On August 6, the Minnesota Orchestra made a triumphant return to the BBC Proms, the world’s largest classical music festival, with an all-American program. Music Director Osmo Vänskä led the Orchestra in a performance of Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F, featuring Inon Barnatan as soloist, and Charles Ives’ visionary Symphony No. 2.
"With the Minnesota players alert and precise from the get-go, it opened the programme with a burst of vitality that mellowed into warmth..."
-George Hall, Financial Times (London)
Keeping with tradition, the Prommers injected their humor into the concert experience—applauding Concertmaster Erin Keefe as she sounded the ‘A’ on the piano to tune the orchestra and shouting “Heave, Ho!” as the stage crew lifted the lid of the piano in anticipation of Barnatan’s performance. After his performance, the Prommers wanted more, stomping their feet as a request for an encore, and the soloist obliged, returning to the stage to perform a virtuosic, playful and improvisational rendition of Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm.
"This was as fine a reading as I've heard in years, up there with the greats… Barnatan's encore, Earl Wild's Virtuoso Étude on 'I got Rhythm', was swish and light-fingered, classically cool with a dizzy suggestion of Domenico Scarlatti two-hundred years on, cigars and a bourbon for backcloth: superb."
-Ateş Orga, Classical Source
Although there were moments of informality and humor, the full house of eager fans was rapt by the Orchestra’s performance throughout the evening.
After a rousing conclusion of the Ives Symphony, the audience erupted into thunderous applause. As he returned to the stage for the encore, Vänskä spoke about the Orchestra’s South Africa tour in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s Centenary and dedicated the Orchestra’s encore, Shosholoza—a traditional South African song—to the people of South Africa.
What a moving end to the @mn_orchestra and @OsmoVanska Prom tonight. The whole orchestra singing and playing an arrangement by Jaakko Kuusisto of Shosholoza, a traditional song of South Africa, to celebrate 100 years since Nelson Mandela’s birth.— BBC Proms (@bbcproms) August 6, 2018
Mary Miller, a resident of Brighton, Sussex, shared her enthusiasm after the concert with an Orchestra staffer. “The Orchestra played extremely well,” she said, “and it was a real treat for us to hear an all-American program.”
Belfast native Andrew Sloan said he enjoyed his first-ever Proms concert, adding that he’ll be back the next time the Minnesota Orchestra comes to town.
The concert, broadcast live across Minnesota on Classical MPR and throughout the U.K. on BBC Radio 3, was the prelude to the Orchestra’s five-city tour of South Africa, which begins this week in Cape Town with a series of engagement activities and a sold-out concert at Cape Town's City Hall on Friday evening.
Musicians and staff arrived yesterday afternoon at Royal Albert Hall for rehearsal in preparation for the evening’s concert. Photographer Travis Anderson captured a behind-the-scenes look during the rehearsal.
Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Concertmaster Erin Keefe enter Royal Albert Hall for the Orchestra’s afternoon rehearsal.
The low brass section rehearses the encore, Shosholoza, a traditional South African song. Sung by Mandela while he was imprisoned at Robben Island, the tune has unofficially become the country’s second anthem.
"Finally, the concert’s knockout punch: the encore of the South African miners’ song Shosholoza, the country’s unofficial national anthem, delivered with bone-shaking panache by the orchestra’s singing musicians. South Africa, look out."
-Geoff Brown, The Times
Principal Trumpet Manny Laureano uses a Greek fisherman’s cap as a mute in the Gershwin piece. In the score, Gershwin called for the crown of a felt hat. Laureano, like other trumpeters, has experimented with different types of felt and felt hats, but found that his authentic Greek fisherman’s cap produces the purest sound and intonation.
Rehearsal and behind-the-scenes photography by Travis Anderson. Concert photography by Chris Christodoulou.
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