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Inside the Music

An Orchestra Hall First Years in the Making

Of all the Neoclassical composers who put a 20th-century spin on Classical-era traditions, none may be more famous that Igor Stravinsky or Paul Hindemith—but few were more versatile than American composer Ulysses Kay, whose centennial passed just five years ago. Best known for his symphonic and choral compositions plus a handful of film scores, the Arizona-born composer had a career that spanned five decades during which he wrote about 140 pieces, including five operas.

Although the Minnesota Orchestra gave its first performance of Kay’s music—the Serenade for Orchestra—in 1968, with conductor Paul Douglas Freeman at the podium, the Orchestra has embraced Kay’s repertoire with a renewed sense of urgency in recent years. On New Year’s Eve 2020, the ensemble performed selected movements from Kay’s Six Dances for String Orchestra, a stirring presentation that can viewed in full through our Digital Concert Hall (beginning around 49:45). Last November the ensemble performed a suite from Kay’s score for the 1948 documentary drama The Quiet One

This past October, the ensemble took up Kay’s Concerto for Orchestra as part of its Listening Project initiative—a project aimed at making the first professional recordings of orchestral works by composers from historically marginalized and underrepresented racial groups. A recording of the concerto is available now on the Orchestra’s YouTube channel. If you want to hear the ensemble perform the richly layered work live at Orchestra Hall for the first time then you’re in luck: Kay’s Concerto for Orchestra will be featured in the Orchestra’s November 4-5 program, played alongside Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Bartók’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

Get your tickets for the November concerts