Press Room

Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2017-18 Classical and Chamber Music Series

Music Director Osmo Vänskä guides the Orchestra’s flagship classical series, September 2017 to June 2018

Download a complete 2017-18 season calendar (pdf) / Browse Online Schedule

Classical highlights include season opener with violinist James Ehnes; a Tchaikovsky Marathon; and solo performances by Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster Erin Keefe, Principals Adam Kuenzel and Anthony Ross, and the complete low brass section: R. Douglas Wright, Kari Sundström, Andrew Chappell and Steven Campbell 

Featured soloists include violinist Augustin Hadelich; pianists Inon Barnatan, Alessio Bax, Kirill Gerstein, Louis Lortie and André Watts; and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott

Returning to the podium are Roderick Cox, Bernard Labadie, Andrew Litton, Jun Märkl, Helmuth Rilling, Markus Stenz and Juraj Valčuha

Six conductors make their Minnesota debut: Michael Francis, Klaus Mäkelä, David Newman, Rafael Payare, John Stogårds and Nathalie Stutzmann

The Orchestra honors Finland’s Centennial, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, MPR’s 50th anniversary and Leonard Bernstein’s centennial; the Composer Institute reaches its 15th anniversary

Vänskä and the Orchestra to record Mahler’s First and Fourth Symphonies, the latter with soprano Carolyn Sampson

The Orchestra spends a week in Mankato for its Common Chords festival, and performs a concert in Chicago as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Symphony Center Presents Series

Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today unveiled plans for the ensemble’s 2017-18 classical concert season, which includes appearances by numerous acclaimed guest soloists and conductors, a Tchaikovsky Marathon, multiple world premieres, and Vänskä leading Mahler’s First and Fourth Symphonies, both of which will also be recorded during the season. The Chamber Music series will return for a third season in the Target Atrium with four concerts designed and performed by small ensembles of Orchestra musicians, plus three additional NightCap concerts following full-Orchestra performances.

“Our new season will musically commemorate important anniversaries, celebrate the symphonies of Tchaikovsky and Mahler, and offer three world premieres, as well as solo performances by our own musicians,” said Vänskä. “I am very pleased the Orchestra will offer a Common Chords residency in Mankato and perform in the Chicago area for the first time in decades.”

The season opens at Orchestra Hall with Osmo Vänskä conducting concerts on September 14 to 16, 2017, featuring Stravinsky’s Suite from The Firebird and violinist James Ehnes, who will perform an American premiere by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. Also on the program are works by John Adams, Ravel and Berlioz. Featuring 23 weeks of classical subscription concerts, the season includes symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Rigel, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky; concertos by Grieg, Jaakko Kuusisto, Rachmaninoff, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Weill; and other classical favorites such as Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Debussy’s La Mer.

The 2017-18 season offers opportunities to experience brand new music with four premieres conducted by Osmo Vänskä. First is a U.S. premiere featuring James Ehnes in Swedish composer Anders Hillborg’s Violin Concerto No. 2. The Orchestra also performs three world premieres: Grawemeyer Award-winning composer Sebastian Currier’s RE-FORMATION for orchestra and chorus, Jeff Beal’s Flute Concerto for soloist Sharon Bezaly (Beal is known as the composer of the hit TV show House of Cards), and Chicago-based composer James Stephenson’s Low Brass Concerto. These are in addition to the array of new music performed in November at the Future Classics: Emerging Composers concert.

Following an acclaimed Beethoven Marathon in 2016, the Minnesota Orchestra will take on two weeks of music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky in a January 2018 Tchaikovsky Marathon. Over the course of the marathon, Osmo Vänskä and the musicians will perform six symphonies, three piano concertos, a violin concerto, a ballet suite and several other works by the master Russian composer. Featured soloists during the marathon are pianists Inon Barnatan, Adam Neiman and Kyle Orth; violinist James Ehnes; and the Orchestra’s Principal Cello Anthony Ross in Variations on a Rococo Theme. The Tchaikovsky Marathon begins with performances on New Year’s Eve, including an after-party in the Orchestra Hall lobby, and a matinee performance on New Year’s Day for those who prefer to ring in the New Year during the daylight hours.

“The 17-18 season will be remarkable! It is full of dazzling guest soloists, guest conductors and of course our own glorious music director Osmo Vänskä,” said Anthony Ross, the Orchestra’s principal cello and co-chair of its Artistic Advisory Committee. “The Tchaikovsky marathon in January will be thrilling, but also amazing will be our numerous world premieres, including a flute concerto by Jeff Beal and a new Reformation symphony for chorus and orchestra by Sebastian Currier. Next season there will be concerts for everyone and we look forward to seeing our old friends and making many new ones as well."

In January, the Orchestra travels to Chicago for the first time in 38 years to perform at the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as one of two orchestras being presented on the CSO’s 2017-18 Symphony Center Presents Series. The concert includes music by Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven, and features pianist Inon Barnatan in Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto. In the week preceding this performance, the Orchestra will also stop at several universities and Midwestern community venues for residencies and concerts. More details on these additional tour stops will be announced in a future release.

Expanding its Minnesota presence beyond Orchestra Hall, the Orchestra spends a week in April 2018 in the southern Minnesota city of Mankato for its annual Common Chords week—a festival that features performances and numerous engagement activities that reflect the interests, diversity and heritage of the host city.

During the 2017-18 season, Vänskä and the Orchestra will perform and record Mahler’s First and Fourth Symphonies, the latter with mezzo Carolyn Sampson as soloist. This continues a plan to record a series of Mahler symphonies: since June 2016, the Orchestra has recorded the Fifth, Sixth and Second Symphonies. These recordings will be released in future seasons 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.

During the upcoming season, the Orchestra and its musical community celebrate a number of milestone anniversaries. The first is Finland 100, an international celebration commemorating Finland’s independence from Russia. The Orchestra performs a late-September concert of music by Finnish composers Aho, Sibelius and Jaakko Kuusisto, with Finnish violinist Elina Vähälä soloing; a Sibelius NightCap program will follow the Saturday concert. The concert is presented in conjunction with the annual FinnFest conference, which this year is held in Minnesota.

The world premiere of Sebastian Currier’s new work RE-FORMATION for Orchestra and Chorus is paired with Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony in a program recognizing 500 years since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

In celebration of Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary, the Orchestra will perform a special concert in November 2017. The event will be hosted from the stage by MPR’s Brian Newhouse and feature milestone moments from the Orchestra’s broadcast history with MPR. It will be broadcast live on MPR stations regionally.

The Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, presented by the Orchestra and the American Composers Forum, celebrates 15 years this fall. 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 (November 2017). Composers for the Composer Institute will be announced in spring 2017.

The year 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of an American music legend, Leonard Bernstein. The Minnesota Orchestra marks the occasion with subscription concert performances of the complete score to West Side Story, while the film is shown on a large screen above the stage (February 2018). Osmo Vänskä conducts Bernstein’s On the Waterfront in an American Voices program (May 2018), and Andrew Litton leads concerts that include the composer’s ballet Fancy Free and his choral work Chichester Psalms (June 2018).

Throughout the season, the Orchestra is joined by many stellar guest soloists, including return performances with internationally-acclaimed violinists James Ehnes (who, in a rarity, makes two separate appearances during the season) and Augustin Hadelich; pianists Inon Barnatan, André Watts, Kirill Gerstein and Louis Lortie; flutist Sharon Bezaly; and bass-baritone Christopher Maltman. Also returning after memorable performances in previous Sommerfest seasons, three artists make their subscription concert debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra this season: violinist Elina Vähälä, pianist Alessio Bax and cellist Daniel Müller-Schott.

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 pianist Adam Neiman and organist Cameron Carpenter; vocalists Virginie Verrez, Julia Sophie Wagner, Olivia Vermeulen, Nicholas Phan, Tyler Duncan, Hélène Guilmette, Phillipe Sly and Carolyn Sampson; and clarinetist Bixby Kennedy and pianist Kyle Orth, recent Grand Prize-winners of the Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians will also be featured as soloists: Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel is the star in Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2; Principal Cello Anthony Ross performs Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme; and Concertmaster Erin Keefe plays Kurt Weill’s Violin Concerto. The season concludes with the four musicians of the Orchestra’s low brass section—Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright, trombone player Kari Sundström, bass trombone player Andrew Chappell and Principal Tuba Steven Campbell—in the world premiere of James Stephenson’s Low Brass Concerto.

Familiar faces taking the conductor’s podium in 2017-18 include the Orchestra’s Associate Conductor Roderick Cox, who conducts Rachmaninoff and Grieg in early October, and Andrew Litton, the Orchestra’s artistic director of Sommerfest from 2003 to 2017, who conducts William Walton’s large-scale oratorio Belshazzar’s Feast, a work that Litton previously recorded for a disc that won a Grammy Award in 1998. Other returning guest conductors include Bernard Labadie, Jun Märkl, Helmuth Rilling, Markus Stenz, Juraj Valčuha and Gilbert Varga. Six conductors make their Minnesota Orchestra debuts: Michael Francis, Klaus Mäkelä, Rafael Payare, John Storgårds, Nathalie Stutzmann and David Newman, who conducts performances of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story, bridging the Classical and Live at Orchestra Hall series.

The Minnesota Chorale, the Orchestra’s principal chorus, will collaborate four times with the Orchestra in the classical season. The first of these collaborations occurs in early November, with Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony and the world premiere of RE-FORMATION by Sebastian Currier, as part of a special program commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In a new December holiday offering, Helmuth Rilling conducts the Orchestra, the Minnesota Chorale and vocal soloists in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Additional collaborations with the Chorale include Fauré’s Requiem, conducted by Bernard Labadie, and a June concert led by Andrew Litton, featuring Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. The Chorale is prepared by its Artistic Director Kathy Saltzman Romey, who also serves as the Orchestra’s choral advisor.                           

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 2017-18 season concerts will be held in the afternoon on November 26, 2017, and February 11, April 15 and June 3, 2018. In addition, post-concert NightCap performances occur on September 23, 2017, and January 13 and May 5, 2018, following the full Orchestra concerts on each of those evenings. All Chamber Music and NightCap concerts are held in the Target Atrium, with the exception of the September 23 and June 3 programs, which will be in the Orchestra Hall Auditorium.

Featured musicians include members of every section of the Orchestra, as well as Osmo Vänskä on clarinet and several of the season’s subscription series guest soloists. Repertoire for 2017-18 Chamber Music Concerts—all programmed by Orchestra musicians—includes music for cello ensemble; a Beethoven trio; string quartets and quintets by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Dvořák, Fauré and Schulhoff; and chamber works featuring winds and brass by Sibelius, Janáček, Stravinsky and others. (See calendar for complete listing of Chamber Music and NightCap Concerts.) 

The Classical and Chamber Music in the Target Atrium series are part of a larger 2017-18 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 2017-18 Classical and Chamber Music in the Target Atrium series are available to the general public starting on Monday, April 3. 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 Friday, April 21. Flexible packages are available with an Easy Pass Package (six flexible vouchers) available for use now for the rest of the current 2016-17 Minnesota Orchestra season and 2017 Sommerfest, and redeemable for next season’s concerts beginning on July 19, 2017. Individual tickets for the 2017-18 season go on sale to the general public on Friday, July 28, 2017. 

Packages and tickets can be purchased online 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 on performance Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.); in person at Orchestra Hall, 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.

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

The Star Tribune is the Minnesota Orchestra’s media partner for the 2017-18 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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