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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Past Stories

Meet a Musician: R. Douglas Wright

"Sounds of the Cinema" - 2018 Symphony Ball

Andrew Litton Prepares a June Triple Bill

Recent Articles: Minnesota Orchestra Staff

Just added for the 18-19 season

Live at Orchestra Hall

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Get the Inside Scoop on Orchestra Rehearsals

Assistant Conductor Akiko Fujimoto shares insider tips on what to watch for while attending a Minnesota Orchestra open rehearsal.
Program Notes: Bernstein and Walton

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Program Notes: Beethoven and Berlioz

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts Mahler's Fourth

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Meet a Musician: R. Douglas Wright

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 1995
Position: Principal Trombone
Hometown: Hopewell, VA
Education: New England Conservatory; Boston University

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"Sounds of the Cinema" - 2018 Symphony Ball

Thanks to the many community members and volunteers who generously invested their time, talents, energy, and financial support, the 2018 Symphony Ball was a spectacular success. More than 1,200 guests experienced the magic of music in the movies brought to life by your Minnesota Orchestra and special guest jeremy messersmith.

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Meet a Musician: Augustin Hadelich

Violinist Augustin Hadelich performs Beethoven's Violin Concerto in concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra on June 8 and 9, under the direction of German conductor Jun Märkl. We asked Hadelich to tell us about his favorite moments in this concerto, and about his greatest influences, travels and recent projects (including an animated short film). 

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Meet a Guest Artist: Christine Van Loo

Christine Van Loo has performed with the acrobatic troupe Cirque de la Symphonie for a decade and is considered a legend in the sport of acrobatic gymnastics. On May 18 and 19, she performs onstage, above stage and flying through the air at Orchestra Hall in concerts with Cirque de la Symphonie, the Minnesota Orchestra and conductor Sarah Hicks. The Minnesota Orchestra musicians may be acrobats on their instruments, but having an aerialist like Christine in Orchestra Hall is a rare treat, and we wanted to learn more about her before these upcoming shows.

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Andrew Litton Prepares a June Triple Bill

By Dan Wascoe

When Andrew Litton returns to lead the Minnesota Orchestra June 1 and 2, he’ll bring to the podium three old friends—pieces he knows well but that seldom get performed in Orchestra Hall.

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Common Chords: Mankato

Take a look back at the Minnesota Orchestra's recent stop in Mankato from April 25-27. This visit to the Minnesota River Valley is all part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Common Chords program, which establishes partnerships between the Orchestra and Greater Minnesota cities, each culminating in its own unique residency.

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Program Notes: Britten and Schumann

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Program Notes: American Voices

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Symphony Ball Q&A with Wendy Williams

“Sounds of the Cinema” is the theme of the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2018 Symphony Ball gala fundraiser, which takes place on Saturday, May 12. Complete details of the Orchestra’s performance are being kept as a surprise for unveiling at Symphony Ball, but Orchestra flutist Wendy Williams gave us a few clues and background on how the music was selected, and details about special guest performer jeremy messersmith.

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Jeff Beal's Concerto for Flute and Orchestra

Jeff Beal may be best known as a composer of music for films and television, but his newly-written Flute Concerto has its origins not in Hollywood—nor the Washington D.C. of his Emmy Award-winning score for Netflix’s House of Cards. Instead the genesis came in Stockholm, Sweden, where Beal worked out the basic parameters of the concerto over coffee and conversation with flutist Sharon Bezaly in June 2015.

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Program Notes: Cameron Carpenter Plays Rachmaninoff

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Program Notes: Osmo Vänskä and Joshua Bell

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Audience spotlight: My unexpected connection with the Minnesota Orchestra

By audience member David Steinmeyer

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Program Notes: Liszt Piano Concerto

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Minnesota Orchestra launches new Mauer recording project

The Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä on Sunday announced a brand-new initiative to record the music of Minnesota Twins first baseman Joe Mauer.

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Cloud Cult’s “Live Like You Mean It” Exhibit

In conjunction with Cloud Cult’s performances with the Minnesota Orchestra on April 7 and 8, Cloud Cult has created an interactive “Live Like You Mean It” art exhibit in Orchestra Hall’s lobby, free and open to the public on April 7 and 8.

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Q&A with Symphony Ball Chairs Karen and Lloyd Kepple

Lights, camera, action! Symphony Ball 2018, “Sounds of the Cinema,” is bringing Hollywood magic to Orchestra Hall on Saturday, May 12, for a gala evening of film music, dining, auctions, dancing and good company, all for a great cause: your Minnesota Orchestra. Ball Chairs Karen and Lloyd Kepple share thoughts on Symphony Ball—the Orchestra’s largest annual fundraiser.

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“The Best Conversation I Ever Had”

Assistant Conductor Akiko Fujimoto shares thoughts on her new Minnesota Orchestra position, running a good rehearsal, and the best conversation she ever had.

By Dan Wascoe

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Vikings Halftime Performance

The last time The Steeles played with MN Orch it was on the fifty-yard line! Watch it here in this tribute to Prince at the opening of the U.S. Bank Stadium.
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Silver Linings

by Adam Kuenzel

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts Mahler's Titan Symphony

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Program Notes: Debussy's La Mer

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Meet a Musician: Vocalist China Forbes

Vocalist China Forbes began singing with Pink Martini in 1995 and has since co-written many of the ensemble’s most beloved songs with Thomas Lauderdale. She takes the stage at Orchestra Hall with Pink Martini and the Minnesota Orchestra on March 9 and 10.

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Program Notes: Beethoven's Emperor Concerto

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Program Notes: West Side Story

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Program Notes: Fauré Requiem

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Midwest Tour 2018: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Orchestra musicians and staff were warmly welcomed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this week.

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Midwest Tour 2018: Chicago

The Midwest tour concluded on Sunday afternoon with a performance at the Chicago Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This concert marked the Orchestra’s first performance on Chicago’s Orchestra Hall stage in over 50 years; the last was in 1966 under then-Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski.

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Midwest Tour 2018: Indiana University

Just as the Minnesota Orchestra was scheduled to head off on its Midwest tour, a blizzard hit Minneapolis, leaving hundreds of flights grounded. Many of the musicians would have to wait another day to begin their journey to Indiana.

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Meet the Annotator: Q&A with program note writer Eric Bromberger

When you attend a Minnesota Orchestra concert, you may start out by reading program notes. Learn more about who writes program notes and their unique backgrounds and perspectives in our new “Meet the Annotator” Q&A series. First up is Eric Bromberger, who most recently wrote program notes for our Tchaikovsky Marathon.

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1

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Tchaikovsky Marathon: Music by a (mostly) young composer
Some composers achieve success effortlessly. Others struggle for years. Tchaikovsky was in the latter camp. He made his first attempt at composition at age 4, but his apprenticeship was long and difficult. Compounding the problem was Tchaikovsky’s sensitivity to criticism, both from others and from continual self-doubt. Yet even as a young composer he produced some radiant scores, and this concert offers two pieces that had to overcome much opposition. The First Symphony attracted so much criticism while still in manuscript that Tchaikovsky could get only individual movements performed and had to wait years for a complete performance. The First Piano Concerto provoked the most destructive criticism the composer ever faced. But it also revealed a tough confidence beneath his perpetual self-doubt: Tchaikovsky refused to make any changes, and the concerto went on to become one of his best-loved works.

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4

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Tchaikovsky Marathon: Tchaikovsky and Italy
All three pieces on this program have a connection to Italy, and all three were at least partially composed there. The connection with Capriccio italien is clear: the music was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s visit to Rome in 1880. He fell in love with that great city and incorporated some of its music into the Capriccio. The other two works come from a less happy moment in Tchaikovsky’s life, the aftermath of his disastrous marriage, when the stunned composer left Moscow and fled to Western Europe. He did some of the work on the Second Piano Concerto in Rome and completed the Fourth Symphony in San Remo, on the shores of the Mediterranean. Italy is much less an “influence” on these two works than on the Capriccio, but the fact that Tchaikovsky—at a moment of great personal distress—would choose to live and work in Italy may tell us all we need to know about his feelings for that country.

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6

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Tchaikovsky Marathon: Slavic heritage
Like so many Russian composers, Tchaikovsky was proud of his Slavic heritage. “I love passionately the Russian character in all its expression,” he said, a sentiment that would be echoed by The Mighty Five—Cui, Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov—and by many other Russian composers. This program begins with two works, both written when Tchaikovsky was in his thirties, that make that passion clear. His Marche Slave (Slavic March) had a frankly political purpose: Tchaikovsky was enlisted to aid the effort to get the Russian government to intervene militarily to protect their Serbian cousins. The Violin Concerto had no such purpose, but this music—in a purely classical form—is infused with a Russian character all its own, as a hostile critic was quick to point out. Eduard Hanslick, doyen of the Viennese musical establishment, recoiled before the concerto’s “Russian-ness.” Today we value it precisely for that distinct character.

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Symphonies No. 2 & 5

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Tchaikovsky Marathon: Influences
We think of Tchaikovsky as so original, so unique, that it comes as a surprise to recognize that there were strong influences on his music. The first of these was Russian folk music. Like many other Russian composers of his generation, Tchaikovsky felt the charm of the music he heard sung around him on the streets and in the fields. His Second Symphony—which opens this program—incorporates a number of ancient folksongs from the Ukraine. Another (and quite unexpected) influence on Tchaikovsky was the music of Mozart. Those two may seem very different people and composers, but Tchaikovsky admired the clarity and emotional balance of Mozart’s music; the Rococo Variations represent his effort to write this kind of music. The Fifth Symphony, however, finds Tchaikovsky speaking in a voice that is very much his own.

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 3 and Piano Concerto No. 3

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Tchaikovsky Marathon: Hardly failures
At first glance, this program might seem to offer a collection of Tchaikovsky’s misfires. It opens with his least-familiar symphony, continues with a piano concerto he assembled from an abandoned symphony, and concludes with a ballet score that brought down on the poor composer the most painful failure he ever endured professionally. Though these three works were not immediate triumphs for Tchaikovsky, they clearly flow from the pen of a master, and are most worthy of listening.

It may seem incomprehensible that Tchaikovsky’s music for Swan Lake could have been attacked for its complexity or derided for being “too Wagnerian,” yet it was. Today it ranks as one of his most popular ballets (and in recent years, crossed paths with cinema through its central focus in the film Black Swan). The Third may be the least-played of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, but it offers distinct pleasures of its own: it is Tchaikovsky’s only symphony in a major key, and one senses its kinship with ballet throughout. Tchaikovsky composed a symphony in 1892, but abandoned it. Rather than burning his manuscript, though, he converted the symphony’s first movement into a piano concerto. This concerto is rarely played, so enjoy this performance—Tchaikovsky himself never heard it.

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Chopin, the Piano and Me

by Al Sicherman

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Meet an Artist: Alejandro Vega

On December 21, the Minnesota Orchestra presents two performances of a new concert called  Home for the Holidays. Middle-schooler Alejandro Vega —who is a bright, young actor and singer — makes his Minnesota Orchestra debut in these performances. We took some time to get to know Alejandro and talk about his role in this new show as we prepare for the concerts. 

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Program Notes: A Christmas Oratorio

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Meet A Musician: Peter McGuire

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2003-2012, 2016-current
Position:
Principal Second Violin
Hometown:
Mankato, Minnesota

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Arts Access: A musical collaboration across the Twin Cities

Young musicians from two local organizations will perform before Minnesota Orchestra concerts at Orchestra Hall Thursday and Friday.

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Meet a Musician: Gabriel Campos Zamora

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2016
Position:
Principal Clarinet
Hometown:
San José, Costa Rica
Education:  
The Colburn Conservatory, Los Angeles, CA   

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Program Notes: Brahms' Fourth Symphony

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The Live Radio Experience: “Making a Little Community for a Few Hours on a Friday night”

By Brian Newhouse

I remember that night so well because I’d never kicked in a door before. I was a few months out of college and living alone in a rented farmhouse. The cornfields that stretched for miles around the house were buried in snow. A northwest wind had drifted the roads shut and badgered the house all day. Just after dinner the bathtub pipes burst. It sounded like two small firecrackers. Twin roostertails of water sprouted from the pipes and sprayed the walls.

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts the Reformation Symphony

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Happy 90th birthday to our Composer Laureate Dominick Argento!

Happy 90th birthday to our Composer Laureate Dominick Argento! The Minnesota Orchestra is honored to be associated with this Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, who has called Minnesota his home since 1958. He’d certainly belong on a “Mount Rushmore” of Minnesota composers, if one were ever created. Please join us in wishing him a happy 90th birthday!
Meet A Musician: Sarah Grimes

Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2016
Section: First Violin
Hometown: Shoreview, MN
Education: Northwestern University

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Program Notes: Beethoven and Prokofiev

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Program Notes: Roderick Cox Conducts Rachmaninoff

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Program Notes: Celebrating Finland's Centennial

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A Star-Spangled Tradition

On the morning of September 14, the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2017-18 season will begin with the sound of a snare drum, rolling into the familiar opening chords of The Star-Spangled Banner, as the audience will rise to sing Francis Scott Key’s lyrics. This season-opening tradition extends back several decades, most often using an orchestration custom-made by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Orchestra’s music director from 1960 to 1979, who passed away in February of this year.

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Program Notes: Vänskä Opens the Season with Stravinsky's Firebird

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Retired musician spotlight: Q&A with Mina Fisher

It’s our pleasure to check in with retired Minnesota Orchestra cellist Mina Fisher, a member of the Orchestra from 1979 to 2012. Fisher is the Producing Artistic Director of the Bakken Trio, which this month presents the premiere of NADIA, Fisher’s original play about 20th-century composition teacher and renaissance woman Nadia Boulanger. We spoke with her about Boulanger, her new play and what else she’s been up to since retiring.

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Targaryen, Lannister vie to become next Sommerfest Artistic Director

Various rulers of Westeros pursue Minnesota Orchestra conducting post

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Sommerfest! New York Rhythms: Gershwin, Litton and Broadway

Andrew Litton started his last weekend as Sommerfest Artistic Director with a sold-out performance that included members of the the New York City Ballet! All photos © Courtney Perry

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Meet the Audience - Sig and Marti Reckdahl

Sig and Marti Reckdahl are living proof that you don’t need to play an instrument to foster a lifelong love of classical music.

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Program Notes: New York Rhythms

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Program Notes: Opera Finale: Strauss’ Salome

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Swing On! Doc's Big Band Birthday Bash

We celebrated legendary trumpeter and pops conductor laureate Doc Seversinen's 90th birthday this Saturday at Orchestra Hall. It was a whirlwind musical adventure featuring big band classics, opera and classical favorites, and stellar guest artists. Happy Birthday, Doc!

Photos by Greg Helgeson

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Program Notes: The Danube Calls: An Evening of Waltzes

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Program Notes: Andrew Litton and André Watts

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Season Finale: Vänskä Conducts Mahler's Second

Our 2016-17 season comes to a close this weekend with performances of Mahler's Symphony No. 2, Resurrection, conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and featuring the Minnesota Chorale.

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Cycling to the Symphony: A Noteworthy Experience

This article originally appeared on the streets.mn website.

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Osmo Vänskä and Yo-Yo Ma

The Minnesota Orchestra was honored to welcome living legend Yo-Yo Ma to our stage last night, performing Haydn's Cello Concerto in C major before a sold-out audience.

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Program Notes: Season Finale: Vänskä Conducts Mahler’s Second

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Program Notes: Osmo Vänskä and Yo-Yo Ma

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Program Notes: Mozart and Debussy

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Program Notes: Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra

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Common Chords 2017: Grand Rapids

The Orchestra headed east on the pine tree-flanked Highway 2 on Thursday morning, traveling from Bemidji to Grand Rapids—the home of Judy Garland, 1000 lakes and the Reif Center, where the Orchestra will play on Friday night.

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Common Chords 2017: Bemidji

Paul Bunyan welcomed the Minnesota Orchestra to blustery Bemidji on Wednesday. The Orchestra arrived here as part of a one-week, three-city Common Chords tour across Minnesota that began in the western part of the state with a Monday night performance in Willmar.

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Common Chords: Greater Minnesota

The Minnesota Orchestra embarks on a three-city Minnesota Tour, visiting Willmar, Bemidji and Grand Rapids to offer concerts and educational activities. Watch this space for photos, video and press coverage throughout the tour! Common Chords Home »

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Program Notes: Mozart Sinfonia Concertante

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Program Notes: Haydn and Mozart

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Program Notes: Lise de la Salle Plays Ravel

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Program Notes: Edo de Waart Returns

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Meet a Musician: Dessa

Rapper-singer-writer Dessa’s upcoming debut with the Minnesota Orchestra is one of the most-anticipated programs of the season. The indie music star, a member of the Minneapolis-based Doomtree hip hop collective, answered a few questions about her music, kites, Broadway musicals and what’s in store for the April 14 and 15 concerts conducted by Sarah Hicks.

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Stanislaw Skrowaczewski: Reflections from the Minnesota Orchestra Family

The classical music world lost a legend on February 21, 2017, when Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director from 1960 to 1979, died at age 93. Musicians, staff, board members, audiences and other members of the Orchestra family shared their memories of Skrowaczewski.

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Stravinsky's Rite of Spring

Spring came to Minnesota this weekend—and we celebrated it with Stravinsky's revolutionary Rite of Spring. Photos by Courtney Perry.

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts Schubert

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Dessa, an EnviroRider and a greener Orchestra Hall

Minnesota-based rapper-singer-essayist Dessa is known for her incredible performances onstage and in recordings, including her recent single on the Billboard chart-topping Hamilton Mixtape released last fall. On or off the stage, though, Dessa is also a passionate advocate for our planet, encouraging all of her partners (including the Minnesota Orchestra!) to be as environmentally conscious as possible. 

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Program Notes: Rite of Spring

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A Night with the Minnesota Orchestra

Student Ambassador Alexa Sorenson shared this wonderful account of her evening out at the Orchestra this winter.

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Program Notes: Mozart and Beethoven

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Meet A Musician: Rebecca Albers

Member since: 2010
Position: 
Assistant Principal Viola
Hometown: 
Longmont, CO
Education: 
The Juilliard School

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Inside the Classic: Bartók's Farewell + Campus Night

On March 3, the Minnesota Orchestra dove into Hungarian Composer Béla Bartók's deathbed masterpiece "Concerto for Orchestra", with host Sam Bergman and conductor Sarah Hicks. Our fantastic Student Ambassadors also brought nearly 400 students to Orchestra Hall and hosted many free student activities for our spring Campus Night event!

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Remembering Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1923-2017)

On Tuesday, February 21, 2017, Minnesota Orchestra Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski passed away, at the age of 93.

Tributes to Maestro Skrowaczewski have poured in following the news of his death, and here are a collection of them that outline his life and legacy.

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Meet a Musician: Conductor Hugh Wolff

Familiar to many Twin Cities orchestra fans, Hugh Wolff was the principal conductor and music director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra from 1988 to 2000. This September, he begins his tenure as the next Music Director of the National Orchestra of Belgium. He conducts the Minnesota Orchestra on February 23 to 25 in performances of Adès Dances from Powder Her Face, Bartók's Violin Concerto with violinist Karen Gomyo, and Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony. We caught up with him to ask a few questions before he arrives in Minneapolis for these concerts.

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Program Notes: Hugh Wolff Conducts Mendelssohn

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Roderick Cox Conducts Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky

Associate Conductor Roderick Cox made his subscription concert debut this weekend, conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in works by Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Photos © Greg Helgeson

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Osmo Vänskä, Alisa Weilerstein, and Finland 100

Orchestra Hall felt more like Helsinki on January 13th! Minneapolis helped kick off an American celebration of the nation of Finland's 100th birthday, complete with Finnish folk music in the Roberta Mann Grand Foyer, a visit from Finnish Ambassador to the U.S. Kirsti Kauppi, and - of course - a traveling sauna. The evening's program featured music from Finnish composers Kalevi Aho and Jean Sibelius, and the orchestra welcomed cello dynamo Alisa Weilerstein for a stunning interpretation of Dvořák's Cello Concerto. Kippis!

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Florida 2017: Miami

The Minnesota Orchestra concluded its three-city Florida tour with a performance at Miami's Arsht Center on Tuesday. All photos © Justin Namon.

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Florida 2017: Naples

The Minnesota Orchestra launched a three-city Florida tour on Sunday evening with a performance in Naples. Playing at Artis-Naples, the major venue for visual and performing arts in this southwestern Florida city, Music Director Osmo Vänskä led the Orchestra in Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Gejia and Sibelius’ masterful Fifth Symphony. MacArthur fellowship winner Alisa Weilerstein joined Osmo and the Orchestra for a performance of Dvořák’s beautiful Cello Concerto. If the program sounds appealing, you can hear it at Orchestra Hall this weekend. Before returning to Minneapolis though, the Orchestra will first perform for sun-belt audiences this week in Sarasota and Miami. All photos © Erik Kellar.

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Program Notes: Roderick Cox Conducts Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky

Download program page (pdf) | Buy tickets to this performance, January 19th, 20th and 21st

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Meet a Musician: David Pharris

Member since: 2005
Position: Clarinet
Hometown: Columbus, GA
Education: Northwestern University

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Photos: New Year's Celebrations

We kicked off 2017 with soprano Dawn Upshaw and Music Director Osmo Vänskä, performing music from the American songbook as well as Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2. All photos © Greg Helgeson.

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Touchdowns Beyond the End Zone

Photo: Osmo Vänskä perform Beethoven's Fifth at US Bank Stadium, © Travis Anderson 2016.

The day was Thursday, September 15: three days before the Minnesota Vikings home opener game against the Green Bay Packers at the new U.S. Bank Stadium. Late in the day I checked my email—and up popped a message from Kärsten Jensen, the Minnesota Orchestra’s events, personnel and volunteer manager, calling for more volunteers to help with the Orchestra’s performance at the halftime show for Sunday’s game. Volunteers were to report at the stadium for practice the next day, Friday, at 8 a.m. It would also require a good share of Saturday and, of course, game day.

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