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Thursday March 21, 2024

Conductor Kristiina Poska, Cellist Sterling Elliott Make Minnesota Orchestra Debuts with Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations

Elliott will perform as soloist in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's only solo work for cello; Rococo Variations will be bookended by selections from Aaron Copland and Ludwig van Beethoven

This mid-April program features two major debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra, with guest conductor Kristiina Poska at the podium and American cellist Sterling Elliott in the soloist spotlight. At 24 years old, Elliott is a fast-rising star who was recently named one of three recipients of the 2024 Sphinx Medal of Excellence and in 2021 received an Avery Fisher Career. In his Orchestra Hall debut, Elliott will perform Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme. Composed in tribute to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the charming and elegant work is the only piece Tchaikovsky wrote for cello soloist and orchestra.

The program will take place at Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday, April 18, at 11 a.m., and Friday, April 19, at 8 p.m., with ticket prices ranging from $50 to $129. Free tickets for all programs are available to young listeners ages 6 to 18 thanks to the Orchestra’s Hall Pass program. The performance on Friday, April 19, will be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities.

Additional repertoire selected by Poska—the chief conductor of the Flanders Symphony Orchestra—celebrates the arrival of springtime, and Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring will open the program. Originally composed as a ballet score to match the innovative modern choreography of Martha Graham, Copland’s suite was arranged for full orchestra in 1945. Written in eight sections and played without pause, Appalachian Spring tells the tale of a young pioneer couple in rural Pennsylvania through square dances, country fiddling and a famous finale built on the Shaker song Simple Gifts.

The concerts will conclude with Beethoven’s bright spirited Eighth Symphony. A leading contemporary interpreter of Beethoven, Poska released a recording of the composer’s Symphonies No. 1 and 7 with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra in 2021. Beaming with unconventional instrumental sounds, sly jokes and unexpected twists, the symphony is regarded as unusual compared to other orchestral works Beethoven crafted at the time—yet the Eighth would become one of the composer’s favorites. Like Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 is considered by many as a tribute to Mozart in its relaxed form and use of a relatively small orchestra.


About Kristiina Poska

Award-winning conductor Kristiina Poska is in high demand on the international music scene. She has held the post of chief conductor of Flanders Symphony Orchestra since the 2019-20 season and principal guest conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra since 2021- 22. This season, in addition to her debut with the Minnesota Orchestra, she makes her first appearance with the Frankfurt Museumsorchester, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, Orquesta Nacionales de España, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Rotterdam Philharmonic. She also returns to the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Orchestre National de France, Hallé Orchestra and Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and tours across Europe with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra. Equally prolific in operatic repertoire, this season she returns to Staatsoper Berlin to conduct a production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Poska’s previous roles have included principal conductor of Cappella Academica from 2006 to 2011, Kapellmeister at Komische Oper Berlin from 2012 to 2016 and music director for Theater Basel for the 2019-20 season. Her latest recording of Beethoven’s Symphonies No. 1 and 7 released on Fuga Libera/Outhere is the fruit of her successful collaboration with the Flanders Symphony Orchestra. More: harrisonparrott.com, kristiinaposka.com.

About Sterling Elliott

Cellist Sterling Elliott is a 2021 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipient and the winner of the Senior Division of the 2019 National Sphinx Competition. This season he debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra and the New Jersey Symphony, among other ensembles, and performs the world premiere of John Corigliano’s Phantasmagoria with the Orlando Philharmonic. He debuted at London’s Wigmore Hall in February. Last summer he made his orchestral debut with the San Francisco Symphony, performed at the Edinburgh Festival and returned to the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has a long history with the Sphinx Organization, from which he receives a Medal of Excellence this season. He also participates in the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Bowers Program and was recently named the YCAT–Music Masters Robey Artist by the London-based Young Classical Artists Trust. He is pursuing an Artist Diploma at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Joel Krosnick and Clara Kim. He is an ambassador of the Young Strings of America, a string sponsorship operated by Shar Music. He performs on a 1741 Gennaro Gagliano cello on loan through the Robert F. Smith Fine String Patron Program, in partnership with the Sphinx Organization. More: colbertartists.com, sterlingelliott.com.

Minnesota Orchestra Classical Concerts



Thursday, April 18, 2024, 11 a.m. / Orchestra Hall

Friday, April 19, 2024, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall*


Minnesota Orchestra

Kristiina Poska, conductor

Sterling Elliott, cello


COPLAND Appalachian Spring
TCHAIKOVSKY Variations on a Rococo Theme
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 8


Tickets: $50 to $129 [Free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18, thanks to the Hall Pass program.]

* The performance on Friday, April 19, will be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities.



Tickets and subscription packages can be purchased at minnesotaorchestra.org or by calling 612-371-5656. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

The 2023-2024 Classical Season is presented by Ameriprise Financial.

This concert is supported in part by the Sally and Ernest Lehmann Family Fund, in memory of Sally Lehmann.

The Hall Pass program makes free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18 for select Classical and Symphony in 60 concerts, and all kids under 18 for Family concerts. This program is sponsored by Cynthia and Jay Ihlenfeld. For more information, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/hallpass.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.