Lawns are turning green, leaves unfurling, buds bursting — spring has finally arrived in the northland along with a flurry of announcements from the Minnesota Orchestra.  A collaboratively planned new season, a tour of European music festivals, an over-the top Symphony Ball and expanded education and community engagement programs all reflect the unprecedented renewal taking place within the organization.

Minnesota Orchestra Announces Exciting 2016-17 Season

Osmo Vänskä will conduct 14 of the 24 weeks of classical subscription concerts in the 2016-17 season.

From the season opener with violinist Joshua Bell to the finale featuring Osmo Vänskä conducting Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, the 2016-17 Minnesota Orchestra season offers an intriguing combination of the familiar and the new. Guest conductors will include three past music directors but also six rising stars making their subscription series debuts. New music will be interwoven with audience-pleasing favorites, starting with the opening concert featuring the Tchaikovsky violin concerto along with Todd Levin’s electronically enhanced “Blur.” Soloists include world-renowned figures returning to Orchestra Hall, such as violinist Leila Josefowicz and soprano Dawn Upshaw, as well as those performing here for the first time, including Claudio Puntin, who will play the Clarinet concerto he composed at Osmo Vänskä’s request.

Symphony in 60 offers opportunity for audience members to socialize with musicians after the concert. This series, as well as Inside the Classics and a Chamber Music series are included in the 2016-17 season. Photo courtesy Laurie Greeno

As in the past two seasons, musicians played a major role in the 2016-17 programming decisions, in partnership with Osmo and artistic staff.  This collaborative approach is very different from the top-down, hierarchical structure in most American orchestras, but Vänskä says it works well:  “The dictatorial way may be shorter and easier, but the results are never as good.”

Tony Ross, chair of the musicians’ artistic committee, compares this season’s programs to a “tasting menu.”  You can view all the delectable 2016-17 offerings online and also read what critics have to say about the season in MinnPost and Star Tribune articles.  There are more subscription choices than ever before; check out the many options for up to 20% savings over individual concert tickets:

  • Classical Series — fixed dates and the same seat for every concert (but you can always change your dates by contacting the box office).  If you have one of these series now, don’t forget to renew your season subscription; your current seats will be held through May 6.  If you’re considering the Sunday Coffee Matinee, Ovation, Forte or Vivace Series, you can get $25 off the purchase price on new orders with the code EXCELLENCE17.  (Offer expires Nov 1.  Not available in VIP section.)
  • Create Your Own – mix and match any concert and price section, seating will vary.  Renewals start June 1.
  • Easy Pass Vouchers – buy and redeem anytime, choose your concerts later.

Not sure which concerts to choose?  Call subscriber services at 612-371-5642 or 1-800-292-4141 and talk to one of the knowledgeable ticket agents.  You can even make an appointment for a phone conversation or in person meeting at the box office so you don’t have to wait.

Europe, Here We Come!

Following the history-making visit to Cuba last year, the Orchestra will embark on a four-country European tour from August 18-27, with appearances at prestigious music festivals in Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, as well as a special performance in Lahti, Finland, where Osmo Vänskä served as chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony.

“It has been six years since the Minnesota Orchestra has performed at these international festivals and on these world stages,” said Vänskä.  “It is time for us to return, and I am very excited for European audiences to experience the sound and spirit of this orchestra again.” The tour will feature performances of two Beethoven symphonies, American composer Steven Stucky’s Rhapsodies for Orchestra and the Sibelius and Prokofiev Violin Concertos, both played by Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. Book your tickets now for the celebratory Tour Send-off concert featuring this program at Orchestra Hall on August 16. And watch for more details on a first-time live Minnesota Public Radio broadcast from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on August 24.

Symphony and Suds Proves a “Hot Ticket”

At Sociable Cider Werks, some fans couldn’t get in. Photo courtesy Laurie Greeno

Minnesota Orchestra musicians are attracting overflow crowds with their micro-concerts at local breweries this season.  Fans had to be turned away from a packed horn quintet performance at Sociable Cider Werks this month — see Star Tribune report on the micro concerts and article in The Growler that traces the history of these Orchestrate Excellence-initiated events).  Next up are:

  • Brass quintet at Surly Brewing Company on May 5, along with an Instagram #PintOfMusic Photo Contest.
  • Woodwind quintet at Insight Brewing on May 12.

Click here for concert details — and plan to come early!

The micro concert at Sociable Cider Werks featured a Minnesota Orchestra horn quintet; for more great photos click here.  Photo courtesy Ken Huber

Stunning Season Finale Features Mahler’s Fifth

Osmo Vänskä will conduct Mahler’s Fifth Symphony for the season finale in June.Photo © Travis Anderson

Don’t miss the season’s triumphal final concert Vänskä Conducts Mahler’s Fifth Thu Jun 9 at 11am, Fri Jun 10 and Sat Jun 11 at 8pm.  Kathy Kienzle, Principal Harp, calls Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 “one of the most beautiful and moving pieces in the orchestral repertoire.”  The Orchestra will be recording Mahler No. 5 soon afterwards, so you can get a preview at this concert, which also includes Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto with soloist Christian Tetzlaff, continuing his partnership with Osmo and the Minnesota Orchestra.   These concerts will be Osmo’s last with our Orchestra until the European tour at summer’s end, so come on down and enjoy while you can.  Osmo has agreed to sign CDs and other Minnesota Orchestra memorabilia after each of these concerts, so plan to stay afterwards for a word with him.

For this season’s finale, Christian Tetzlaff solos in the Berg Violin Concerto.Photo © Georgia Bertazzi

2016 Symphony Ball Celebrates Event’s Diamond Anniversary

Do you have your tickets for the 2016 Symphony Ball?  Inspired by the opulence of the roaring 20’s, this year’s sixtieth Ball, Rhapsody in Blue, is a multi-level “vertical party” with an art deco theme, prohibition-era cocktails and a Minnesota Orchestra concert that includes George Gershwin’s iconic song.

Dinner tickets are almost all sold out, but the popular After Party offers an affordable way to be a part of what promises to be an unforgettable evening.   Your $125 ticket (including a $75 tax deductible donation to the Minnesota Orchestra) allows you to choose either of these:

  • After Party Early Option:  7:30 pm to Midnight — Come and enjoy refreshments, participate in the silent and live auctions, hear the Minnesota Orchestra concert.  Then stay and enjoy a great party with a dance band, speakeasy surprises and more.
  • Drinks and Dancing Option:  9:30 pm to Midnight — If you prefer, come at 9:30 after the concert and auctions and head for the dance floor where you can enjoy drinks and the music of the Wolverines Big Band tillmidnight.
Planning for the June 18 Symphony Ball has been spearheaded by co-chairs (l-r) Emily, Mary and Greg Summers.

Curious about the people who spearheaded planning for this year’s party?  It’s been a family effort.  Scroll down to the interview with Greg Summers, co-chair of Rhapsody in Blue along with his wife Mary and daughter Emily.

Sommerfest Tickets Are Flying Out the Door

Andrew Litton will conduct Verdi’s Otello, a complete opera in concert, for the Sommerfest finale. Photo © Josh Kohanek Photography

Place your order for Sommerfest tickets now!  Seats for the Orchestra’s annual summer festival, July 8-23, are selling quickly, especially for the Opera Finale, Verdi’s Otello, on Saturday, July 23.

Minnesota Orchestra Is Reaching Out, Bringing New Audiences In

The Symphonic Adventures program brings the full Minnesota Orchestra to area high schools, where students get to talk informally with musicians.

You’re probably familiar with the Young People’s Concerts, instituted over a century ago, that brought over 30,000 elementary, middle and high school students to Orchestra Hall this year.  But do you know about these outreach programs?

  • MNSOTA Tier II – Orchestral students from 8 middle schools that had qualified through the MNSOTA Tier I festival were coached in sectionals with Minnesota Orchestra musicians, followed by a rehearsal onstage, an evening concert and an award ceremony on the stage of Orchestra Hall.
  • Symphonic Adventures – The full orchestra presented programs at Champlin Park, St. Louis Park and Henry Sibley High Schools this year.
  • Student Ambassador Program – In a program initiated by SOSMN, the Universities of Minnesota and St.Thomas each had two student nights at the Orchestra this season.  Read an essay from one Student Ambassador titled “Music as a Mental Lane Change.”
  • Sensory Friendly Concerts (for youth with special sensory needs) – the first concert, featuring violinist Pam Arnstein, was held April 16th in the Target Atrium.  If you are interested in attending the next concert on May 21st, please contact Jessica Leibfried at
  • OH+ — 50 organizations (half of whom had never partnered with the Orchestra before) have participated as OH+ community partners, bringing their talents and expertise to Orchestra Hall to celebrate our artistic community, increase the Orchestra’s community reach and to enrich concert-goers’ experience.  In return, these organizations have received $50,000 worth of comp tickets to introduce their members to the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as Orchestra services to create meaningful education and engagement events throughout the Twin Cities.  Check out upcoming OH+ activities here.
U of M biology and Minnesota Orchestra Student Ambassador Connor Neill believes attending concerts serves as a “mental lane change” for overworked students.

What Do Minnesota Orchestra Music Librarians Do?

The Minnesota Orchestra’s hard-working music librarians: l-r) Eric Sjostrom, associate principal; Valerie Little, assistant principal; Paul Gunther, principal.

They rarely appear on stage, yet the Orchestra’s three music librarians are highly trained musicians playing an important role in every concert.  Read this interview with Paul Gunther, Eric Sjostrom and Valerie Little about their backgrounds, their daily work and challenges – how they prepare music for the stage and keep track of the 10,000 parts and scores crisscrossing through the library each year, as well as researching upcoming programs, ordering music, keeping up with advances in technology and serving as the organization’s central resource for information.

As we review the accomplishments of the season just ending and look forward to summer and 2016-17, it’s clear that the continuation of the renewed energy the Orchestra is experiencing is dependent on each one of us.  We hope to see you at a concert soon.

New Season, Tour, Community Outreach – Renewal Resounds at the Minnesota Orchestra