MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (MAY 7, 2021) — Minnesota Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vänskä will perform two concerts on Friday, May 14 and Friday, May 28 that have been programmed in response to the turbulence in Minneapolis and the world over the past year, particularly with regard to issues of racial equity and police violence against Black Americans. Both concerts will be televised live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT); broadcast live on YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio; and streamed live online for free at minnesotaorchestra.org at 8:00 p.m. CT.

Mr. Vänskä says of the May programs:

It’s important for artists to share music that connects to the current world around us and that can serve as a catalyst for change. In extreme times, music can be a kind of therapy for people. When we cannot find the words to adequately express ourselves, music can take us to a very deep place. With these programs, we hope to bring audiences to that place and let the music give voice to anger, grief, and despair, and to also find moments of respite and glimmers of hope.

On Friday, May 14 Mr. Vänskä will lead a program titled “Disarmed and Unfinished” that centers around loss as a central aspect of the human condition. The concert features dis[armed] by Yaz Lancaster (they/them/theirs) who in January was named by The Washington Post as one of “21 for ’21: Composers and performers who sound like tomorrow.” The piece, which reflects on the persistent affliction of gun violence, is scored for percussion duo with fixed track and interludes.

Lancaster says:

This piece is my attempt at exploring the conversation surrounding gun violence, particularly mass shootings and the killing of unarmed Black people by police in America. It is my hope that people begin putting both mass shootings and police brutality in the same conversation when trying to figure out where to go from here.

The concert will open with Igor Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments for woodwind and brass and also features Krzysztof Penderecki’s Chaconne in Memory of John Paul II, the late Polish Pope who had his own experience with gun violence when he was shot and wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981. Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B minor, Unfinished concludes the program.

The May 28 program—performed three days after the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer, which ignited international outrage and protests—is titled “Remembrance and Reflection” and acknowledges the impact of the killing, trial, and verdict within the Minneapolis community. On the program is Carlos Simon’s string quartet, An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave, to be performed in memory of Mr. Floyd and all victims of racial violence and hate.

Of his piece, written in 2015, Mr. Simon says:

This piece is an artistic reflection dedicated to those who have been murdered wrongfully by an oppressive power; namely Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown. The stimulus for this composing piece came as a result of prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announcing that a selected jury had decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson after fatally shooting an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The evocative nature of the piece draws on strong lyricism and a lush harmonic charter. A melodic idea is played in all the voices of the ensemble at some point of the piece either whole or fragmented. The recurring ominous motif represents the cry of those struck down unjustly in this country. While the predominant essence of the piece is sorrowful and contemplative, there are moments of extreme hope represented by bright consonant harmonies.

The concert opens with Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony and Chevalier de Saint-George’s Violin Concerto in D major, Opus 3, No. 1 with Karen Gomyo as the soloist. Following Mr. Simon’s work, the concert concludes with the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.

Following the live-stream and broadcast, the May concerts will be available free on demand at minnesotaorchestra.org.