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.


Music in 3D: #6 :: Concert Preview 2 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 second edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #6” concert that will be performed on Sunday, May 5, 2019.

Dmitri Shostakovich, composer

It is always a dilemma to write about Dmitri Shostakovich, who was born in St. Petersburg in 1906 under the Tsarist rule of “Bloody” Nicholas II and who died in Moscow in 1975 under Soviet domination led by Leonid Brezhnev. In effect, baby Dmitri was born in a Russia that had suffered the violent conflict of a failed revolution against Nicholas II a year before. By the time he broached adolescence, a new future for Russia was on the horizon with new leaders and new problems. Somehow, a young and somewhat sickly—but prodigiously talented—boy would try to perform on the piano while developing his gift for composition. The dilemma comes in trying to know who the real Dmitri Shostakovich is.

His musical parents gave him what he needed, to attend the Conservatory in what was renamed Petrograd, at the age of 13. He studied piano with a vengeance, but his composing skills were rapidly increasing. He loved the musical examples he heard in the works by Rimsky-Korsakov. They gave him the road to follow in his quest to learn how to best use the instruments of the orchestra. His orchestral language and wit were present in his First Symphony, a student piece that would be the envy of many 20th century composers to follow. He also benefited from the opportunity to use his improvising skills at the piano to accompany movies live. Was this young man the real Shostakovich?

He set upon writing his Second and Third Symphonies, both of which had contemporary political statements as their centerpieces with titles like To October and The First of May. Such music could not have displeased the local Communist leaders, could they? They included choruses and new sounds for that relatively new century. The fact is, they were not well-received and there would be a six year lapse before Shostakovich would provide another symphony for public consumption. There was more music to write, anyway. He wrote operas, chamber music, ballets, and a concerto for trumpet and piano. Even though it would not be performed for quite some time (until 1960) Symphony No. 4 did roll out of his pen. It was however, on the heels of his opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk District or Lady Macbeth of Minsk. All was well and Dmitri was being performed consistently. Was this driving force in Soviet musical art the real Shostakovich?

To be continued!

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.


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.


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

Dmitri Shostakovich, composer

Up to this point, we have featured the work of composers in their mid-30s and early 20s. Let’s push the envelope further and have as our featured symphony, the work of an older teenager, the legendary Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975), who started to write his first symphony at the age of 17 and completed it at the age of 19. It was technically a student piece that fulfilled a requirement at Petrograd University in Russia while studying with composition teacher Nikolai Malko. This symphony is significant as a first symphony because it sounds so much like the subsequent works we are accustomed to hearing later. In other words, he was developing a language that was completely his, rather than imitate the music he grew up hearing which influenced his earliest works.

The symphony is in four movements and begins in a series of conversations moving quickly throughout the orchestra. Shostakovich seems to play a game with the listener in this first movement that goes between stating themes clearly and simply (much like Copland!) and then goes into fits of self-mockery (much like one of his musical heroes, Gustav Mahler). The second movement is a romp that fairly challenges the listener to keep up with an almost cartoonish set of themes, pausing only briefly to ask the woodwinds to play an exotic and quiet melody. This respite gives way to the furious Shostakovich we know from later symphonies and chamber music. The third movement goes into its main theme without the gentle introduction we may be accustomed to in the music of other composers. Indeed, it is reminiscent of the slow movement from Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony where the oboe immediately begins a plaintive song. Listen for the rhythmic interjections by the brass and timpani, crying out for attention. In fact, the trumpets lead a transition to the whirling finale that vacillates between tornadic virtuosity to breathless moments of pained statements from varied solo instruments. But Shostakovich will not be denied, and he builds to a tremendous ending that establishes who he is and what to expect from him in the future. Joseph Stalin would have other ideas…but that’s another concert.

Karen Baumgartner, Flute & Grant Luhmann, Composer

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.


Musician’s Musings – December 2015

Peter Chang, BSO viola and violin

Peter Chang, BSO viola and violin

Today we welcome Peter Chang, acting principal viola and violinist with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, to this month’s Musician’s Musings. We are enjoying the chance to feature thoughts from our musicians and hope you enjoy the same. 

Five Enchantingly Beautiful Orchestral Melodies That You May Not Have Heard Of

You’re probably no stranger to major composers like Mahler, Debussy and Brahms. There are favorites in the orchestral repertoire that frequently get the spotlight, but the world of classical music is so vast that it’s a shame not to explore the fringes.

Here is my list of five lesser known gems to add to your listening list:

Arthur Foote; 4 Character Pieces (Op. 48) – Andante Comodo

American composer, Arthur Foote’s 4 Character Pieces was based off a Persian selection of poems, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. To reflect the Middle Eastern nature of the work, Foote makes use of a Phrygian mode to great effect.

You can listen to this piece here:

Carl Nielsen; Symphony No. 2 (Op. 16) Mvt. 3

Symphony No. 2 titled the Four Temperaments is Carl Nielsen’s musical characterizations of four strangely specific moods such as “Choleric” and “Phlegmatic” (both of which I had to Google). Not the moods I would have picked, but I’ve written no symphonies. Movement three is “Melancholic”.

You can listen to this piece here:

Kalinnikov; Symphony No 1 Mvt. 2

This Symphony was written by Vasily Kalinnikov when he was 28. The second movement is surprisingly sublime when compared to the rest of the work, which tends to sounds like the work of a young composer.

You can listen to this piece here:

Aram Khachaturian; Spartacus Suite No. 2 – Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia

From the Ballet of the same name. Spartacus and wife escape from captivity and enjoy a well earned happy moment alone to this tune.

You can listen to this piece here:

Shostakovich; Piano Concerto No. 2 Mov. 2

This famous piano concerto doesn’t fit the ‘obscure’ descriptor quite as well as the rest of this list. Plus one could argue a piano concerto is not a purely orchestral composition. It is however, most definitely enchantingly beautiful.

You can listen to this piece here:

Have you heard of any of these before?

What other pieces can you add to the list?


“Let Us Begin” 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 Monday, September 23.

Scherzo in F-sharp minor, Op. 1 by Dmitri Shostakovich

It is a trait of tshostakovichhe Russian people to historically write about, among other things, irony. Irony is an unexpected outcome. Thus, one of the many ironies in the life of Dmitri Dmitriyevitch Shostakovich is that he should view his childhood almost disdainfully. He writes in his memoirs, entitled Testimony, “For some reason no one writes about the humiliations of childhood. They reminisce tenderly: I was so small and already independent. But in reality, they don’t let you be independent when you’re a child. They dress and undress you, wipe your nose roughly. Childhood is like old age. A man is helpless when he’s old, too. And no one speaks tenderly of old age. Why is childhood any better?” He also writes, “The supposedly marvelous years of youth are made for seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. For seeing merry things and beautiful objects. Clouds, and grass, and flowers. You don’t want to notice that they’re an optical illusion….”

Clearly the charming music that flowed from his pen at the still-tender age of 13 after having been under the tutelage of Ignatiy Glyasser and then Alexandra Rosanova seemingly belies the notion that his childhood was anything less then cheerful. Also, one has to recognize that his views on childhood are colored by a life lived mostly under an oppressive political system.

The music itself is childlike in its outward simplicity from the light flute solo that begins it to it’s imitative motives that dance about from trumpet to violins to woodwinds. The middle contrasting section wanders much as the attention of a young boy sitting in class pausing to look away from the teacher to the window wishing he were outside playing. The bombast is reminiscent of the larger orchestrations of fellow Russian, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. What is impressive to the careful ear is the sheer amount of detail present in the piece which is discoverable upon multiple hearings of the piece.


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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