“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.


“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.


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.


“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.


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!


“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.


“The Passion of Rachmaninoff” Concert Preview No. 2

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 February 10.

Concerto for Violin in A Major, “The Turkish” by Wolfgang Amade Mozart

Mozart 1777Mozart - 1777Mozart - 1777Mozart ColorThe year 1775 was a productive one for the 19 year-old Joannes Chrisostumus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart, at least as far as writing violin concerti is concerned. He had written his first a few years earlier and for reasons that are still unclear wrote the flurry of four that year. After having written his first in Bb major he settled on D major twice, G major, and finally A major for this fifth and final concerto.

While this concerto is nicknamed “The Turkish” it could have gone by several names as there are many structural surprises within. First, it is unique in its first movement form. After the orchestra bursts forth with the Allegro Aperto that begins the first movement, the listener may be a bit stunned to hear the orchestra come to a halt and have the solo violin begin its entrance with a ballad-like Adagio! This daydream is over shortly and the listener is, once again, surprised to hear a theme from the solo violin that has yet to be heard unlike most concerti of the classical period which warm up your ears by having the orchestra play the theme before the soloist enters. In fact, what you hear is the accompaniment without the solo voice on top. In a way, it is reminiscent of Mozart’s overture to his opera The Marriage of Figaro which uses not a single theme from the actual opera. Imagine the audacious brilliance of having so much music in your head that you can afford to just throw themes away without the worry that you may be using up your reserve!

The other surprise is that this concerto could have just as easily been named “Symphony for Violin.” Typically, classical concerti are three movements long in a fast-slow-fast format. This one follows suit but with a twist. After the second movement Adagio we are treated to a lovely Tempo di Menuetto just as one would expect from a typical classical… symphony! As the violin dances in 3/4 time throwing in a flirtatious cadenza here and there we are, as we were in the first movement, interrupted by an unexpected Allegro this time. This Allegro is given the “Turkish” treatment. That is to say that the Austrian fascination with the exotic qualities of the Ottoman Empire reveals itself in a fast pulse and the request from Mozart to have the cellos and basses turn their bows over and strike the strings with the wood part as well as the horse hair. This percussive sound and the brusque trills from our soloist give a foot-stomping dance quality to the music. This foray into the exotic is temporary as the orchestra returns to our elegant Minuet for an ending that closes the door on our concerto as one would the door to a child’s room after having read an exciting story before being tucked into bed.

Concertmaster Rebecca CorrucciniThe Bloomington Symphony’s own concertmaster, Rebecca Corruccini (pictured, left), will be the featured soloist on this concerto. Please join us for this concert, “The Passion of Rachmaninoff,” on Sunday, February 16 at 3 p.m. at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington. To purchase tickets in advance, please visit our online box office here. Tickets are always available at the door.


The Passion of Rachmaninoff

Concertmaster Rebecca Corruccini

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra invites you to an afternoon of great music on Sunday, February 16 at 3 p.m. The concert begins with Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi, followed by Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, performed by our concertmaster, Rebecca Corruccini. The program concludes with Symphony No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Maestro Manny Laureano thinks that the second movement is so romantic, you might want to bring a date! Wrap up your Valentine’s weekend with a concert of beautiful music. Ticket information can be found here.

Keep an eye on this page for Manny’s Musings, a preview of the concert music.


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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