Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, the newly announced 11th music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, will serve for the 2022-23 season as the ensemble’s music director designate before beginning his music director role in September 2023. In October 2022, he will lead his first three performances with the Orchestra since the July 2022 announcement of his appointment, conducting a program of music by Lili Boulanger, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky, including a concert on Friday, October 21, that will livestreamed on the Orchestra’s website and social media channels.
Søndergård is the current music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), following six seasons as principal guest conductor. Between 2012 and 2018, he served as principal conductor of BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW), after stepping down as principal conductor and musical advisor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Søndergård has appeared with many notable orchestras in leading European centers such as Berlin (including the Berlin Philharmonic, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Konzerthausorchester Berlin), Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester), Paris (Orchestre National de France), London (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra), and Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic). He is a familiar figure in Scandinavia, with such orchestras as the Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic. His North American appearances to date have included the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, in addition to the Minnesota Orchestra, which he first led in December 2021. He has made highly successful tours to China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
The 2022-23 season will see Søndergård return to the Edinburgh International Festival (Mahler Symphony No. 3) and the BBC Proms with the RSNO. The two Proms performances will be centered around Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto, performed by Nicola Benedetti. Plans for the RSNO’s main season include a full Brahms symphony cycle, Britten’s War Requiem and further European touring. He makes extensive guest appearances in the U.S. this season, including debut appearances with the Baltimore Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and Cincinnati Symphony, alongside return visits to the Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony and Chicago Symphony. On the operatic stage, following his Reumert Award-winning appearance in early 2022 for Die Walküre, he will return to Royal Danish Opera this season to conduct Strauss’ Elektra. In his native Denmark, he returns to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra to conduct the world premiere of Rune Glerup’s new violin concerto with Isabelle Faust.
In 2015, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of both Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, Søndergård conducted a wide variety of their works with many leading orchestras. A passionate supporter of the music of Nielsen, he led a performance with Swedish Radio Symphony of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5 that was praised as “equal of the great pioneers of Nielsen interpretation....It’s hard to imagine a finer performance of this remarkable symphony” (Dagens Nyheter); in 2019 he participated in a special concert to celebrate Nielsen’s work with the Royal Danish Academy of Music Copenhagen.
Following his acclaimed debut for Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial), he has returned regularly to conduct a broad repertoire, ranging from contemporary to mainstream, including The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, La Bohème, The Cunning Little Vixen, Il viaggio a Reims and Die Walküre, which won the 2022 Reumert Award for Best Opera, as well as short concert tours with the Royal Danish Orchestra. Further returns are planned, and he has also enjoyed successful collaborations with Norwegian Opera and Royal Swedish Opera. His Stockholm productions of Tosca and Turandot (both with Nina Stemme) led to his Bayerische Staatsoper debut, conducting main season and Opera Festival performances of Turandot with Stemme; he most recently returned for the Opera’s Akademiekonzert series. He made his Deutsche Oper Berlin debut with the world premiere of Scartazzini’s Edward II and has since returned for Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet.
Søndergård’s discography covers a broad range of contemporary and mainstream repertoire, including Sibelius symphonies and tone poems with BBC NOW and Prokofiev and Richard Strauss with RSNO for Linn Records; Vilde Frang’s celebrated debut recording of violin concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne (on EMI); works by Poul Ruders with the Aarhus Symphony, Norwegian Radio and Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial) for Dacapo and Bridge Records; and Lutosławski and Dutilleux concertos with cellist Johannes Moser and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone).
In January 2022, Søndergård was decorated with a prestigious Royal Order of Chivalry – the Order of Dannebrog (Ridder af Dannebrogordenen) by Her Majesty Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark.
Søndergård first led the Minnesota Orchestra in December 2021 performances that included Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra, Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben, and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 featuring soloist Ingrid Fliter. He returned in April 2022 to conduct Debussy’s La Mer and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. As only the 11th music director in the Orchestra’s 120-year history, he succeeds Emil Oberhoffer, Henri Verbrugghen, Eugene Ormandy, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Antal Dorati, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Sir Neville Marriner, Edo de Waart, Eiji Oue and, most recently, Osmo Vänskä, who led the Orchestra from 2003 to 2022.