Sommerfest Artistic Director
Marilyn Nelson Chair
Andrew Litton, now in his 11th season as the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest Artistic Director, has a distinguished international reputation and a warm relationship with Orchestra musicians, staff and the community. His spirit of collegiality, inspired programming and superb performances, both on the podium and at the keyboard, have contributed to the appeal of Sommerfest for audiences and artists alike.
Litton is also music director of Norway’s Bergen Philharmonic, conductor laureate of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony and music director emeritus of the Dallas Symphony—and makes regular appearances with all of them in addition to guest conducting the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. In June 2012 he was named artistic advisor of the Denver-based Colorado Symphony and assumed that orchestra’s artistic leadership. Each year he adds to his discography of more than 100 recordings, which have garnered honors including a Grammy Award, France’s Diapason d’Or and many additional awards.
Litton’s work in Bergen has brought many tributes, including, in May 2011, being named a Knight of the Norwegian Order of Merit by the King of Norway. The distinction recognizes his artistic achievements and his extraordinary success in raising the international profile of the Bergen Philharmonic, which he will lead in its 250th anniversary celebrations in 2015. Though the orchestra is one of the oldest in the world, it was not widely known when Litton, its first American music director, took the helm in 2003. Since then he has led it on tour to Europe’s greatest concert halls, including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Philmarmonie and Vienna Musikverein, and on a groundbreaking tour of the U.S. that was crowned by a triumphant performance in Carnegie Hall. With his Bergen musicians, Litton also launched an opera company, Den Nye Oper (The New Opera) of Bergen, which has performed Tosca, Carmen,The Flying Dutchman and La Bohème to sold-out houses and critical acclaim, and in November 2013 presents Beethoven’s Fidelio.
Among Litton’s 2013 and 2014 guest conducting engagements are performances with the Detroit, Singapore, Bournemouth and City of Birmingham symphonies, the Orquestra Sinfónica de Galicia, Netherlands Philharmonic, Orchestre Nationale de Belgique and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London, which he leads at the Bucharest Festival and in Verona, Italy. His numerous Bergen Philharmonic commitments include a June 2013 performance of Britten’s War Requiem and a February 2014 tour of Germany. Additional highlights include collaborations with pianists Stephen Hough, William Wolfram and Benjamin Grosvenor, and with violinist Vadim Gluzman, and multiple programs at which Litton himself solos at the piano, conducting from the keyboard.
Litton has drawn consistent acclaim for his work as an opera conductor. He has conducted the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Welsh National Opera, Los Angeles Opera and English National Opera, among others. During 2008-09 he led an ecstatically received new production of Richard Strauss’ Egyptian Helen at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Bringing his love of opera to Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Litton regularly closes Sommerfest with sold-out performances of semi-staged or concert opera, most recently leading performances of Der Rosenkavalier.
Litton’s recordings include the complete Rachmaninoff piano concertos with Stephen Hough and the Dallas Symphony, which was widely hailed as the best since the composer’s own, and which won the Classical Brits/BBC Critics Award. Also notable are his Grammy-winning Belshazzar’s Feast with the Bournemouth Symphony and baritone Bryn Terfel, a Grammy-nominated Sweeney Todd with the New York Philharmonic and Patti LuPone, and numerous recordings with Litton in a dual role—as piano soloist conducting from the keyboard. He and the Bergen Philharmonic record regularly on the British Hyperion and Swedish BIS labels, for the latter of which they have completed a particularly lauded cycle of the complete Mendelssohn symphonies as well as award-winning albums of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Vadim Gluzman. Their Stravinsky ballet series has also been met with great enthusiasm.
An orchestra builder, Litton brought the Bournemouth Symphony, of which he was principal conductor from 1988-1994, on its first American tour and produced 14 recordings, including Belshazzar’s Feast. As music director of the Dallas Symphony from 1994-2006, he hired more than one third of the players, led the orchestra on three major European tours, appeared four times at Carnegie Hall, created a children’s television series broadcast nationally and in widespread use in school curricula, and produced 28 recordings.
Andrew Litton began piano studies at age five and at ten decided to become a conductor. He graduated from Fieldston School, New York, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard in piano and conducting. The youngest-ever winner of the BBC International Conductors Competition, he served as assistant conductor at La Scala and Exxon/Arts Endowment Assistant Conductor of the National Symphony under Rostropovich. His many honors include an honorary doctorate from the University of Bournemouth, Yale University’s Sanford Medal and the Elgar Society Medal. For further information, visit andrewlitton.com.