Music Director Osmo Vänskä’s final season with the Minnesota Orchestra looks back at milestone moments and great achievements of Vänskä’s tenure

The season opens with guest violinist Joshua Bell; features nearly 30 returning and debuting guest soloists; and spotlights Orchestra musicians Assistant Concertmaster Rui Du, Concertmaster Erin Keefe, Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel and Principal Cello Anthony Ross

13 guest conductors—7 returning and 6 debuting—lead the Orchestra in classical concerts

Vänskä and the Orchestra continue performing and recording Mahler’s symphonies with the Eighth Symphony and Ninth Symphony

Vänskä and the Orchestra present a three-week Sibelius festival in January 2022

Live at Orchestra Hall concerts, U.S. Bank Movies & Music concerts, and Relaxed Family Concert offerings are also included in the complete 2021-22 season

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA (JULY 16, 2021) — Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today announced plans for the ensemble’s 2021-22 season that runs from September 2021 to June 2022 and includes Classical, Live at Orchestra Hall, Movies & Music, Holiday and Relaxed Family concerts.

“As we welcome audiences back to Orchestra Hall, we offer music both familiar and new, charting a powerful course after a period of reflection and transformation,” said First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park, chair of the Orchestra’s Artistic Advisory Committee. 

This season marks the end of a significant era in the Orchestra’s 118-year history as Osmo Vänskä concludes his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra after 19 years as music director. In his final season at the helm, Vänskä and the Orchestra together look back at many of the milestone performances, collaborations, commissions, tours and recordings of the past two decades. Beyond 2022, Vänskä and the Orchestra will maintain their musical relationship, with Vänskä returning for ongoing concert engagements.

“It’s now almost 18 years ago that I started with the Minnesota Orchestra—and it means a lot,” said Music Director Osmo Vänskä.  “For me, it’s always been about collaboration. I have been lucky to work with people who are willing to share my ideas, and I have been willing to share their ideas. The Minnesota Orchestra has been a big, big part of my life—and I’m so grateful about that. It’s been a great journey, and I look forward to sharing this final season with the audiences who have been an essential part of that journey.”

OSMO VÄNSKÄ CONDUCTING HIGHLIGHTS

“In Osmo’s final season we give thanks for his moral authority, his combination of perfectionism and electricity, and finally for the pride he instilled in us all,” said Orchestra violist Kenneth Freed.

The season opens September 23 and 24 with virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell in a performance of Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. Bell was the featured guest soloist at the first Minnesota Orchestra concert Vänskä ever conducted, in October 2000, three years before he became music director. The program concludes with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, recalling the opening night of Vänskä’s first season with the Orchestra in 2003 and to honor their complete Beethoven symphonies recording cycle.

Concerts in October include Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite, a work that Vänskä conducted on his first European tour with the Orchestra as well as the historic 2015 tour to Cuba, and a performance from violinist Lisa Batiashvili, who was featured during the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2011.

At the center of the season, Vänskä leads a Sibelius Festival, conducting all seven of the Finnish composer’s symphonies over three weeks, and celebrating the recording cycle that was completed by Vänskä and the Orchestra in 2014, one recording of which received the Orchestra’s first Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. Soprano Helena Juntunen, who is featured on the Orchestra’s Beethoven Ninth Symphony recording, and violinist Elina Vähälä, a frequent collaborator with the Orchestra, who performed as the soloist for the Finnish Centennial celebration concert in 2017, are the featured guests during the three-week festival. Vähälä will perform the rarely heard original version of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto and, at a separate concert, the standard final version of the concerto. In addition, Minnesota Orchestra violist Sam Bergman hosts a special program that explores the history behind the multiple versions of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. 

The spring highlights emerging composers in the Orchestra’s annual MusicMakers concert, an initiative fostered and held in high importance by Vänskä. Concerts in June showcase Vänskä’s artistic and personal partnership with Concertmaster Erin Keefe, who is featured alongside pianist Juho Pohjonen in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Piano, Violin and Strings. 

Vänskä and the Orchestra will continue the ongoing project to record all of Mahler’s symphonies, performing and recording Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in March 2022 and Eighth Symphony in June 2022 in one of the largest-scale performances ever conducted by Osmo Vänskä at Orchestra Hall. The final work remaining to complete the recording cycle with BIS Records is Mahler’s Third Symphony, which Vänskä and the Orchestra will record in a future season at a date yet to be announced.

For a more detailed history of Osmo Vänskä’s tenure as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, please scroll to the end of this release.

CONDUCTORS AND GUEST ARTISTS

Returning to the podium this season as guest conductors are Karina CanellakisFabien GabelNathalie StutzmannDima SlobodenioukJuraj ValčuhaEdo de Waart and Xian Zhang.

Making their conducting debuts with the Orchestra are David Afkham, chief conductor and artistic director of the Spanish National Orchestra and Choir; Kevin John Edusei, chief conductor of the Munich Symphony Orchestra; Gemma New, music director of the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Junping Qian, recent assistant conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; Thomas Søndergård, music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; and Thomas Wilkins, principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

The 2021-22 season features more than two dozen internationally acclaimed soloists, as well as four of Minnesota Orchestra’s own musicians.

Returning to Orchestra Hall are violinists Lisa BatiashviliJoshua BellAugustin HadelichBaiba Skride and Elina Vähälä; pianists Emanuel Ax and Juho Pohjonen; sopranos Helena Juntunen and Carolyn Sampson; mezzos Sasha Cooke and Kelly O’Connor; tenors Barry Banks and Sean Panikkar; and bass-baritone Mark S. Doss.

Making their Minnesota Orchestra debuts are violinists Tobias FeldmannNing Feng and Tai Murray; cellist Jean-Guihen Queryas; pianist Sunwook Kim; clarinetist Kari Kriikku; sopranos Melody Moore, Sarah Wegener and Jacquelyn Wagner; mezzo Jennifer Johnston; bass-baritone Christian Immler; pipa player Gao Hong; Jing hu master Zhegang Xie; and Yue qin master Mei Hu.

Four Minnesota Orchestra musicians will also be featured as soloists in classical concerts. Principal Cello Anthony Ross performs Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D major in celebration of former Music Director Edo de Waart’s 80th birthday in October. Assistant Concertmaster Rui Du performs as a soloist in the Orchestra’s Lunar New Year concert in February. In the spring, Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel plays Carl Nielsen’s Flute Concerto and Erin Keefe, the Orchestra’s concertmaster, shares the spotlight with Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen in Mendelssohn’s Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra.

CLASSICAL SEASON HIGHLIGHTS

Highlights of the classical season include full-scale performances of much beloved orchestral works such as Beethoven’s Fifth and Ninth SymphoniesMahler’s Eighth and Ninth SymphoniesBerlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique—featuring the debut of the Orchestra’s newly gifted church bells—Stravinsky’s Firebird and Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony.

The Minnesota Orchestra is also intentionally building concert programs to feature more works by African, Middle Eastern, Latin, Indigenous American and Asian composers. Throughout the recent 2020-21 regular season, each concert featured at least one piece of music written by a composer from a historically under-represented group, and this initiative extends through much of the 2021-22 season, expanding the Orchestra’s repertoire and centering new voices onstage.

Among the many pieces included in the Orchestra’s programming this season are Qigang Chen’s L’EloignementFrontispiece and subito con forza by Unsuk ChinSamuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra; Vivian Fung’s Aqua; Suite from The Quiet One by Ulysses KayJessie Montgomery’s BannerCrimsonand Nocturne by Sammy MoussaColeridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Sinfonietta No. 1; The Hunter’s Funeralcomposed by Donghoon Shin; and Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.

Edo de Waart, the Minnesota Orchestra’s music director from 1986 to 1995, returns to Orchestra Hall to conduct a performance in celebration of his own 80th birthday in October. A special program in February is dedicated to celebrating the Lunar New Year, a holiday centered around new beginnings, good health, fortune and unity that has been celebrated in China for more than 3,000 years. This concert is presented as part of The Great Northern.

New works by several young composers will receive their first major orchestral performances during May’s MusicMakers concert, which is the culminating experience of the Orchestra’s 18th annual Composer Institute, co-presented by the American Composers Orchestra and led by Composer Institute director and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. Composers and works will be announced at a later date.

CHORAL COLLABORATIONS

The Minnesota Chorale, the Orchestra’s principal chorus, led by Kathy Saltzman Romey, will collaborate three times with the Orchestra in the 2021-22 season, beginning with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony conducted by Juraj Valčuha in November. In May, the Chorale and other Twin Cities choral partners join together for the first Minnesota Orchestra performance of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed. The 2021-22 Season Finale concert will feature the Minnesota Chorale in collaboration with the National Lutheran ChoirAngelica Cantanti Concert Choir and Minnesota Boychoir for Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, the Symphony of a Thousand.

MAHLER SYMPHONIES RECORDING CYCLE

Vänskä and the Orchestra will continue an ongoing project to record all ten of Mahler’s symphonies, performing and recording Mahler’s Ninth Symphony in March 2022 and Eighth Symphony in June 2022, the latter with an all-star roster of vocal soloists and four choral ensembles: the Minnesota Chorale, National Lutheran Choir, Angelica Cantanti Concert Choir and Minnesota Boychoir. The final work remaining to complete the cycle is Mahler’s Third Symphony, which will be recorded in a future season at a date yet to be announced. 

Since June 2016, the Orchestra has recorded and released Mahler’s First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Tenth Symphonies on the BIS Records label. Their recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony received a 2018 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance.

HOLIDAY

New this Holiday season is Joyful Echoes—a concert inspired by Minnesota musical traditions, written and narrated by writer-storytellers PaviElle French and Kevin Kling and directed by Twin Cities-based theater director Peter Rothstein. Annual audience favorite Merry & Bright with Charles Lazarus returns for its sixth year at Orchestra Hall, and pianist-composer George Winston makes his annual return for a solo concert just a few days before Christmas.

LIVE AT ORCHESTRA HALL

The Minnesota Orchestra’s Live at Orchestra Hall series, conducted by Sarah Hicks, the Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, features collaborative concerts with travel host and author Rick Steves in February, and a long-awaited return of the band Cloud Cult in three March and April performances.

The U.S. Bank Movies & Music series brings feature films into the concert hall, where the movies are shown on a large screen above the stage while the Orchestra performs every note to the corresponding scores live. 

Four major films will be presented in the 2021-22 season, starting in November with the newly added 2018 Marvel Studios film phenomenon Black Panther, featuring the Oscar-winning score by composer Ludwig Göransson. A family favorite also makes its first appearance at Orchestra Hall in November, when the Orchestra performs the score to Disney Pixar’s Toy Story, the revolutionary animated film released in 1995, with music by Randy Newman. The Orchestra continues its performances of the beloved Harry Potter series in January 2022 with the fifth installment of the film series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, featuring music by Nicholas Hooper, and returns to another favorite movie series with performances of John Williams’ Oscar-nominated score to the 1983 film Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the final movie in the original Star Wars trilogy, in April 2022.

EDUCATION AND FAMILY CONCERTS

Upholding one of its longest-standing concert series, the Orchestra will again present Young People’s Concert programs during the 2021-22 season. These concerts, created for students in grades one through six, are scheduled during the school day and provide an educational field trip opportunity for students across Minnesota. Schedule and programming will be announced at a later date.

Two programs, Lunar New Year in February and Music Around the Globe in March, will be performed for the general public as Relaxed Family Concerts on weekend afternoons. Relaxed Family Concerts are one hour in length and are sensory-friendly experiences designed for audiences of all ages and abilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities. These concerts feature the full Minnesota Orchestra along with special guests. Programming details will be announced at a later date.

LIVESTREAM AND BROADCAST CONCERTS

The Minnesota Orchestra will continue offering livestream and broadcast concerts in the 2021-22 season. A schedule of these performances will be announced in early September. 

All programs are subject to change.

VIEW CHRONOLOGICAL 2021-22 SEASON CALENDAR

TICKET PURCHASING INFORMATION

All Minnesota Orchestra subscription packages for the 2021-22 season are available to the general public beginning July 26, 2021. Classical season ticket packages include three to 24 concerts featuring the same seat location for every concert. Classical, Live at Orchestra Hall, Music & Movies, Holiday and Family concerts are all available as part of Minnesota Orchestra Create Your Own ticket packages. Current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers will be contacted with an invitation to renew their specific seats and series.

Flexible packages are available with an Easy Pass Package (six or 12 flexible vouchers) and can be used for most concerts in the 2021-22 season as well as 2022 Summer at Orchestra Hall concerts. Tickets expire one year from purchase date.

Individual tickets for Season Opening with Joshua Bell, Movies & Music (select concerts) and September-November concerts go on sale August 16, 2021. Individual tickets for the remainder of the season go on sale September 7, 2021.

Packages and tickets can be purchased at minnesotaorchestra.org. For packages, visit minnesotaorchestra.org/subscribe. For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

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

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.

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OSMO VÄNSKÄ HISTORY IN MINNESOTA
VIEW TIMELINE

Two months into his tenure as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra in November 2003, Osmo Vänskä led the Minnesota Orchestra in a Centennial concert that celebrated the organization’s history. Today, Vänskä is an indelible part of that history, having shaped the Orchestra’s sound, membership, programming and reputation over two decades and forged one of the great partnerships between music director and players in the annals of the organization.

Vänskä joined the Orchestra in September 2003 as its 10th music director and it quickly became clear, as one Helsinki critic described, that the “Minnesota Orchestra fits Osmo Vänskä like a glove.” Over the course of his tenure, Vänskä has consistently led the Minnesota Orchestra in performances of insight and virtuosity, whether in concerts at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, through large-scale recording initiatives or via seven international tours and four Minnesota tours. In recent years, Vänskä has redefined traditional roles and approaches at the Minnesota Orchestra, developing a new programming model that expands the leadership of musicians in artistic programming, championing a new touring model—centered on musical exchanges—that led to historic tours of Cuba and South Africa, and embracing the organization’s turn toward livestreamed performances to sustain it through the COVID-19 pandemic.

His accomplishments include:

  • Appointing 38 new musicians to the Orchestra since the 2003-04 season—more than 40 percent of the Orchestra, including 24 principal and titled positions.
     
  • Reformulating the Orchestra’s 2020-21 concert season for radio, streaming and TV audiences to sustain musical performances during the pandemic.
     
  • Launching the Minnesota Orchestra into a new era of high-profile recording activity. Among the most acclaimed of these recording projects are complete cycles of symphonies by Sibelius and Beethoven on the BIS Records label, with the second album in the Sibelius collection winning the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. The Orchestra’s newest recording project, a cycle launched in 2017 to record all ten Mahler symphonies, was delayed by the pandemic but will resume in 2021-22. To date, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have recorded and released 21 albums.
     
  • Championing musicians’ voices across the institution. In the wake of the Orchestra’s lockout (October 2012-February 2014), Vänskä helped to create a new, more collaborative model of governance. He particularly expanded the presence of musicians within the Minnesota Orchestra’s artistic planning process, with musicians now playing an ongoing role in creating and curating seasonal programming.
     
  • Broadening the Orchestra’s reach and role globally through five major European tours, including three appearances at the BBC Proms in London, and historic tours to Cuba and South Africa. The tour to Cuba in 2015 was the first by an American orchestra following the 2014 thaw in Cuban-American diplomatic relations, and the tour to South Africa in 2018 was the first ever by a U.S. orchestra.
     
  • In addition to regular appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Vänskä made touring Minnesota an institutional priority, and he has personally led the Orchestra on four tours across the state, performing in cities including Bemidji, Cokato, Duluth, Hibbing, Marshall, Willmar and Windom.
     
  • Advocating for the commissioning and performance of music of our time. Creating the Future Classics concert initiative in 2006 (now called MusicMakers) as part of the Orchestra’s annual Composer Institute, Vänskä dedicated himself to leading this new music program each season and to serving as mentor to the dozens of participating emerging composers. Over the course of Vänskä’s tenure, the Orchestra has performed 26 Minnesota Orchestra commissions, 68 world premieres on its flagship Classical series, and 85 new works as part of the Composer Institute.
     
  • Leading educational concerts that reflect deep commitment to future generations. Vänskä has led Minnesota Orchestra educational performances of every variety, including Young People’s Concerts for elementary students, Symphonic Adventures for high school students, and Side-by-Side rehearsals with youth, high school and college orchestras in Minnesota, throughout the Midwest, Cuba, Finland and South Africa, among other locations.

In August 2022, Vänskä will join founding Music Director Emil Oberhoffer and sixth Music Director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski as the longest-tenured music directors in Minnesota Orchestra history; each led the ensemble for 19 seasons.

The Minnesota Orchestra gratefully acknowledges funding support from the Douglas and Louise Leatherdale Music Director Chair in honor of Osmo Vänskä.