The Minnesota Orchestra's mission is to enrich, inspire and serve our community as an enduring symphony orchestra internationally recognized for its artistic excellence.
Our mission will be implemented by:
- Enhancing the traditional core of concerts with innovative approaches to programming and format;
- Providing the finest educational and outreach programs;
- Representing and promoting the Minnesota Orchestra and the State of Minnesota to audiences across the state, across the country and around the world through tours and electronic media;
- Maintaining an acoustically superior hall with a welcoming environment;
- Delivering this within a financially sustainable structure.
The Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra, now in its second century and led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, ranks among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a distinguished history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts and educational engagement programs; and a visionary commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow.
Founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble gave its inaugural performance on November 5, 1903, shortly after baseball’s first World Series and six weeks before the Wright brothers made their unprecedented airplane flight. The Orchestra played its first regional tour in 1907 and made its New York City debut in 1912 at Carnegie Hall, where it has performed regularly ever since, most recently in March 2016. Outside the United States, the Orchestra has played concerts in Australia, Canada, Europe, the Far East, Latin America and the Middle East. Since 1968 it has been known as the Minnesota Orchestra. The ensemble presents about 175 programs each year, primarily at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, and its concerts are heard by live audiences of 300,000.
The Orchestra’s international tours have reaped significant praise. Under Vänskä’s leadership, the ensemble has undertaken five European tours, most recently an August 2016 tour that brought the Orchestra to the Scotland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Finland. In May 2015 Vänskä and the Orchestra performed two historic concerts and collaborated in educational projects in Havana, Cuba, becoming the first major American orchestra to perform in the island nation since the U.S. and Cuban governments announced steps to normalize relations between the two countries. The trip drew widespread international attention and prompted The New York Times to hail the Orchestra’s new place “at the cultural vanguard.” In January 2018 Vänskä will lead the Orchestra on its first Chicago tour in 38 years, where it will perform on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Symphony Center Presents series; that month the Orchestra will also stop at several Midwestern universities and community venues for residencies and concerts.
The Orchestra’s recordings and broadcasts have drawn acclaim since the early 1920s, when the ensemble became one of the first to be heard via these media—notably making its radio debut in 1923 by playing a nationally broadcast concert under guest conductor Bruno Walter. Its landmark Mercury Living Presence LP recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, under Music Directors Antal Dorati and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, have been reissued on CD to great acclaim. Under Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra has undertaken several acclaimed recording projects, primarily for BIS Records. In 2014 the Orchestra and Vänskä won their first Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance for a disc of Sibelius’ Symphonies No. 1 and 4.
The Orchestra and Vänskä unveiled two new albums during 2017. The first, released in February, is a live-in-concert recording of Sibelius’ Kullervo and Finlandia and the world premiere of Olli Kortekangas’ Migrations, all performed with Finland’s YL Male Voice Choir and vocal soloists. The second, released in August, features Mahler’s Fifth Symphony; this release marks the start of the Orchestra’s new series of Mahler symphony recordings. The Orchestra has already recorded the Sixth and Second Symphonies for future releases, and will record the First and Fourth during the 2017-18 season.
Earlier recordings by the Orchestra and Vänskä include a five-disc cycle of the complete Beethoven symphonies that The New York Times wrote “may be the definitive [cycle] of our time.” The recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony received a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance, and the album featuring the Second and Seventh Symphonies was nominated for a 2009 Classic FM Gramophone Award. The Orchestra and Vänskä also recorded a two-CD set of Tchaikovsky’s piano-and-orchestra works with soloist Stephen Hough; a disc featuring Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony; two albums of Beethoven and Mozart piano concertos with Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin; and a three-album cycle of the complete Sibelius symphonies, including the Grammy-winning disc of Symphonies No. 1 and 4 and a Grammy-nominated album of the Symphonies No. 2 and 5.
The Orchestra’s Friday night performances are broadcast live regionally by Minnesota Public Radio, a weekly tradition for more than 40 years. Over the years, many programs have been subsequently featured on American Public Media’s national programs, SymphonyCast and Performance Today. In November 2017 the Orchestra is celebrating Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary with a special live broadcast concert hosted by Brian Newhouse.
In addition to offering traditional concerts, the Minnesota Orchestra connects with more than 85,000 music lovers annually through family concerts and educational programs including Young People’s Concerts, a series that marked its centennial in 2011. In the last decade nearly half a million students have experienced a Young People’s Concert. In March 2017 the Orchestra brought the series to a global online audience for the first time with the inaugural Young People’s Concert webcast, which reached students around the globe in 315 cities across 22 countries.
In 2011, extending a long tradition of performances throughout the state of Minnesota, the Orchestra launched Common Chords. This multi-year initiative creates partnerships between the Orchestra and participating Minnesota cities, culminating in a celebratory festival week that features performances and dozens of activities that reflect the interests, diversity and heritage of each community. Launched with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Common Chords presented its first festival week in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2011; subsequent partnerships have taken the Orchestra to the Minnesota cities of Willmar, Hibbing, Bemidji and Detroit Lakes. The next Common Chords week is set for April 2018, when the Orchestra will spend a week in the southern Minnesota city of Mankato.
Along with its core series of classical concerts, the Minnesota Orchestra presents Live at Orchestra Hall, a lineup of concerts by a broad spectrum of artists; conductor Sarah Hicks leads the series, which features genres including popular music, jazz, film scores and world music. Since 1980 the Orchestra has ended each season with Sommerfest, its beloved urban summer music festival. In summer 2017 conductor Andrew Litton concluded his 15-year tenure as the festival’s artistic director. Jazz in the Target Atrium, a new series of concerts featuring regional and national jazz musicians performing together in Orchestra Hall’s new Target Atrium, was launched in 2014 under the direction of Jeremy Walker.
With a long history of commissioning and performing new music, the Minnesota Orchestra nourishes a strong commitment to contemporary composers. Its annual Composer Institute, now in its fourth season under the direction of Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts, offers up to seven emerging composers from around the nation an intense immersion into the orchestral world, culminating in a Future Classics concert led by Osmo Vänskä. Since 1903 the Orchestra has premiered and/or commissioned more than 300 compositions, including works by John Adams, Kalevi Aho, Dominick Argento (the Orchestra’s composer laureate), Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Charles Ives, Aaron Jay Kernis, Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, Kevin Puts and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. During the 2017-18 season the Orchestra is offering premieres of major new works by Jeff Beal, Sebastian Currier and James Stephenson. In 2012 the Orchestra completed the innovative Musical MicroCommission Project, through which hundreds of music fans made “micro” donations that funded the creation of a major new orchestral work, Judd Greenstein’s Acadia.
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has bestowed upon the Orchestra 20 awards for adventuresome programming, including five Leonard Bernstein Awards for Education Programming between 2005 and 2012 and, in 2008, the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music.
Music directors of the Orchestra have included Emil Oberhoffer (1903-1922), Henri Verbrugghen (1923-1931), Eugene Ormandy (1931-1936), Dimitri Mitropoulos (1937-1949), Antal Dorati (1949-1960), Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1960-1979), Neville Marriner (1979-1986), Edo de Waart (1986-1995), Eiji Oue (1995-2002) and Osmo Vänskä (2003-present).