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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Be the first to experience the “Music for Mandela” project at this year’s Sommerfest. The Minnesota Orchestra explores musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation in a celebration of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary that concludes with a five-city tour of South Africa.

Attending more than one concert? Create Your Own series of 3 or more concerts and you'll save up to 15% off regular prices!


About This Concert:

Transforming classic Broadway songs into a performance entirely her own, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald returns, bringing her power, artistry and passion to the Orchestra Hall stage.

  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Audra McDonald, soprano
  • Andy Einhorn, conductor

Fun Facts:

  • Audra McDonald’s two concerts at Orchestra Hall have both sold out, including Minnesota Orchestra’s 2015-16 season opening. The Star Tribune raved: “Versatile Audra McDonald’s Star Power lights up Orchestra Hall.”
  • She studied classical voice at Juilliard and has graced stages such as Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, and the Berlin Philharmonic.
  • McDonald has won six Tony Awards so far, and is the only person to date to have won in all four acting categories.
  • She first performed the role of Billie Holiday on Broadway in 2014 and later won her sixth Tony Award for her astounding portrayal which Broadway World called”… a tour de force.”
  • She is a passionate advocate for equal rights, LGBTQ causes and underprivileged youth. Audra is Mom to two girls—Zoe and Sally—and two shelter dogs—Butler and Georgia.

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About This Concert:

Join us for our first full orchestra symphonic sensory-friendly concert, an engaging and interactive experience for all ages conducted by Akiko Fujimoto and featuring guest cellist Nygel Witherspoon.

Fanfare for the Common Man

Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, No.1

Hedwig’s Flight, from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Overture to West Side Story

Elégie for Cello and Orchestra

Radetzky March

Allegro con brio, mvt. IV from Symphony No. 7

Finale from The Firebird

Fun Facts:

  • The Minnesota Orchestra’s Sensory-Friendly Concerts are inclusive experiences for patrons of all ages and abilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities.
  • Concerts take place in a relaxed environment where audience members are welcome to be who they are and enjoy music with family and friends.
  • 16-year-old cellist Nygel Witherspoon makes a guest appearance playing Fauré’s Elégie
  • From Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man to Stravinsky’s Firebird, Courage and Triumph is a concert you won’t want to miss. Listen to the music that will be performed on the concert (coming soon)!
  • Come early for pre-concert activities curated by community partners including the Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts and Toneworks Music Therapy!
  • Read our tip sheet for information about the concert experience.

We designed this concert experience with support from our Accessibility Team and are extremely grateful for the expertise of each member and the contributions they made to develop this concert.

American Sign Language interpretation available Assisted listening devices available Open Captioning available Large print program available Braille program available Wheelchair seating available Sensory Friendly program

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About This Concert:

The emotional power of Beethoven's Fifth is reignited in the Minnesota Orchestra's vibrant interpretation of this instantly recognizable, rightfully beloved symphony. Also spotlighted in this performance is the Orchestra's 2017-18 featured artist James Ehnes, who ends his visit on a note of brilliance.

En Saga

Violin Concerto

Symphony No. 5

Fun Facts:

  • The Guardian raves about Osmo Vänskä's Beethoven recordings and declares them “the best kind of…playing–light, lithe, with sharply pointed rhythms and perfectly floated melodies.”
  • The Minnesota Orchestra performed En Saga on the road in January 2018 as part of its Midwest tour. The concert earned such rave reviews that the Sibelius work was also chosen to complete the program for the South Africa tour.
  • Chicago Tribune proclaimed that “Vänskä has few living equals” in the Sibelius repertory.
  • Beethoven’s Fifth will also be performed by the Orchestra on its South Africa tour to Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria. (Hear it here, first!)
  • Beethoven’s Fifth has permeated pop culture, gracing soundtracks of such movies as Howards End, The Breakfast Club, Austin Powers in Goldmember and The Peanuts Movie.
  • The London Times compares James Ehnes’ artistry favorably to Paganini, and praises his playing for its “phenomenal control.”

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About This Concert:

Stay late for a NightCap performance by an ensemble of Minnesota Orchestra all-stars joined by violinist James Ehnes, the 2017-18 season’s featured artist, with Music Director Osmo Vänskä playing clarinet.

Quintet for Clarinet and Strings

Fun Facts:

  • During the 2017-18 season, featured artist James Ehnes is visiting the Orchestra three times, having already performed the U.S. premiere of Anders Hillborg’s Second Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, and this July playing James Newton Howard’s Violin Concerto.
  • Music Director Osmo Vänskä was co-principal clarinet of the Helsinki Philharmonic from 1977 to 1982 and principal clarinet of the Turku Philharmonic from 1971 to 1976; he then decided to pursue a career in conducting.
  • Erin Keefe, Rebecca Albers and Anthony Ross are all members of Accordo, a Minnesota chamber music ensemble that is made up of principal members of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
  • The first performance of Gordon Jacob’s Quintet was given during World War II in London’s Wigmore Hall. The piece was dedicated to Frederick “Jack” Thurston, a clarinetist and fellow classmate of Jacob’s at the Royal College of Music.
  • This is the first time that Gordon Jacob’s Quintet for Clarinet and Strings has been performed on a Minnesota Orchestra program.

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About This Concert:

“Music,” said Nelson Mandela, “sets people free to dream.” Minnesota Orchestra honors the life of this visionary through words and music conveying hope, unity and peace.

  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Osmo Vänskä, conductor
  • Insingizi
  • Mandela Fellows

Selections for Chorus and Orchestra, including:

Akhala Amaqhude Amabili

Bawo Thixo Somandla


Largo, from New World Symphony

Nelson Mandela (Usilethela uxolo)

Fun Facts:

  • The South African song collections in this program will be performed here as well in in South Africa with members of the Minnesota Chorale.
  • The centenary of Mandela, who was born on July 18, 1918, will be celebrated across South Africa and around the globe in 2018, to commemorate his legacy and to continue his work for equality and freedom.
  • A member of the African National Congress party in the 1940s, Mandela led peaceful protests and armed resistance against the apartheid regime in a racially divided South Africa. Imprisoned for 27 years, he helped negotiate apartheid’s end and in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa.
  • Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 is nicknamed From the New World because he wrote it while living in the U.S. in the 1890s, when he became interested in African American spirituals and melodies, saying “These beautiful and varied themes are the product of the soil. They are the folk songs of America and your composers must turn to them.”
  • New worlds were on the mind of astronaut Neil Armstrong, when he took a recording of the New World Symphony on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

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About This Concert:

Featuring performances of many musical genres on multiple stages at Orchestra Hall for audiences of all ages. Full schedule available in May.

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About This Concert:

Experience the spirit of ubuntu, the interconnectedness of humanity, as the Minnesota Orchestra prepares for its South Africa tour with the premiere of Bongani Ndodana-Breen’s Harmonia Ubuntu and Beethoven’s Ninth’s glorious Ode to Joy.

  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Osmo Vänskä, conductor
  • Goitsemang Oniccah Lehobye, soprano
  • Minette du Toit-Pearce, mezzo
  • Siyabonga Maqungo, tenor
  • Njabulo Madlala, baritone
  • Minnesota Chorale

Harmonia Ubuntu

Symphony No. 9, Choral

Fun Facts:

  • This performance marks the world premiere of Harmonia Ubuntu by Bongani Ndodana-Breen, specially co-commissioned by the Orchestra and Classical Movements to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.
  • Ndodana-Breen speaks about how Mandela inspired this work’s creation, writing that he “was the exemplar of the African values of ubuntu—the knowledge that one's humanity is tied to the humanity of others or humanity towards others. Harmony has the obvious musical connotations. Ubuntu is a form of harmony.”
  • The four soloists at this performance are South African; and will travel and perform with the Orchestra on their South Africa tour.
  • Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s remarkable experience conducting the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) in 2014 was a driving force behind planning this trip to South Africa.
  • Inspired by the activism and leadership of the Mandela family, Ndodana-Breen is also the composer of Winnie, The Opera, based on the life of Nelson’s wife Winnie.
  • During World War I, German POWs introduced Beethoven’s Ninth to Japan, where it became so well loved that it is now a Japanese tradition to perform the symphony during New Year’s celebration.
  • In 1972, the Council of Europe made the glorious Ode to Joy of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony its official anthem. Years later, the European Union did the same.

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About this Concert:

Join us for the happiest hour in town as our trailblazing Associate Conductor Roderick Cox continues Sommerfest’s theme of ubuntu and unity through music with exquisite selections by Beethoven, Salonen and Pärt.

  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Roderick Cox, conductor
  • Stewart Goodyear, piano



Piano Concerto No. 4

Fun Facts:

  • Helix was commissioned by the BBC and premiered by Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace on a Proms concert in August 2005.
  • Mandela and his friend, Welsh pianist Harold Rubens, led meetings in the 1950s at which they planned apartheid resistance while Rubens played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 very loudly to thwart government bugs.
  • Arvo Pärt is from Estonia, which is also celebrating its centenary in 2018. His composition Fratres literally means brotherhood, and demonstrates his minimalist tintinnabuli style of composition.
  • Called "a phenomenon" by the Los Angeles Times and "one of the best pianists of his generation" by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Stewart Goodyear has collaborated previously with Roderick Cox, who in turn introduced Goodyear to the Minnesota Orchestra.
  • These Symphony in 60 concerts are part of the Minnesota Orchestra's Casual Concerts series, which includes a $5 pre-concert happy hour, local craft brews and an opportunity to meet musicians after the performance.

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About this Concert:

From the 1960s through today, protest music has played an important role in American culture. Violist and host Sam Bergman and conductor Sarah Hicks highlight the stories, music, and achievements of composers who used their talents to participate in social protest through the centuries.

Post-concert on stage reception.

Lacrymosa, mvt. I from Sinfonia da Requiem

Apologue: Of Rage and Remembrance, mvt. I from Symphony No. 1

Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, No. 1

Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima

In Memoriam of the Colored Soldiers Who Died For Democracy

Overture to The Boatswain’s Mate

Overture to Fidelio

Allegro molto, mvt. II from Chamber Symphony

The Prisoner

Fun Facts

  • Inside the Classics, now in its ninth season, features Minnesota Orchestra violist and host Sam Bergman and conductor Sarah Hicks. The duo explore classical music through conversation and orchestral excerpts. This Inside the Classics concert is part of the Minnesota Orchestra's Casual Concerts series.
  • Casual Concerts include: $5 pre-concert happy hour, local craft brew, and an opportunity to meet musicians onstage after the performance.

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About This Concert:

Join us for an uplifting Sommerfest performance by global a cappella phenomenon Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whose inspiring songs of social justice, hope and joy radiate the vital spirit of the South African people.

Fun Facts:

  • The a cappella ensemble’s performance with Paul Simon on Graceland (1986) catapulted the ensemble on the world stage; this group has remained in the spotlight ever since.
  • In addition to their working with Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo has recorded with Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Sarah McLachlan, Josh Groban, Emmylou Harris and Melissa Etheridge, among others.
  • An inspiration to Nelson Mandela while he was a political prisoner in South Africa, Ladysmith Black Mambazo performed at his 1994 inauguration as the country’s first post-apartheid president.
  • The group’s sound traces its roots to the tradition of isicathamiya (pronounced is-cot-a-ME-ya), a singing style created by South African mine workers.
  • Ladysmith Black Mambazo is named for its hometown and the Zulu word for “axe.”
  • According to the Huffington Post “Ladysmith Black Mambazo may be an institution, but it’s a vibrant, high-stepping institution that shows no signs of slowing down.”
  • The Los Angeles Times credits the group’s “creative discipline and good spirits” as an inspiration in “helping South Africa complete its transition from racist tyranny to equal-rights democracy with joy.”
  • “It isn’t merely …the power of their dancing or the beauty of their singing that rivets the attention,” praises Paul Simon, “but the sheer joy and love that emanates from their being.”

Please note: the Minnesota Orchestra does not perform on this program.

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About This Concert:

Say bon voyage to the Minnesota Orchestra as they embark on their highly-anticipated South Africa tour with a performance of Gershwin by Inon Barnatan as well as gorgeous selections from Bernstein and Ives.

  • Minnesota Orchestra
  • Osmo Vänskä, conductor
  • Inon Barnatan, piano

Overture to Candide

Piano Concerto in F

Symphony No. 2

Fun Facts:

  • “One of the most admired pianists of his generation," according to The New York Times, Inon Barnatan recently performed with the Minnesota Orchestra on the January 2018 Midwest Tour and Tchaikovsky Marathon.
  • This is the send-off performance for the Orchestra as they leave for a multi-city tour of South Africa.
  • Charles Ives was a modernist composer and among the first to use experimental techniques such as polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters and quarter tones. His tonal inspirations come from myriad sources including traditional hymns, parlor ballads and Stephen Foster melodies.
  • Candide is an operetta based on the Voltaire novella; American poet Richard Wilbur was the primary lyricist. Although it premiered to an unenthusiastic audience in 1956, it has become a well-beloved modern day favorite.
  • A lifelong activist and unafraid of controversy, Leonard Bernstein and his then-wife Felicia hosted parties for the Black Panthers and anti-Vietnam war efforts. He was monitored by Hoover’s FBI as a “potential communist.”
  • Gershwin is world-famous for music that has become part of the national consciousness, including the incomparable Rhapsody in Blue and his revolutionary opera Porgy and Bess.

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The South Africa Tour is funded by generous contributions from an anonymous couple.

Additional support is provided by the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Music Director Fund.

Tour Partners

Music for Mandela Corporate Consortium Sponsors