Press Room

Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2016-17 Season - Including Classical Concerts, Inside the Classics, Symphony in 60 and Chamber Music Series


Music Director Osmo Vänskä guides the Orchestra’s flagship classical series, September 2016 to June 2017; classical highlights include season opener with violinist Joshua Bell; New Year’s Celebration Concerts with soprano Dawn Upshaw; and solo performances by Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster Erin Keefe and principals Michael Gast, Kathy Kienzle and Anthony Ross

Vänskä and the Orchestra to record Mahler’s Sixth and Second Symphonies, the latter with the Minnesota Chorale and guest soloists

Three former music directors return to the podium: Sir Neville Marriner, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Edo de Waart; former Sommerfest Artistic Director David Zinman also returns

Soloists include violinists Karen Gomyo, Leila Josefowicz, Simone Porter and Esther Yoo; cellists Alban Gerhardt and Alisa Weilerstein; pianists Rafał Blechacz, Ingrid Fliter, Marc-André Hamelin, Lise de la Salle and Joyce Yang; soprano Camilla Tilling; mezzo Sasha Cooke; and retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan C. Page

Six conductors make their Minnesota Orchestra classical concert debuts: Han-Na Chang, Edward Gardner, Juanjo Mena, Ludovic Morlot, Santtu-Matias Rouvali and Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox

Download a complete 2016-17 season calendar (pdf) / Browse Online Schedule

Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today announced plans for the ensemble’s 2016-17 classical concert season, which includes appearances by numerous acclaimed guest soloists, the return of three former Minnesota Orchestra music directors, debuts by six conductors who are on the rise internationally, and Vänskä leading Mahler’s Sixth and Second Symphonies, both of which will also be recorded during the season. In addition, the Orchestra is announcing the lineup for two classical series that offer casual concert experiences for audiences: Inside the Classics, a series of concerts combining music and conversation conducted by Sarah Hicks and hosted by Sam Bergman, and Symphony in 60, a set of hour-long concerts bookended by optional social activities. Lastly, after a successful first season, the Chamber Music in the Target Atrium series will return with four concerts designed and performed by small ensembles of Orchestra musicians.

The season opens at Orchestra Hall on September 22 and 23, 2016, with concerts featuring violinist Joshua Bell, who will perform Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä’s direction; the Orchestra also performs Todd Levin’s virtuosic and invigorating Blur and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2. Featuring 24 weeks of classical subscription concerts, the season includes symphonies by Dvořák, Prokofiev, Hindemith, Schubert, Mahler and Shostakovich; Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring; and Debussy’s Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun. The Orchestra offers its first performances of John Adams’ Scheherazade.2, a work written for and performed by violin soloist Leila Josefowicz, and the world premiere of Claudio Puntin’s Clarinet Concerto, composed at Osmo Vänskä’s request, which Puntin performs as a companion piece to Mahler’s Sixth Symphony in November.

“This season we’re thrilled to welcome artists and conductors from around the world, many of whom have played significant roles in the Orchestra’s history,” said Vänskä. “We look forward to a season of inspiring music on our Orchestra Hall home stage, on the road as we tour Minnesota and beyond, and on disc with our recording projects.”

After the September 22 and 23 opening concerts, the season continues with concerts on September 29, 30 and October 1, as Vänskä conducts the Orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale in Mass for a Sacred Place by the late St. Paul composer Stephen Paulus. These concerts also include Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, showcasing two of the Orchesta’s horn players, and Ginastera’s Harp Concerto, featuring Principal Harp Kathy Kienzle as soloist. In all, Vänskä leads the Orchestra for 14 weeks of the season, including subscription concerts, recording weeks and tours, and the season finale performances of Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection, in June 2017.

Vänskä and the Orchestra will record Mahler’s Sixth and Second Symphonies—continuing with a plan to record a series of Mahler symphonies which begins with the Fifth in June 2016—in separate sessions November 2016 and June 2017. These recordings will be released in a future season on the BIS Records label.

Continuing a longtime partnership with Minnesota Public Radio, the Orchestra’s Friday evening classical concerts will be broadcast regionally on classical MPR stations.

Throughout the season, the Orchestra is joined by many stellar guest soloists, including world-renowned violinists Joshua Bell and Leila Josefowicz, soprano Dawn Upshaw, and decorated cellist Alisa Weilerstein who plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto. Also returning to Orchestra Hall are pianists Lise de la Salle, Ingrid Fliter and Marc-André Hamelin; violinist Karen Gomyo; violist Matthew Lipman (who shares the stage with concertmaster Erin Keefe in Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante); and vocalists Camilla Tilling and Sasha Cooke, who perform in Mahler’s Second Symphony.

For several guest soloists, this season’s concerts will mark a Minnesota Orchestra debut. Among those performing for the first time at Orchestra Hall are violinists Esther Yoo and Simone Porter; clarinetist Claudio Puntin; pianists Behzod Abduraimov, Joyce Yang and Rafał Blechacz; and cellist Alban Gerhardt. In addition, Alan C. Page, retired Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, takes the stage as the narrator in Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.

Four Orchestra musicians will be featured as soloists in large-scale works: Principal Harp Kathy Kienzle plays Ginastera’s Harp Concerto; Concertmaster Erin Keefe will perform Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante alongside violist Matthew Lipman—winner of the Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2012 Young Artists Competition; Principal Horn Michael Gast solos in Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3; and Principal Cello Anthony Ross plays Bloch’s Schelomo, a Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello, conducted by former artistic director of Sommerfest David Zinman. In addition, Minnesota Orchestra horn players Michael Gast and Brian Jensen are showcased in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, and First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park and members of the Orchestra’s flute section, Adam Kuenzel and Wendy Williams, are featured in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4.

“Learning about the newest season at the Minnesota Orchestra is like sampling the updated menu at your favorite restaurant,” said Anthony Ross, the Orchestra’s principal cello and co-chair of its Artistic Advisory Committee. “We are most excited to continue forging connections with our audiences through performances with international guest artists we’ve come to know well over the years, as well as fascinating new talent we are welcoming to Minneapolis for the first time.”

On the podium this season, the Orchestra welcomes back several of its most beloved leaders, who collectively were the ensemble’s music directors for 35 consecutive seasons: esteemed Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, music director from 1960 to 1979, leads his specialty in Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony; former Music Director Sir Neville Marriner, who led the ensemble from 1979 to 1986 and has been away for a full decade, conducts Beethoven and Dvořák; and Edo de Waart, music director from 1986 to 1995, conducts the Orchestra and Minnesota Chorale in Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius. Other returning guest conductors include Juraj Valčuha, who debuted here in 2015; Hugh Wolff, conducting the Orchestra for the first time since 1993; Douglas Boyd, who leads Handel’s Messiah; and former Sommerfest Artistic Director David Zinman.

As many conductors from the Orchestra’s past join the musicians onstage, so do a handful of exciting conductors who are on the rise and making their Minnesota Orchestra debuts. British conductor Edward Gardner, who is the newly-appointed music director of the Bergen Philharmonic, leads concerts with Leila Josefowicz; Han-Na Chang, a cellist who has soloed with the Orchestra before, returns with a baton in hand for her debut on the podium leading Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2; and Minnesota Orchestra’s own Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox conducts his first classical subscription concerts in January 2017 in a program featuring music by Debussy, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. In addition, Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali, a graduate of the famed Sibelius Academy like Osmo Vänskä, leads Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 6; Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, chief conductor of the BBC Philharmonic, leads Falla and Debussy; and French conductor and music director of the Seattle Symphony Ludovic Morlot conducts Dutilleux, Ravel and Prokofiev.

In addition to the Orchestra’s traditional December performances of Messiah, the Minnesota Chorale will collaborate three times with the Orchestra in the classical season. The first of these programs occurs in late September with performances of Mass for a Sacred Place by the late Stephen Paulus; these concerts will mark the Minnesota Orchestra’s first performances of this work. Former Music Director Edo de Waart reunites with the Chorale for concerts of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius—the complete oratorio was last performed by the Orchestra more than a century ago under its first music director Emil Oberhoffer. Lastly, as the season concludes, the Chorale adds beauty and power to Mahler’s Second Symphony, Resurrection. The Chorale is prepared by its Artistic Director Kathy Saltzman Romey, who also serves as the Orchestra’s choral advisor.


The Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute is presented by the Orchestra and the American Composers Forum for the 14th time in early February 2017. The Institute, which is directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts, offers up to seven emerging composers an intensive week-long immersion in the world of the symphony orchestra. At the week’s end, the participating composers’ works will be performed in a Future Classics concert, conducted by Osmo Vänskä. Composers for the 2017 Composer Institute will be announced in summer 2016.
In the wake of successful recent tours to Greater Minnesota, Cuba and Carnegie Hall, the Minnesota Orchestra is excited to announce that the 2016-17 season will include multiple performances on the road, including a January 2017 tour to Florida to present concerts in Naples, Sarasota and Miami, with Osmo Vänskä conducting.           

In May 2017, Assistant Conductor Roderick Cox and the Orchestra travel throughout Minnesota to perform concerts in cities that previously partnered with the Orchestra in its Common Chords program, including Grand Rapids and Bemidji, among others. Details about programs, locations and dates will be announced in a future press release.            

The current season (2015-16) will conclude with a four-country European tour from August 18 to 27 led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and featuring Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto. A special Send-Off Concert will be held at Orchestra Hall on Tuesday, August 16, 2016. More information about this tour will follow in a press release in April.

Inside the Classics
—a three-concert series that explores great classical works through performances and enlightening conversation—returns for its eighth season with conductor Sarah Hicks and host Sam Bergman, who is a member of the Orchestra’s viola section. Each concert includes an in-depth look at the featured composers and concert themes, as Hicks and Bergman offer lively discussion, musical excerpts, insights and humor, giving the audience a greater understanding of the music performed by the Orchestra during the concert. The second half of the concerts include complete performances of the selected works.

The season begins on January 28, 2017, with a program exploring the classic Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet. Many composers have been inspired to write music based on this tale, and the Orchestra, led by Hicks, will pay particular attention to the work of Prokofiev for this concert.

The series’ second program, performed on March 3, dives into Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, a work that showcases the virtuosity of each section of the ensemble. Bergman notes: “Ask any musician about their favorite 20th century composers and Béla Bartók will come in high on the list. His Concerto for Orchestra was arguably the last work to make it into heavy rotation on orchestra programs, and is inarguably one of the greatest musical works of the 20th century.”

For the Inside the Classics season finale, presented on July 15, the Orchestra examines Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7. “It’s rare for a composer’s image to be transformed late in his career, but when Dvořák wrote his Seventh Symphony, everything changed. He went from well-regarded lightweight to the world’s next great symphonist,” says Bergman.

Symphony in 60
, a two-concert series of classical performances in a one-hour format, returns in 2017 with one concert conducted by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and another led by former Sommerfest Artistic Director David Zinman. The one-hour programs, which each take place on a Thursday night, offer a burst of culture for busy lifestyles, whether audiences are already classical music fans, curious about the music, or altogether new to Orchestra Hall. Optional social activities are offered before and after each program. Each evening begins at 7 p.m. with a happy hour at Orchestra Hall. The concert program runs from approximately 8 to 9 p.m., with no intermission, and is followed immediately by an onstage gathering at which audience members may meet and mingle with members of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The season’s first Symphony in 60 concert, held on March 30, 2017, and conducted by Osmo Vänskä, features Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a work that pushed the boundaries of music and dance, inducing riots at its 1913 premiere performance in Paris. In the second concert of the series, on June 1, 2017, Zinman conducts Also sprach Zarathustra, one of Richard Strauss’ epic tone poems.          

The extraordinary talent of individual Minnesota Orchestra musicians shines in a rich series of chamber music concerts programmed and performed by members of the Minnesota Orchestra. The 2016-17 season concerts, held in Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium, take place on October 23, 2016, and January 22, April 23 and June 4, 2017. Featuring musicians from all sections of the Orchestra, concerts are set to include string quartets by Prokofiev and Brahms; four flute sonatas by Bach performed by the Orchestra’s four flutists; and unique trios, sonatas with piano, and music for multiple wind instruments.

The Classical, Inside the Classics, Symphony in 60 and Chamber Music in the Target Atrium series are part of a larger 2016-17 concert season that also includes the separately-announced Live at Orchestra Hall, Holiday Concerts, Family Concerts and Jazz in the Target Atrium, as well as Young People’s Concerts for school groups and homeschool students.


Subscription packages
for 2016-17 Classical, Inside the Classics, Symphony in 60 and Chamber Music in the Target Atrium series are available to the general public starting on Monday, April 4. Current Minnesota Orchestra subscribers will be contacted in phases (between March and June) with an invitation to renew their specific seats and series. Classical subscription packages include three to 24 concerts featuring the same seat location for every concert. Create Your Own packages go on sale beginning Monday, June 13. Flexible packages are available with an Easy Pass Package (six flexible vouchers) available for use now for the rest of the current 2015-16 Minnesota Orchestra season and 2016 Sommerfest, and redeemable for next season’s concerts beginning on July 20, 2016. Individual tickets for the 2016-17 season go on sale to the general public on July 29, 2016. 

Packages and tickets can be purchased at; by calling 612-371-5656 (612-371-5642 for subscriptions) or 800-292-4141 (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and performance Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.); in person at the Orchestra Hall Box Office, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and beginning two hours before all ticketed performances); and in person 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.).  For more information, call 612-371-5656, or visit  For packages, call 612-371-5642 or visit  For groups of 10 or more, call 612-371-5662.

Included in the 2016-17 season are three mini-series offerings: the Saturdays at Six Series, which includes selected concerts with an earlier start time of 6 p.m. rather than 8 p.m; the Inside the Classics Series, which includes all three casual programs; and Symphony in 60 Series, which includes two Thursday evening 60-minute concerts.

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

The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra’s media partner for the 2016-17 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.

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Gwen Pappas, Director of Public Relations 
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Communications Office

Minnesota Orchestra
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Minneapolis, Minnesota 55403
Phone: 612.371.5600
Fax: 612.371.7170

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