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition.

Season and single concert tickets are now available online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 962-563-8575. Tickets are always available for purchase at the door. Single concert tickets are $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. Discounted season tickets are $48 for adults and $40 for seniors. Students with a valid ID are admitted free, thanks to our generous sponsors.

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