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 WascoeRead more
Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director
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 WascoeRead more
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.Read more
Minnesota Orchestra member since: September 2017
Position/section: Principal Bassoon
Hometown: Tang Shan, China
Education: M.M., Rice University, B.M., Oberlin College
Orchestra musicians and staff were warmly welcomed to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this week.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.Read more
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.Read more
Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2003-2012, 2016-current
Position:Principal Second Violin
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.Read more
Young musicians from two local organizations will perform before Minnesota Orchestra concerts at Orchestra Hall Thursday and Friday.Read more
Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2016
Position: Principal Clarinet
Hometown: San José, Costa Rica
Education: The Colburn Conservatory, Los Angeles, CA
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Minnesota Orchestra member since: 2016
Section: First Violin
Hometown: Shoreview, MN
Education: Northwestern University
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.Read more
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.Read more
Member since: 2016
Position: Associate Principal Cello
Hometown: Tallinn, Estonia
Education: Sibelius Academy, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Our guest blogger Mandy Meisner has generously shared her thoughts on being inspired to become a Minnesota Orchestra subscriber for the first time.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.”Read more
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 PerryRead more
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.Read more
Sig and Marti Reckdahl are living proof that you don’t need to play an instrument to foster a lifelong love of classical music.Read more
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 HelgesonRead more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
From the first time I heard a cello, I have loved this instrument whose lush golden sounds are the closest to the human voice.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Walt Whitman, the great music lover among our poets, says this wise line in “A Song of Occupations”: All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
The stakes are high: it’s Game 163 of the 2009 baseball season, we’re in extra innings and the score is tied. We need the runner now on second base to score the winning run—a trip to the playoffs is on the line! It’s the most important game of the season, and I’m hard at work playing for the Minnesota Twins—playing organ, that is.Read more
Spring came to Minnesota this weekend—and we celebrated it with Stravinsky's revolutionary Rite of Spring. Photos by Courtney Perry.Read more
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.Read more
It was a disappointing move-in day. My new dorm at DePaul University in Chicago was not only a dismal, un-air-conditioned, cinderblock eyesore, but it was spitting distance from the Fullerton “L” stop. And it was eye level with the trains. I was bombarded by constant rumbles and screeches of trains, punctuated by the barking of a conductor: “FULLERTON...THIS IS FULLERTON....NEXT STOP... BELMONT!” On hot nights I had to keep my windows open, and the noise was even louder. I might as well have tried sleeping directly on the Fullerton platform. My first night in that building, I angrily counted trains instead of sheep.Read more
Student Ambassador Alexa Sorenson shared this wonderful account of her evening out at the Orchestra this winter.Read more
Member since: 2010
Position: Assistant Principal Viola
Hometown: Longmont, CO
Education: The Juilliard School
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!Read more
Last month we invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to interview Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel in advance of his performance of a Bach Flute Partita at the January 22 Chamber Music in the Target Atrium concert. We’re delighted that Mandy has written us this follow-up reflection on the performance.
Of all the days of the week, Sunday remains one of my favorite.Read more
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.
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.Read more
Although I play viola in the Minnesota Orchestra, I also work in a wonderful museum—one of amazing historic musical treasures that I get to marvel at every day. I’m talking about the rare stringed instruments played by my colleagues. Assembled in front of you is a remarkable collection of violins, cellos and basses of antique vintage, a few of which date back to the late 1600s. (You might notice that I didn’t mention violas. More on that later.) The point is, much of the “lumber” you are listening to is of coveted Italian ancestry and centuries old.Read more
Last week, 7 trailblazing young composers came to Orchestra Hall for our annual Composer Institute—a whirlwind week of education and collaboration culminating in a performance of their works on Friday night! Photos by Greg Helgeson.Read more
I’ve just returned to my room after a brief breakfast with Mike Boyman and Michael Foumai before they head to the airport. Judy was supposed to join us, but I hope she is sleeping and having an awesome dream about tigers. Mike and I both looked a bit scraggly because we could barely sleep last night after the concert–our minds were still spinning. After such an intense and amazing week, we are all happy and exhausted.Read more
It is Tuesday evening and I am back in my hotel room after the second long day of presentations, meetings and fun conversations. Everyone is excited and jittery about the first rehearsals, which will finally take place tomorrow afternoon. We’ve talked a lot about our pieces and their potential issues, but no one has actually heard anything yet! Since the rehearsals alone will shift the week into an entirely different gear, I’d like to write a bit about what we’ve covered so far.Read more
My name is Tonia Ko, and I will be writing about the 2017 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute as it happens. I’m looking forward to seeing the other six composers on Sunday after my short flight from Kansas City to Minneapolis. (No winter weather joke here, because it is only a little bit colder). Starting Monday, I anticipate many mind- and ear-opening sessions with Kevin Puts, Osmo Vänskä, and the orchestra.Read more
Associate Conductor Roderick Cox made his subscription concert debut this weekend, conducting the Minnesota Orchestra in works by Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. Photos © Greg HelgesonRead more
This month we’ve invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to interview the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal flute, Adam Kuenzel, in advance of the flute section’s performance at the January 22 Chamber Music in the Target Atrium concert. As Mandy notes in her introduction, a lifetime of music can often have the simplest of starts.Read more
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!Read more