Press Room

Minnesota Orchestra announces concert programs and itinerary for Cuba visit in May

First Orchestra concert at Teatro Nacional features all-Beethoven repertoire; second program includes Caturla’s Danzón, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite

In addition to playing two performances as part of the International Cubadisco Festival in Havana, Minnesota Orchestra musicians will participate in musical exchanges with high school and university students, play a “side-by-side” rehearsal with a Cuban youth symphony and perform late-night jazz at Havana Café

Read this press release in Spanish / Lea este comunicado de prensa en español (PDF)

The Minnesota Orchestra announced today the complete schedule and repertoire for its May visit to Cuba, an historic trip that culminates with two performances in Havana, May 15 and 16—and will additionally include several musical exchanges between Orchestra musicians and students. These will range from coaching sessions with high school and university student musicians to rehearsing with a Cuban youth symphony and playing jazz music with professional Cuban musicians. The Orchestra announced in February that it would perform in Cuba as part of the 19th annual International Cubadisco Festival this May, becoming the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since President Obama took steps to normalize relations between the countries last December. The tour is being made possible by a generous gift from Marilyn C. and Glen D. Nelson.

The Orchestra’s opening performance on Friday, May 15, at the Teatro Nacional will feature Music Director Osmo Vänskä conducting the Orchestra in an all-Beethoven program, including the Egmont Overture; Symphony No. 3, Eroica; and Choral Fantasy, the latter with Cuban pianist Frank Fernández and choruses Coro Vocal Leo and the Cuban National Choir.

The second performance, on Saturday, May 16, at the same location will feature Cuban composer Alejandro García Caturla’s Danzón, Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite, conducted by Vänskä.

The Orchestra tour group will comprise 165 individuals, including 100 musicians, as well as stage crew, staff, community members participating in a “people to people” exchange and members of the media. Cargo for the trip will include 65 tour trunks, collectively weighing more than four tons, and the music for 16 musical works, totaling 2,000 individual parts.

The International Cubadisco Festival is an annual music festival that encompasses one of the most important recording competitions in the Cuban music industry. The theme for the 19th annual festival, running from May 15 to 24, is symphonic and choral music.

Musical Exchanges
Following their arrival in Cuba on Wednesday, May 13, Orchestra musicians will visit Cuban high school and university music students on Thursday, May 14. At the Escuela Nacional de Música, a national high school for music study, Minnesota Orchestra brass, string, percussion and woodwind players will coach student chamber groups, hold master classes and exchange musical performances in a two-hour morning session. The Escuela Nacional de Música includes more than 500 students from across Cuba who focus on both classical and popular music studies.

At the nearby Instituto Superior de Arte, a university that focuses on the arts, Minnesota Orchestra musicians representing all the instrument families will meet with university student musicians, offering group master classes as well as practical coaching advice for students who are preparing for annual competitions, again in a two-hour session.

On the morning of Friday, May 15, the Minnesota Orchestra will join the 80-member youth symphony, Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil Amadeo Roldán, onstage at the Teatro Nacional for a side-by-side rehearsal. Sharing stands and music, the Minnesota musicians and high school-aged youth symphony members will rehearse Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances with Music Director Osmo Vänskä. (The students will perform this music the next day as part of the International Cubadisco Festival.) Composer and conductor Guido López Gavilán—who serves as the youth symphony’s conductor—will also lead the combined ensemble in a rehearsal of one of his own pieces: Guaguancó, a colorful work with complex Cuban rhythms.

Following the Minnesota Orchestra concert on Saturday, May 16, members of the Orchestra who also specialize in jazz performance will head to the Havana Café, where they will participate in a late night musical jam with Cuban musicians.

Touring History
The Minnesota Orchestra’s touring history dates back to 1907, just four years after the Orchestra’s founding in 1903. The ensemble was soon nicknamed “the Orchestra on Wheels” because of its frequent and lengthy cross country train travel. In 1929, the Orchestra extended its annual winter tour to accept an invitation to Cuba, and on January 29, the Orchestra boarded a steamship to Havana and for the first time left the continental U.S. Led by then-Music Director Henri Verbrugghen, the tour was a success—two Havana concerts were sold out within 24 hours, so a third concert was added—and a return visit was planned for the following year. The 1930 visit also encompassed three performances, each before 2,500 people.

The Orchestra has toured to the Middle East, a 1957 trip sponsored by the U.S. State Department, as well as Australia, the Far East and Europe. Current Music Director Osmo Vänskä has led the ensemble on four highly regarded European tours, including most recently a 2010 visit to the BBC Proms.


Osmo Vänskä, music director
Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, the Minnesota Orchestra’s tenth music director, is renowned for his compelling interpretations of the standard, contemporary and Nordic repertoires. He has led the Orchestra on four European tours as well as regular tours to communities across Minnesota. The recording projects he has undertaken with the Minnesota Orchestra have met with great success; in January 2014 their recording of Sibelius’ First and Fourth Symphonies won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. Vänskä is also principal guest conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and conductor laureate of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, which, during two decades as music director, he transformed into one of Finland’s flagship orchestras. Vänskä began his career as a clarinetist, holding major posts with the Helsinki Philharmonic and the Turku Philharmonic.

Minnesota Orchestra
The Minnesota Orchestra has long ranked among the United States’ top symphonic ensembles, with a history of acclaimed performances at home and around the world. Founded in 1903 as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble began touring in 1907 and became known as “the orchestra on wheels” for its cross-country tours. It has been heard nationally and internationally in award-winning broadcasts produced by Minnesota Public Radio, and it has received acclaim for its vast collection of recordings, dating back to the 1920s. The ensemble’s ten music directors have included Eugene Ormandy, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Antal Dorati, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Neville Marriner and, currently, Osmo Vänskä, who presides over a season typically encompassing 175 concerts that are heard live by 350,000 individuals. The Minnesota Orchestra makes its home at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis.

Frank Fernández, piano
Cuban-born pianist Frank Fernández is not only known for his performances of both classical and popular music, but also for his contributions as an educator, composer, arranger and scholar. His success is built on four pillars: mastery of the 19th-century piano repertoire, handed down from a line of teachers going back to Franz Liszt; expertise in Russian keyboard literature, acquired at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Conservatory; immersion in the rich Cuban musical traditions of the last two centuries; and lifelong association with the finest exponents of Cuban and Latin American popular music. Fernández is praised for his interpretations of many composers’ works, especially for those of Beethoven, whose sonatas and concertos he has recorded. He has presented recitals in prestigious halls from Havana, Buenos Aires and Bogotá to Vancouver, Madrid, Paris, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo.

Cuban National Choir – Digna Guerra, director
A versatile ensemble dedicated to spreading culture through music, the Cuban National Choir performs Cuban and international repertoire, both classical and popular, dating from the Renaissance to the present day. It has given notable world premieres and first performances in Cuba such as Juan Blanco’s Cantata por la Paz and the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor by Borodin. In addition to working with major organizations including Cuba’s National Symphonic Orchestra, Opera and National Ballet, it performs in hospitals, work centers and student centers, and on military bases. The choir has also recorded soundtracks for the films The Last Supper and The Century of Light. A chamber ensemble comprised of vocalists from the Cuban National Choir will be the featured chorus at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in a July 5, 2015, Minnesota Orchestra concert.

Coro Vocal Leo – Corina Campos, director
The chamber choir Vocal Leo is known for using a vocal technique based on opera that gives it its own color and brand, and for combining dance and drama in its performances. Presenting repertoire that ranges from ancient to contemporary music, the choir has performed in major venues in and beyond Cuba, drawing critical acclaim in Mexico, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia and the United States. It has won a Cubadisco award as well as top prizes in European choral competitions. It has also collaborated with major conductors performing great choral-symphonic works by such composers as Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven.

Minnesota Orchestra
Cuba Schedule at a Glance

departure from Minneapolis

THURSDAY, MAY 14, 2015
Music Exchange/Master Classes, 10 am to 12 noon

Minnesota Orchestra musicians will visit the Escuela Nacional de Música (high school) and Instituto Superior de Arte (university) to meet with music students, offering master classes, individual coaching and performances.

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2015
Side-by-Side Rehearsal with Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil Amadeo Roldan
Teatro Nacional, 11 am to 1pm

The Minnesota Orchestra will play a “side-by-side” rehearsal with the student musicians of this Cuban youth symphony, conducted by Osmo Vänskä and Guido López Gavilán.

Concert Performance, Teatro Nacional, 8:30 pm

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Frank Fernández, piano
Cuban National Choir and Coro Vocal Leo

Beethoven                                               Overture to Egmont, Opus 84
Beethoven                                               Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, Opus 80, Choral Fantasy
Beethoven                                               Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major, Opus 55, Eroica

SATURDAY, MAY 16, 2015
Concert Performance, Teatro Nacional, 8:30 pm

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor

Alejandro García Caturla                         Danzón
Leonard Bernstein                                   Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Sergei Prokofiev                                      Selections from Romeo and Juliet              

Jazz Performance, Havana Café, 11 pm
Minnesota Orchestra and Cuban musicians play jazz at the Havana Café.

SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2015
Return to Minneapolis

The Minnesota Orchestra’s Cuba Tour 2015 is made possible by a generous gift from Marilyn C. and Glen D. Nelson.

All arrangements for the Cuba Tour are being managed by Classical Movements, the leading concert touring company to Cuba, which has arranged musical tours to the island nation for more than 18 years. Also providing counsel and support is HarrisonParrott, worldwide general managers for Osmo Vänskä and international touring representatives for the Minnesota Orchestra together with its Music Director.


Gwen Pappas, Director of Public Relations 
(612) 371-5628 • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Press Contacts

Gwen Pappas

Director of Communications
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Carl Schroeder

Publications Editor
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Emma Plehal

Communications Manager and Assistant Editor
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Isaac Risseeuw

Social Media and Content Manager
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Communications Office

Minnesota Orchestra
1111 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Phone: 612.371.5600
Fax: 612.371.7170

Download Showcase PDFs

Showcase Concert Magazine, April 2020   

For information on advertising in Showcase, contact:
Marilyn A. Miller
952-942-7355 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.