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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Past Stories

Q&A with Associate Concertmaster Roger Frisch

A Life with Music

“The Energy from the Orchestra was Palpable”

Recent Articles:

Akiko Fujimoto Named Associate Conductor

The Minnesota Orchestra announced this month that Akiko Fujimoto, who joined the Orchestra’s artistic roster as assistant conductor in 2017, has been named associate conductor for the 2018-19 season.

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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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Q&A with Associate Concertmaster Roger Frisch

Associate Concertmaster Roger Frisch's retirement at the end of August 2018 marks the end of a memorable 44-year career. Congratulations, Roger!

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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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Celebrating Kevin Smith

When Kevin Smith joined the Minnesota Orchestra as interim President and CEO in July 2014, the Orchestra was emerging from a 16-month lockout, with questions lingering about its ability to raise donations, sell subscriptions and re-establish relationships.

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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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Heartstrings

Guest blogger Mandy Meisner waited more than 20 years to hear her teenage idol in person.

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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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Giving Back: Getting to Know Minnesota Orchestra's First Good Fellow

Orchestra Hall is quiet and tuba player Jason Tanksley sits alone on the stage, performing some of the most challenging passages in the tuba’s repertoire. He plays behind a large opaque screen; on the other side sits a committee of Minnesota Orchestra musicians, each of whom is listening carefully. It’s a typical set-up for an orchestral audition, but this one is out of the ordinary.

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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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Meet a Musician: Maureen Conroy

Minnesota Orchestra Member Since: 2017
Position: Principal Librarian
Hometown: Valencia, CA
Education: University of California, Santa Barbara; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 

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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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Remember the Titans

by guest blogger Mandy Meisner

As the first tease of spring arrived with much anticipation, a friend and I spent the evening of March 16 at Orchestra Hall for a night of Weill and Mahler.

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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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I'm No Expert

Something funny has happened. People assume I know a lot about music.

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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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Meet a Musician: Fei Xie

Minnesota Orchestra member since: September 2017
Position/section: Principal Bassoon
Hometown:
Tang Shan, China
Education:  
M.M., Rice University, B.M., Oberlin College

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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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Winter Dreaming

Guest blogger Mandy Meisner rings in 2018 at Orchestra Hall.

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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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Hope Never Sounded So Good

On October 7th, guest blogger Mandy Meisner went to the “Send Me Hope” concert conducted by Roderick Cox. How was this concert different than the usual fare? Read on to find out.

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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!
Dissection: Observing a Rehearsal at Orchestra Hall

Earlier this month, we invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to observe a Minnesota Orchestra rehearsal led by Associate Conductor Roderick Cox. What happens to get the music ready for an audience? Read on to find out.

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Bach, Mendelssohn, Luther and Leipzig: Musical Echoes of the Reformation

Carla Waldemar shares her thoughts on music and the Reformation, inspired by her recent travels to Leipzig, just in time for the Minnesota Orchestra’s Reformation-themed concerts from November 2 to 4.

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Meet A Musician: Sarah Grimes

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

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Meet a Conductor: Nathalie Stutzmann

French conductor and contralto Nathalie Stutzmann visits Orchestra Hall on October 12, 13 and 14 to conduct the Minnesota Orchestra in music by Prokofiev, Mozart and Beethoven. We’ve asked her a few questions about her early musical memories, life as a traveling musician, her hobbies and upcoming projects, and the music she conducts here this weekend.

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Program Notes: Beethoven and Prokofiev

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Program Notes: Roderick Cox Conducts Rachmaninoff

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Meet a Musician: Alessio Bax

Pianist Alessio Bax performs Grieg's Piano Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra in concerts on October 5 and 6. We asked him a few questions about where he finds inspiration, what he likes to do for fun on tour and about the concerto he performs in Minneapolis this weekend.

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Meet A Musician: Silver Ainomäe

Member since: 2016
Position: 
Associate Principal Cello   
Hometown:
Tallinn, Estonia
Education:
Sibelius Academy, Guildhall School of Music and Drama   

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Program Notes: Celebrating Finland's Centennial

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Fan Club

Our guest blogger Mandy Meisner has generously shared her thoughts on being inspired to become a Minnesota Orchestra subscriber for the first time.

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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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Meet a Musician: James Ehnes

Canadian violinist James Ehnes first performed with the Minnesota Orchestra in 1993 and has returned many times since as a soloist and chamber musician. He joins Osmo Vänskä and the Orchestra for Season Opening concerts on September 14, 15 and 16, performing the U.S. premiere of Anders Hillborg's Violin Concerto No. 2. Then, he returns in January 2018 to perform Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto during the Orchestra's Tchaikovsky Marathon. We asked him to tell us a little more about himself, what to listen for in these performances and his longstanding relationship with the Minnesota Orchestra.

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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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A Night on the Silk Road: A journey worth taking

Earlier this summer, our guest blogger Mandy Meisner attended the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2017 Symphony Ball, titled “A Night on the Silk Road.” Six weeks later, we’ve invited her to write about that evening of music, festivities and camaraderie—and reflect on what she calls “a respite from my usual route.”

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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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Camping with Strings Attached—Plus Brass, Woodwinds, Percussion

For many Minnesotans, summer camp means mosquitos, al fresco cooking, fishing, and fireside singalongs of old-time camp tunes. Few campers, however, can report learning to play the boisterous Roman Carnival Overture by Hector Berlioz. Or performing it in a sold-out concert hall alongside world-class members of the Minnesota Orchestra led by Osmo Vänskä. Or earning a standing ovation.

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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

Download program page (pdf) | Buy tickets to this performance, August 4th

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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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Music, Painting and Debussy: Beyond the Surface

At this week’s Minnesota Orchestra concerts, Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium will be transformed into a gallery filled with paintings, as Minnesota artist Mary Pettis presents a solo art exhibition titled Beyond the Surface, inspired primarily by the brilliant Debussy work, Images for Orchestra, that will be performed at those concerts. Mary has generously shared her thoughts on her exhibition, the inspiration for the paintings, and the interplay between visual arts and music.

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

Download program page (pdf) | Buy tickets to this performance, June 16, 17 and 18

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Program Notes: Osmo Vänskä and Yo-Yo Ma

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A New Symphonic Fantasy at Symphony Ball

Symphony Ball is less than a month away! The Minnesota Orchestra’s gala fundraiser, “A Night on the Silk Road,” will be held on June 24 and will feature a very special performance by the Minnesota Orchestra. We caught up with Kenneth Huber, Chair of the Symphony Ball’s Music/Entertainment Committee, for a Q&A session to learn more.

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Program Notes: Mozart and Debussy

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Program Notes: Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra

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