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.


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.


“Music in 3D: Part Three” 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 three “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: Part Three” concert that will be performed on April 17, 2016.

Capriccio Italien, Op. 45 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

In today’s world one can be stimulated to travel by a number of sources whether it be television, cinema, radio, or the internet. In 1880 all one had available were books and firsthand accounts of those you knew that had traveled. Perhaps some books had drawings or colorful pictures or even the relatively new phenomenon of something called a photograph. Great composers such as Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) did what other composers had done and added to the musical portrayals like his Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture to the mix. Certainly, describing settings was almost as old as music itself, but providing a listener with a flavor of sights and sounds was another challenge.

As a result of a trip to Rome with his brother in 1880, Tchaikovsky found himself fairly intoxicated by all which he encountered there and hastily wrote notes of the rhythms and harmonies that struck him as they would serve as future fodder for musical expression. From the day-marking bugle calls emanating from the military barracks next door to Hotel Costanzi where they stayed, to the never-ending stream of music that faded from one to the other at the carnivals he enjoyed, to somber and warm melodies and a saltarello of his own invention, Tchaikovsky shows that he did more than just visit Italy: he lived it!

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: Part Three” featuring violinist Louisa Woodfull-Harris and Jane Horn, Organ. 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.


“Melodious Tchaikovsky” Concert Preview

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

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Three Works


“Who was the greatest melodist of all time?” This is an occasional discussion that is had by music lovers and musicians alike. To be sure, it is a fanciful argument to have, as all the great classical composers of the past have melodies which are part of our memories, ensuring immortality for they that penned them. However, if one were to indulge in such a chat, it would be almost impossible to omit Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a contender for that honor, at the very least.

Tchaikovsky, born in 1840 in the Vyatka province of Russia, was born to a family which had no particular background in music. His father, a mining engineer, married again after being widowed and it was his second wife who gave birth to Pyotr. As the boy grew older he was sent to a school with no less an imposing name than the Imperial School of Jurisprudence. But talent always finds a way and he was able to nurture a growing passion for music both as a listener and composer.

One of characteristics of writing a memorable melody has to do with structure. The arc of the melody has to be satisfying to listen to because it is the right length. It also has to have a rhythm that allows it to flow. It must also be supported by a set of harmonies that you can hear in your head as you sing, hum, whistle, or find some other way to annoy the person sitting next to you.

Over and over, Tchaikovsky manages to hit the mark with his tunes. In his Romeo and Juliet: Fantasy Overture (1870-revised 1880), he focuses on the acrimony between two feuding families and uses dissonance to deliver his message of tragedy and sharp, violent rhythms for swordplay before presenting us with the immortal love theme played by the English horn and violas. It is around these three themes that he centers his portrayal of the discord and eventual reconciliation between the houses of Capulet and Montague.

Surely, a prerequisite for a theme and variations must be a recognizable theme that stays with you long after the performance is done! Tchaikovsky does not disappoint in his elegant masterwork, Variations on a Rococo Theme, for Cello and Orchestra (1876). This charming and compelling work is an ironic one, as it was written during a time of depression in Tchaikovsky’s life. Even more ironic is that part of the reason for his sadness was the lack of success his Romeo and Juliet were experiencing! His recent opera Vakula, the Smith was regarded by Tchaikovsky as a “brilliant failure.” He was learning, however, to drown his sorrows and difficulties through his work. As you listen to the theme and variations, you can hear Tchaikovsky use every musical trick in the book to display his soloist’s talents. Jaunty triplets, the tossing of rhythms back and forth from soloist to orchestra, ravishing themes, and a race to the finish abound this romp.

The challenge of a four-movement symphony is rather obvious. Tchaikovsky was compelled to write an introduction, two themes with development, recapitulation, and conclusion… and that’s just the first movement! Many more themes of great passion and triumph will be found throughout this symphony but let’s discuss some rather salient features of his Symphony No. 5 in e minor (1888).

The aforementioned introduction contains a rather critical part of the structure of the entire work. The initial theme played by the clarinets is known as an idée fixe. This is a thematic idea that returns in every movement and is a binding element for the entire piece. You will hear that theme played by a variety of instruments as the symphony unfolds. The second movement contains a horn solo that became so well-loved, it was turned into a popular melody in 1939 called “June Love” by David, Davis, and Kostelanetz. The brasses proclaim the idée fixe with ferocity. This is Tchaikovsky at his romantic best. A flowing waltz and internal scherzo with a wink at the clarinet opening from the first movement round out the penultimate movement. The fourth movement finale is a proclamation of triumph as the idée fixe begins it, but in the optimistic tonality of E major. He quickly returns to e minor and settles into a lively and virtuosic battle between the dark seriousness of e minor and brilliant flashes of E major.

Every theme in this symphony is a winner and completely memorable. For this performance we’ll ask that you make every attempt to not hum along as you listen… but we’ll understand if you just can’t help it.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Melodious Tchaikovsky” featuring Minnesota Orchestra cellist Arek Tesarczyk as soloist. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 15 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.


2014-15 Concert Season Announced!

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra

Bloomington Symphony Orchestra Music Director Manny Laureano has assembled four concerts with a variety of well-known classics and a few pieces that may be new to some in the audience. The 2014-15 concert season will feature a young soprano, a seasoned cellist and the BSO solo debut of our new concertmaster. Click on the link to learn more about each concert.

2014-15 Concerts

October 5, 2014 – Three Singing Masters: Wagner, Strauss & Mahler

November 16, 2014 – Anybody Here Speak American?: Copland, Barber & Ives

February 15, 2015 – Melodious Tchaikovsky: Three pieces by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

April 19, 2015 – Music in 3D: The Sequel: Franck, TBA & Mussorgsky/Ravel


Season tickets (one ticket for each concert) are available for purchase through the Bloomington Box Office (only). You can click here to order tickets online or you can call 952-563-8575 or stop by the Box Office in person  at 1800 West Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington.

Can’t make it to every concert? You can still get the discounted price by purchasing in advance, four or more tickets to any of the concerts. Season and four-ticket packages are $48 for adults and $40 for seniors.

Single tickets are available in advance or at the door for $14 for adults and $12 for seniors. Students are always free, thanks to our generous donors.

For more information about any of our concerts, please contact our General Manager, Sara Tan at


“Music in 3D” Concert Preview No. 2

This is the second installment of the concert preview for the BSO’s performance on Sunday, April 13. These notes are shared by our Artistic Director and Conductor Manny Laureano, to help you learn more about the music in advance. We hope you enjoy “Manny’s Musings”!

Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

TchaikovskyIt is always curious to music lovers of contemporary society to read the disparaging remarks made about music that is well-loved today by those who were living at the time those pieces were written. In fact, books such as “The Lexicon of Musical Invective” by Nicholas Slonimsky are devoted to original bad reviews of what are now considered great works. And, so it was, that the treasured concerto for violin of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was disdained for “vulgarity” and tearing the violin until it was “beaten black and blue”. Even the great violinist, Leopold Auer, for whom the piece was originally written, pronounced it unplayable until he made his own modifications to it.

Often, when writing a piece with a specific soloist in mind, a composer will consult with that person and let him know of those plans. Not so, Tchaikovsky in this case. Here’s Auer’s account in the New York magazine, Musical Courier, which he gave in 1912, a generation after the concerto’s premiere:

When Tchaikovsky came to me one evening [over] thirty years ago, and presented me with a roll of music, great was my astonishment on finding that this proved to be the Violin Concerto, dedicated to me, completed, and already in print. My first feeling was one of great gratitude for this proof of his sympathy toward me, which honored me as an artist. On closer acquaintance with the composition, I regretted that the great composer had not shown it to me before committing it to print. Much unpleasantness might then have been spared us both….

The concerto would eventually be dedicated to Adolf Brodsky only to be subjected to the criticism cited earlier by Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick. To be fair, the conductor at the helm for that premiere, Hans Richter, did not allow for enough rehearsal time for this new work and it likely was a sub-par performance, at best. But time and ears that are accustomed to a great many harmonies are gentler judges of a grand concerto that has become beloved by cultures the world over and it retains its place as a favorite of music lovers.

Please join us for the performance of the first movement from Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto on Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church. Violinist and winner of the Mary West Solo Competition Winner Emily Saathoff will be joining us to perform this great work. Learn more about Ms. Saathoff here.


BSO to perform with Emily Saathoff, Violin in April 2014

April 13 seems a long time from now, but we are looking forward to the opportunity to play the first movement of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Emily Saathoff at our concert, “Music in 3D.”

Ms. Saathoff was recently named the Grand Prize winner of MNSOTA (Minnesota String Orchestra Teachers Association) Mary West Solo Competition. Part of the prize is the chance to play with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra – Minnesota. Please join us in congratulating Ms. Saathoff and come to hear her play one of the violin’s great concerti!

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