The Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2014-15 Season

The Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2014-15 Season

Music Director Osmo Vänskä guides Orchestra's flagship classical series, September 2014 to June 2015, featuring a lineup of classical masterworks, star soloists and conductors

Click here for a complete 2014-15 classical season calendar (PDF)

Highlights include season opening gala with soprano Renée Fleming; Shakespeare Winterfest of music linked to the Bard's plays; "Spirit and Spring" weeks of orchestral masterworks connected with faith and spirituality; three-week celebration of Richard Strauss, marking composer's 150th birthday year; New Year's Eve concerts and celebration at Orchestra Hall; performances of three Sibelius symphonies

Soloists include piano legends André Watts and Garrick Ohlsson; violinist Gil Shaham and Concertmaster Erin Keefe; cellist Alisa Weilerstein and Principal Cello Anthony Ross; Burt Hara, former principal clarinet; Orchestra's entire bassoon section including Principal Bassoon John Miller, Jr.; Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus in premiere of Heitzeg's American Nomad

Former Music Directors Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Edo de Waart and Eiji Oue return; Sarah Hicks conducts Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel, with cast, costumes and staging; composer-conductor Eric Whitacre returns to lead choral-orchestral program; additional conductors include Roberto Abbado, Courtney Lewis, Hannu Lintu, Mischa Santora, Michael Stern, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Christopher Warren-Green and Mark Wigglesworth

Future Classics concert features music by emerging composers, concluding first Composer Institute directed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts; Rose Ensemble performs holiday concert in first-ever collaboration with Orchestra; Common Chords continues with week-long festival in Bemidji

Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today unveiled plans for the ensemble's 2014-15 classical concert season-one that celebrates the Orchestra's reunion and reignites its many connections with the community. The season, which Vänskä designed in close collaboration with the Orchestra's musicians, opens with a gala concert at Orchestra Hall on Friday, September 5, 2014, featuring Grammy-winning soprano Renée Fleming. It continues with 25 weeks of classical subscription concerts, highlights of which include a month-long festival of music inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, from Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream to Sibelius' The Tempest; a three-week salute to the great German composer Richard Strauss, marking the sesquicentennial of his birth; a multi-week "Spirit and Spring" series spotlighting music of faith and contemplation, with many concerts preceded by conversations with panels of spiritual leaders and writers; a pair of New Year's Eve concerts, the Orchestra's first since 1998, led by Vänskä and featuring soprano Sylvia McNair in a Gershwin-themed program; and a staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical Carousel conducted by Sarah Hicks, with a full cast of actors, as well as choreography and costumes.

"I'm very excited to make music with the Orchestra and to keep strengthening all facets of our connections with our wonderfully supportive community," said Vänskä. "Together we will continue re-building our worldwide reputation for artistic excellence. I'm also thankful to the Orchestra's musicians for their collaborative role in planning the season."

The first full weekend of classical concerts takes place on September 26, 27 and 28, as Vänskä conducts Mahler's transformative Resurrection Symphony-in a performance symbolic of an ensemble and renovated concert hall in a state of rebirth-with the Orchestra joined by mezzo Adriana Zabala and the Minnesota Chorale. At the same concert, Alisa Weilerstein, who toured with the Orchestra to Europe in 2010, will play Samuel Barber's Cello Concerto. Vänskä leads 10 weeks of concerts during the season, which concludes with another Mahler symphony, the First, as a season finale in early June 2015.

The Orchestra is joined throughout the year by many stellar guest soloists, including Grammy-winning piano legends André Watts and Garrick Ohlsson, both of whom will perform Brahms concertos; Grammy-winning violinist Gil Shaham and violinist Augustin Hadelich; pianists Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein, Simon Trp?eski and Minnesota's own Andrew Staupe; sopranos Renée Fleming and Sylvia McNair; mezzos Lilli Paasikivi and Adriana Zabala; and tenor Stuart Skelton. In addition, Burt Hara, who was the Orchestra's principal clarinet for more than 25 years, makes his first solo appearance at Orchestra Hall since joining the Los Angeles Philharmonic last year, in Copland's Clarinet Concerto.

Seven current Orchestra musicians will be featured as soloist in 2014-15: Concertmaster Erin Keefe; Principal Cello Anthony Ross; trumpet player Charles Lazarus, who will premiere American Nomad by St. Paul-based composer Steve Heitzeg; and all four members of the bassoon section: Principal Bassoon John Miller, Jr., Co-Principal Bassoon Mark Kelley, J. Christopher Marshall and Norbert Nielubowski. Miller is one of the longest-serving principal players in the Orchestra's history, now in his 44th year as principal bassoon.

"The musicians are thrilled to launch a new chapter in the history of this great orchestra, welcoming old friends and exciting new faces," said Principal Cello Anthony Ross. "Legendary pianists, numerous celebrations and a spectacular season-opening gala with Renée Fleming are highlights we look forward to. It was a joy for our Artistic Committee to work with Osmo Vänskä in planning this exciting season, which reflects our deep commitment to serve our community with world class orchestral music."

Familiar faces taking the conductor's podium in 2014-15 include the Orchestra's esteemed Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who was music director from 1960 to 1979, and two additional former music directors, Edo de Waart and Eiji Oue. Also appearing as guest conductors are Sommerfest Artistic Director Andrew Litton; Associate Conductor Courtney Lewis (who departs from that position after this year's Sommerfest); former Associate Conductor Mischa Santora; acclaimed composer-conductor Eric Whitacre, who debuted with the Orchestra in April 2014; Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Artistic Partner Roberto Abbado; popular guest conductors Yan Pascal Tortelier, Mark Wigglesworth and Christopher Warren-Green and, in his Minnesota Orchestra debut, Michael Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony. Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of the Live at Orchestra Hall series, will conduct semi-staged performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, bridging the classical and Live series.

The subscription season's official launch on September 26 is preceded by the September 5 gala concert with Renée Fleming, as well as a free Minnesota Orchestra concert at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis on September 14 led by former Associate Conductor William Eddins. The Orchestra spends September 15 to 20 in the northern Minnesota city of Bemidji for its fourth Common Chords outreach week-a festival that will feature performances and numerous activities that reflect the interests, diversity and heritage of Bemidji; Vänskä and Hicks will be among leaders of the concerts and activities.

The Orchestra's holiday season offerings include a beloved tradition-performances of Handel's Messiah, led by Christopher Warren-Green and featuring vocal soloists Anna Devin, Lawrence Zazzo, Barry Banks and Derek Walton-as well as a new collaboration, the Orchestra's first-ever concert with the St. Paul-based Rose Ensemble, featured in a Christmas Mass from 18th-century Cuba and works from the Mexican Baroque.

Continuing a longtime partnership with Minnesota Public Radio, the Orchestra's Friday evening classical concerts will be broadcast regionally on MPR stations. The Orchestra's concerts are also featured in American Public Media's national programs, Performance Today and SymphonyCast.

The Orchestra will continue to offer a broad spectrum of additional concert series in addition to its classical concerts, ranging from Live at Orchestra Hall to Inside the Classics. Full programs and details about most of these series will be announced later this summer.

Current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers will be contacted in phases over the summer with an invitation to renew their specific seats and series. The general public can subscribe immediately with an Easy Pass Package (six flexible vouchers) redeemable now for Sommerfest concerts, and redeemable for next season's concerts beginning on July 25. Additional subscription package offerings will be available on August 7. Individual tickets go on sale to the general public for September and October 2014 concerts-including the September 5 gala-beginning on July 25, and for all remaining 2014-15 season concerts beginning on September 19. For additional purchasing details, see the section at the conclusion of this press release.


Multi-week program themes spotlight Shakespeare, Strauss and spirituality

A centerpiece of the season is the Shakespeare Winterfest, a series of concerts in January and February that explore the expansive world of orchestral repertoire inspired by Western literature's preeminent dramatist, William Shakespeare. Conceived by Vänskä, the Winterfest spotlights well-known works such as Mendelssohn's Overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet as envisioned by the great Russians Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. These works are heard alongside less-often played masterpieces including Walton's Suite from Henry V and Sibelius' The Tempest, the latter performed by the Minnesota Orchestra for the first time in a version compiled by Vänskä himself, one of today's master Sibelius interpreters.

The Orchestra pays homage to Richard Strauss, celebrating his 150th birthday with three weeks of programs in October devoted exclusively to the great German Romantic composer's music. Among the featured works are the sensual and shocking Salome's Dance from the opera Salome; Burleske for Piano and Orchestra, which features St. Paul native Andrew Staupe as soloist; and the final week's capstone, An Alpine Symphony, which builds from intimate chamber scoring to towering music of great heights and huge orchestral forces.

Another set of concerts, Spirit and Spring, highlights music connected with faith, spirituality and contemplation. Works on these three April programs include Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending, which features Concertmaster Erin Keefe; Respighi's tone poem Church Windows; Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), a celebration of living and salvation that features tenor Stuart Skelton; and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, a cornerstone of 20th-century classical music born from visions of a springtime pagan ritual.