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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Past Stories

Revisiting Old Friends

Q&A with Composer Kareem Roustom

Meet President & CEO Michelle Miller Burns

Experience New Music With Us

Recent Articles:

Mahler, Bernstein and Me

By C. C. Yager

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Revisiting Old Friends

If you’re the type of person who seeks out unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, then this list is for you. Along with a series of new pieces this season, the Minnesota Orchestra will perform several works that are rarities here, having graced the Orchestra’s music stands only once or twice in its 115-year history. Here are a few of the highlights.

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Get to Know the OH+ Listening Station Composers

The Minnesota Orchestra’s upcoming season features the work of many great American composers, including Florence Price, Missy Mazzoli, Libby Larsen, and Amy Beach. Enjoy pieces by these four composers in our OH+ listening station, curated by Hymie’s Vintage Records, and read on to learn more about their lives and when you can hear the Orchestra perform their work during the 2018-2019 Season!

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Experience New Music With Us

The modern symphony orchestra has been built on centuries of musical traditions. Orchestral musicians have each trained for thousands of hours in classical techniques which have stood the test of time. Listeners might find familiarity and comfort in works by the great pillars of orchestral composing, such as Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and—especially here in Minnesota lately—Sibelius and Mahler. However, in this art form, there will always be room for new ideas, new voices and new sounds. 

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Northrop's Historic Pipe Organ

About the Northrop organ

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Johannesburg | Aug 18

On Saturday morning, August 18, the Minnesota Orchestra crew completed their final load-in of the tour at Johannesburg’s City Hall and the musicians boarded the buses for a short trek to the venue. Even the chilly winter morning couldn’t erase the afterglow of Friday night’s concert in Soweto!

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Soweto | Aug 17

Four musicians jumped on a bus in Johannesburg on Friday morning, August 17, headed to Soweto to attend a special Books for Africa event. Their day began with solo and chamber music performances for hundreds of students at Missourilaan Secondary School and ended with a grand Orchestra concert at one of South Africa's most historic venues.  

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Pretoria | Aug 16

On Thursday, August 16, the Orchestra performed their third concert of the South Africa tour, in the Aula Centre at the University of Pretoria. Before the performance, however, Minnesota Orchestra musicians fanned out around the campus, working with students from the University and from the South African National Youth Orchestra.

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Pretoria | Aug 15

The Orchestra headed to the University of Pretoria on Wednesday, August 15, for an afternoon side-by-side rehearsal with the South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) and an evening rehearsal with the Minnesota Chorale and Gauteng Choristers.

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Durban and Johannesburg | Aug 13-14

Musicians enjoyed a free day on Monday. Some spent the time in sunny Durban, while others opted for a trek to Pilanesberg National Park, roughly three hours drive from Johannesburg, for a short and sweet safari experience at Bakubung Lodge, complete with lions, hippos and giraffes.

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Durban | Aug 12

The Orchestra landed in Durban on Saturday night, immediately feeling the more temperate weather of this busy port city known for expansive Indian Ocean beaches and a subtropical climate in the “garden province” of KwaZulu-Natal. A cheerful band of Orchestra wind players headed out first thing on Sunday morning to join the young musicians of the KwaZulu-Natal Youth Wind Band in rehearsal.

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Cape Town | Aug 10-11

The spirit of Nelson Mandela was alive as the Minnesota Orchestra kicked off its South Africa Tour with a performance at Cape Town City Hall on Friday evening, August 10.

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Cape Town | Aug 8-9

Minnesota Orchestra musicians arrived in bright and breezy Cape Town on Wednesday morning, and if any spirits were lagging after the 11-hour night flight, a welcome-to-the-city performance by a traditional, brassy Kaapse Klopse band—this one called Happy Sounds Youth Development and comprising students from 12 to 18—helped to revive them.

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BBC Proms | Aug 6

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.

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The Piano Tuner Behind It All

As the Orchestra concludes its 2017-18 season at Orchestra Hall, it offers a big round of applause for someone who is not normally in the concert spotlight: retiring piano tuner Jerry Ouska, who served the Orchestra, its pianos and world-famous pianists for 34 years. By Dan Wascoe

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Harmonia Ubuntu

Bongani Ndodana-Breen

Born: August 1975, Queenstown, South Africa; now living in Cape Town, South Africa

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A Sensory-Friendly Concert For All

The Minnesota Orchestra invites you to mark your calendar and spread the word about the Family Concert on the afternoon of Saturday, July 14. The concert, which features music by Leonard Bernstein, Igor Stravinsky, John Williams and other favorite composers, will be the Orchestra’s first full-ensemble Sensory-Friendly Concert.

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Happy Fourth! A Classical Music Playlist

Happy Fourth!

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A Life with Music

By Dr. David Hilden

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“The Energy from the Orchestra was Palpable”

Roderick Cox remembers highlight moments of his Orchestra tenure (and we’ve got video!)

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Inside the Classics: Speaking Truth to Power

By Sam Bergman, viola and host of Inside the Classics

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Just added for the 18-19 season

Live at Orchestra Hall

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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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Program Notes: Britten and Schumann

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Program Notes: American Voices

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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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Program Notes: Liszt Piano Concerto

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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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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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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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Program Notes: A Christmas Oratorio

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Program Notes: Brahms' Fourth Symphony

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts the Reformation Symphony

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

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Program Notes: New York Rhythms

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Program Notes: Opera Finale: Strauss’ Salome

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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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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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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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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts Schubert

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Program Notes: Rite of Spring

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Program Notes: Mozart and Beethoven

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Program Notes: Hugh Wolff Conducts Mendelssohn

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Program Notes: Russian Nights

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Program Notes: A Tribute Concert to Sir Neville Marriner

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Program Notes: Roderick Cox Conducts Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky

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Program Notes: Vanska and Weilerstein

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Program Notes: Handel's Messiah

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Program Notes: Vänskä Conducts Mahler's Sixth

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Program Notes: New World Symphony

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Program Notes: Josefowicz Performs John Adams

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Program Notes: Celebrating Skrowaczewski

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Program Notes: Paulus Mass

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Program Notes: Season Opening

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Program Notes: Otello

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Program Notes: Beethoven Triple Concerto

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Program Notes: Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4

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Program Notes: Beethoven and Rachmaninoff

Please note: this program has changed. Read the press release for full details.

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Program Notes: Let's Dance

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The Best Piece

By my count, I’ve played on a couple of dozen Minnesota Orchestra recordings in the 15-plus years I’ve been employed here, and there are more than a few CDs in that stack that I’m quite proud to have been a part of. But it’s no hyperbole to say that I had been waiting my entire career to sit down and make the CD that we recorded in the spring of 2011.

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