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.

2014-15 CLASSICAL SEASON AT A GLANCE

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.

Deepening and expanding the Sprit and Spring concert experience, the first week's concerts will each be preceded by a panel discussion with spiritual leaders, moderated by Brian Newhouse of Minnesota Public Radio; panelists include Rabbi Marcia A. Zimmerman, Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel; and The Rt. Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. Similarly, the second week's concerts will be preceded by a panel discussion moderated by Orchestra violist Kenneth Freed, with conductor Mark Wigglesworth and acclaimed poets Sidney Wade and Pablo Medina; these conversations are presented in conjunction with the Association of Writers and Writing Program's Annual Conference and Bookfair. Following the concerts, small groups will give nightcap performances in the Target Atrium lobby space, with contemplative chamber repertoire including Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, which was composed and first performed in a World War II concentration camp, with Osmo Vänskä playing clarinet; and Lieberson's Neruda Songs.

Gala concert with Renée Fleming launches season

Soprano Renée Fleming, a superstar of the classical music world, will be the featured guest in the Orchestra's season opening gala on September 5. With Osmo Vänskä conducting, the Orchestra will perform some of Fleming's favorite opera arias and vocal selections, as well as orchestra-only selections including Wagner's Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Respighi's The Pines of Rome. Additional details on this event will be announced at a later date; tickets go on sale in advance to subscribers on July 18, and to the general public on July 25.

American music, piano legends and Sibelius symphonies among additional highlights

The 2014-15 season includes two programs of music by American composers, one led by former Associate Conductor Mischa Santora and the other under the baton of Grammy-winning composer-conductor Eric Whitacre, with the Minnesota Chorale joining the Orchestra in the latter program. A highlight of the all-American weeks in April and May is the return of one of the symphony orchestra world's great clarinet players, Burt Hara, who served for more than 25 years as the Orchestra's principal clarinet; he will be guest soloist in Copland's Clarinet Concerto, a work originally written for the great Benny Goodman. Two of the season's final weeks in May bring star power to the piano keyboard, as soloistsGarrick Ohlsson and André Watts each play a Brahms piano concerto in successive weeks. The Watts concerts also mark the beginning of a two-week focus on Sibelius' symphonies, with the Orchestra performing Sibelius' Third, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies during this stretch, all under Osmo Vänskä's direction. The Vänskä-Minnesota Orchestra-Sibelius pairing has drawn global acclaim, and in January 2014 the Orchestra's most recent album of Sibelius symphonies earned the ensemble its first-ever Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.

Skrowaczewski, Litton, de Waart and Oue return to the conductor's podium

Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski returns to Orchestra Hall in May 2015 for his 54th season of conducting Minnesota Orchestra concerts. Renowned internationally as a composer as well as a conductor, Skrowaczewski-the Orchestra's music director from 1960 to 1979-will conduct Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and, with celebrated pianist Garrick Ohlsson as soloist, Brahms' First Piano Concerto.Andrew Litton, the longest-tenured Sommerfest artistic director in the Orchestra's history, returns in October to lead an all-Richard Strauss program that includes Don Quixote, featuring Principal Cello Anthony Ross. Two additional former music directors-Edo de Waart and Eiji Oue-each conduct one week of concerts, with de Waart leading the finale of the Strauss festival in October and Oue coming to town in November to lead Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and Dietter's Concerto for Two Bassoons. Collectively, these four conductors have served for more than 80 years on the Orchestra's artistic leadership roster.

Orchestra musicians in the spotlight

Violinist Erin Keefe, who became the Orchestra's concertmaster in September 2011, is one of seven Orchestra members featured as soloist during the season; she performs Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending. Other soloists include Principal Cello Anthony Ross (Strauss' Don Quixote); trumpet playerCharles Lazarus (the premiere of Heitzeg's American Nomad); and the four members of the bassoon section. Principal Bassoon John Miller, Jr., who will perform all three movements of Dietter's Concerto for Two Bassoons, has invited his section colleagues, Co-Principal Bassoon Mark Kelley, J. Christopher Marshall and Norbert Nielubowski, to join him for one movement each. Those same concerts will also feature the Orchestra's brass section, performing music by Gabrieli.

Sarah Hicks conducts Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel

In March 2015 the Orchestra presents semi-staged performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein'sCarousel-marking a rare opportunity to hear a beloved musical performed by a major orchestra with staging, choreography and costumes. Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks conducts, while Robert Neu serves as stage director; cast members will be announced at a later date. These performances are the beginning of a new Minnesota Orchestra project to present a great American musical each year.

Russian masterworks

In November the Orchestra plays two weeks of mostly-Russian repertoire, with the first week featuring Russian-born Kirill Gerstein, a rising piano star, as soloist in two great Soviet-era piano concertos-Shostakovich's Second and Prokofiev's First. The second week features another Prokofiev masterpiece, the lush Fifth Symphony, which tells vivid stories of Russian life with music rather than words. Also featured is Mozart's dramatic Piano Concerto No. 20, one of only two the composer wrote in a minor key, featuring another rapidly emerging piano talent, American Jonathan Biss. These two weeks of performances are offered in collaboration with the Museum of Russian Art in south Minneapolis. In addition, a concert later in November features another Russian work, Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony.

Performance at Northrop

The Orchestra performs a Valentine's Day concert at Northrop featuring violinist Gil Shaham and conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier, continuing a historic relationship with that concert hall at the University of Minnesota; Northrop served as the Orchestra's home from 1929 to 1974. The Orchestra played two successful "Echoes of History" concerts at Northrop in May 2014 to mark the venue's reopening after a major renovation.

Contemporary music and world premieres

Among the Orchestra's offerings of contemporary music is the world premiere of Steve Heitzeg'sAmerican Nomad, a concerto that features Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus as soloist. In addition, Acadia, a major work previously commissioned by the Orchestra from New York-based composerJudd Greenstein, will receive its first performances on the classical subscription series; it was funded by hundreds of donors via the innovative grassroots MicroCommission project and was premiered at Inside the Classics concerts in 2012. Composer-conductor Eric Whitacre, one of the most popular and widely-performed composers of his generation, will return to the Orchestra to lead a program including his ownLux Aurumque, John Adams' Harmonium and other works by contemporary American composers.

Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute

The Minnesota Orchestra and American Composers Forum will present the 12th annual Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute in January 2015. The program is presented for the first time under the leadership of newly-appointed Composer Institute Director Kevin Puts, who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Silent Night, an opera commissioned by the Minnesota Opera. The Institute offers seven emerging composers an intensive week-long immersion in the world of the American symphony orchestra. At the week's end, the participating composers' works will be performed in a public "Future Classics" concert on January 16, conducted by Osmo Vänskä. Composers who were selected for the 2013 Composer Institute, which was cancelled during the organization's labor dispute, have been invited to participate in the 2015 Institute.

Performances with the Minnesota Chorale

The Minnesota Chorale, the Orchestra's principal chorus, will collaborate four times with the Orchestra in the classical season: in performances of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony led by Osmo Vänskä; concerts of Handel's Messiah conducted by Christopher Warren-Green; performances of Verdi's Requiem conducted by Roberto Abbado; and a program led by composer-conductor Eric Whitacre that features Adams'Harmonium and other American works. The Chorale is prepared by its Artistic Director Kathy Saltzman Romey, who also serves as the Orchestra's choral advisor.

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. Patrons can also sign up for an exclusive pre-sale at minnesotaorchestra.org in the subscription area of the website. 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.

Packages and tickets can be purchased online at minnesotaorchestra.org, or by calling 612-371-5642 or 800-292-4141. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Orchestra Hall Box Office (July 7 through August 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and beginning two hours before all ticketed performances); at the Orchestra Hall Stage Door on Marquette Ave. and 11th Street (through July 3 and beginning September 2, Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.); and at the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

All programs, artists, dates, times and prices subject to change.

The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra's media partner for the 2014-15 season.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a Minnesota State Arts Board Operating Support grant, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.