Press Room

Minnesota Orchestra Announces 2019-20 Season Programming


Music Director Osmo Vänskä guides the Orchestra’s flagship Classical series, September 2019 to June 2020

Explore the 2019-20 Season

Download Complete 2019-20 Season Calendar (pdf) 
View Classical Season At-A-Glance (pdf)
See Season Brochure (pdf)

The season opens with guest pianist André Watts; features 21 returning and debuting guest soloists; and spotlights Orchestra musicians Erin Keefe, Susie Park, Anthony Ross, Silver Ainomäe and Fei Xie

Classical season features 13 guest conductors and Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto in her subscription concert debut  

Vänskä and the Orchestra to perform and record Mahler’s Third Symphony

Orchestra performs music by more than twenty 21st-century composers, including the U.S. premiere of Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto with soloist Alban Gerhardt

Popular movies are shown while the Orchestra plays the scores live onstage; films include Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ and Disney Pixar’s Up

Sensory-Friendly and Relaxed Family Concerts, Young People’s Concerts and Symphonic Adventures programming offers more than 30 performances for young audiences and families throughout the season

Live at Orchestra Hall presentations, Sam and Sarah concerts, Chamber Music concerts, Common Chords events, and new Music and Mindfulness offerings are also included in the complete 2019-20 season

Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Grammy Award-winning Minnesota Orchestra today unveiled plans for the ensemble’s 2019-20 season, which runs from September 2019 to June 2020, and includes Classical, Holiday, Live at Orchestra Hall, Chamber Music, Music and Mindfulness, Young People’s Concerts, and Sensory-Friendly and Relaxed Family Concerts.

“This new season brings many wonderful artists to Orchestra Hall and explores the great music of the past alongside thrilling new work by composers living in our world today,” says Vänskä. “We are looking forward to sharing it with everyone.”

Led by Vänskä, the Classical concert season features more than 20 works new to the Minnesota Orchestra’s repertoire, most written by 21st-century composers; a New Year’s program inspired by London’s BBC Proms festival finale; the launch of a Rachmaninoff project with pianist Kirill Gerstein; favorite returning guest artists and conductors, and just as many making their Minnesota Orchestra debuts; and Vänskä conducting Mahler’s Third Symphony, to be recorded during the season as part of the ongoing Mahler Symphonies recording project.

The Holiday season in December features Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus in Merry and Bright; Orchestra musicians performing Holiday Brass concerts at local churches; pianist George Winston; a live movie screening of It’s A Wonderful Life; and a special visit from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The Orchestra’s own Home for the Holidays musical-theatrical production also returns for a third season.

Live at Orchestra Hall, a series featuring popular music, jazz, Broadway classics, movie scores and other genres, is led by Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall. Highlights include performances with vocalists Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins inspired by the collaborations of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, indie rock band Cloud Cult and the cirque performers of Troupe Vertigo. Movie screenings, featuring the Orchestra performing the film scores live, include Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Disney Pixar’s Up.

The Chamber Music season presents four musician-designed concerts in Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium performed by a variety of small ensembles comprising Orchestra musicians. This season’s programs include ensembles ranging from duos to octets and feature musical selections by beloved classical composers alongside new or rarely-performed works in each concert.  

Young People’s Concerts, Relaxed Family Concerts, Sensory-Friendly Concerts and Symphonic Adventures serve an important role in the Orchestra’s mission, designed so that people of all ages and abilities have access to classical music. The new season offers more than 30 opportunities for young audiences and families to hear world-class symphonic music.  

The Orchestra also offers a new Musical Mindfulness program, expanding upon the recently-added Yoga Class at Orchestra Hall series by presenting three guided meditation sessions onstage with an Orchestra musician or small ensemble providing live music at each event. 

“The 2019-20 season will be a journey of generous and adventurous music-making, full of vision and enthusiasm for sharing our art with the Twin Cities communities and beyond,” says Ellen Dinwiddie Smith, Orchestra horn player and chair of the Artistic Advisory Committee. “From the thrilling opening chords of Grieg’s Piano Concerto performed by the phenomenal André Watts, to Richard Strauss’ expansive Alpine Symphony, to the Disney movie Up, which was directed by Minnesota’s own Pete Docter, this tremendous season offers something for everyone.”


The Minnesota Orchestra’s season features 23 weeks of classical programming, beginning with Season Opening concerts on September 19, 20 and 21, led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and featuring eminent pianist André Watts, who will play Grieg’s Piano Concerto. The Season Opening program also includes A Requiem in Our Time from Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, Elliott Carter’s Three Illusions for Orchestra and the Enigma Variations by British composer Edward Elgar. This program sets the stage for many concerts throughout the 2019-20 season which feature familiar classical music showstoppers, as well as newly-created, exhilarating works by composers of today, many of which have never been heard at Orchestra Hall.

Major works of the classical repertoire during the 2019-20 season include Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, conducted by Eivind Gullberg Jensen; Brahms’ Second Symphony under the direction of Nathalie Stutzmann; Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony with Kirill Karabits; Mozart’s final symphony, No. 41, Jupiter, conducted by Michael Francis; and—in the grand finale—Mahler’s Third Symphony, led by Osmo Vänskä.

Also found throughout the season’s programming are more than 20 pieces that are new to the Minnesota Orchestra’s repertoire, many of them written by 21st-century composers who are making a dramatic impact on today’s orchestral stages. One of these works, Brett Dean’s Cello Concerto, will see its United States premiere in Minnesota Orchestra concerts with cellist Alban Gerhardt, after having received its world premiere at the Sydney Opera House in 2018. Other recently-composed works include two by Composer Institute alumni—Anna Clyne’s This Midnight Hour and Polina Nazaykinskaya’s Winter Bells; Hannah Kendall’s The Spark Catchers; Lineage by Zosha Di Castri; Franghiz Ali-Zadeh’s Fairy Tales; Kalevi Aho’s Sieidi Percussion Concerto; Sebastian Fagerlund’s Water Atlas; Kaija Saariaho’s Ciel d’hiver; and Tales of Hemingway by Michael Daugherty, a newly-composed cello concerto that will feature Principal Cello Anthony Ross.

In addition, several new pieces (composers and works to be announced) will also receive their first major orchestral performances during January’s MusicMakers concert—known in years past as Future Classics—in the culmination of the Orchestra’s 17th annual Composer Institute.  

A thread of Russian masterworks, with major symphonic pieces by some of the biggest names in classical music history—Sergei Prokofiev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Dimitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky—is woven throughout the 2019-20 season. The Orchestra performs Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony and Cinderella Suite; Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade; three symphonies by Shostakovich—Nos. 15, 9 and 7—plus his Violin Concerto No. 2, with Christian Tetzlaff as soloist; and Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz, Pulcinella and Symphony of Psalms, the last of which is performed with the Minnesota Chorale. The Russian Century, a concert led by violist-host Sam Bergman and conductor Sarah Hicks, explores the musical and cultural influences of Russian composers in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Music by Rachmaninoff is a major component of the Orchestra’s upcoming concerts as pianist Kirill Gerstein joins the Orchestra in March and May to begin a new project—which will run through this season and into the subsequent 2020-21 season—performing all of Rachmaninoff’s major works for piano and orchestra. In these first two appearances combined, he plays the First and Second Piano Concertos and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This is in addition to Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony and the Orchestra’s first-ever performance of his Three Russian Songs, with the Minnesota Chorale.

Also recurring throughout the season is a connection to the music and musicians of Great Britain. Musical highlights include Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Britten’s Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, and additional works by Edward Elgar and others. Inspired by the Orchestra’s critically-acclaimed performance at London’s BBC Proms in August 2018, Music Director Osmo Vänskä leads a New Year’s Eve concert that aims to capture the essence of the grand celebration of the BBC Proms festival finale, with performances by BBC Young Artist Jess Gillam—who has taken the orchestral stage by storm as an alto saxophone soloist—as well as bagpipers, military marches and movie music.

In the Spotlight
The 2019-20 season features more than two dozen internationally-acclaimed soloists, including several of Minnesota Orchestra’s own musicians. Returning guests include violinists Leila Josefowicz, Christian Tetzlaff and Augustin Hadelich; pianists Inon Barnatan, Kirill Gerstein and André Watts; cellist Alban Gerhardt; organist Cameron Carpenter; sopranos Goitsemang Lehobye and Sherezade Panthaki; and tenor Richard Croft.

Performing with the Minnesota Orchestra for the first time are violinist Benjamin Beilman; pianist Francesco Piemontesi; cellist Paul Watkins; saxophonist Jess Gillam; trumpet player Tine Thing Helseth; percussionist Martin Grubinger; mezzo Tara Erraught; countertenor Daniel Moody; baritone Benjamin Bevan and bass-baritone Dashon Burton.  

Additionally, five Minnesota Orchestra musicians will be featured as soloists in classical concerts. Erin Keefe, the Orchestra’s concertmaster, plays Dvořák’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra in Guarantors’ Week concerts in November. Concerts in May 2020 include Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, featuring First Associate Concertmaster Susie Park and Associate Principal Cello Silver Ainomäe, and the Orchestra’s first-ever performances of Michael Daugherty’s Tales of Hemingway with Principal Cello Anthony Ross as soloist. Fei Xie, the Orchestra’s principal bassoon, makes his Minnesota Orchestra solo debut in Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto in June 2020.

On the Podium
Returning to the podium are several esteemed conductors, including Michael Francis, Kirill Karabits, Nicholas Kraemer, Klaus Mäkelä, Juanjo Mena, Nathalie Stutzmann and Juraj Valčuha. The Minnesota Orchestra’s Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto will make her subscription concert debut in performances at Northrop with organ soloist Cameron Carpenter.

Also making conducting debuts with the Orchestra are Italian conductor Jader Bignamini; Karina Canellakis, the newly appointed chief conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra; the principal guest conductor of Teatro Real in Madrid, Pablo Heras-Casado; Eivind Gullberg Jensen, who leads the Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony; cellist and conductor Paul Watkins, who conducts and performs the solo in C.P.E. Bach’s Cello Concerto; and Simone Young, who hails from Australia and is the first woman to have conducted the Vienna State Opera.

Sam and Sarah
“Sam and Sarah” concerts are newly-designed programs that stem from the Orchestra’s successful Inside the Classics series that was created by Principal Conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall Sarah Hicks and Orchestra violist Sam Bergman. Hosted from the stage by Bergman and Hicks, these concerts include onstage conversations and performances of musical examples that provide deeper insight into a particular topic. In Music and the Mind, slated for February 7, Bergman and Hicks will explore the unique ways that music engages the brains of both the listener and the performer. The second concert of this series, held on March 7, highlights the composers and cultural influences of 20th- and 21st-century Russian music in a program titled The Russian Century.

Symphony in 60
Symphony in 60 concerts offer the full experience of a Minnesota Orchestra concert, with masterworks by classical music’s greatest composers, in a shorter format that includes a one-hour-long performance and earlier start time at 6 p.m., plus extras including a pre-concert happy hour and post-concert onstage reception with the musicians. The 2019-20 season includes two of these casual format concerts: the first, featuring Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and led by Paul Watkins, takes place on February 1; the second, on May 30, features Mozart’s 41st and final symphony, the Jupiter Symphony, conducted by Michael Francis.

Choral Collaborations
The Minnesota Chorale, the Orchestra’s principal chorus, led by Kathy Saltzman Romey, will collaborate five times with the Orchestra in the 2019-20 season. They join Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra and two vocal soloists to perform Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem in November. Then the Chorale singers return in December to bring Handel’s Messiah back to Orchestra Hall for the first time since 2016 and to sing with the Music and Movies presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life in Concert. In the spring, they sing Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms as part of a Russian-themed program, and then are featured, along with the Minnesota Boychoir, in performances and recording sessions of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 in the season finale.

During the 2019-20 season, Vänskä and the Orchestra will perform and record Mahler’s Third Symphony, continuing a project to record all of Mahler’s symphonies. Since June 2016, the Orchestra has recorded the Fifth, Sixth, Second, First and Fourth, with plans to record the composer’s Tenth Symphony in June 2019. Their recording of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony received a 2018 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance; the Sixth Symphony was released in March 2018; and the Second Symphony, Resurrection, was just released this past February.

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



The Minnesota Orchestra’s Common Chords program, which began in 2011, has brought the Orchestra to communities across Minnesota for week-long residencies focused on musical collaboration and education. The eighth Common Chords partnership will take place in April 2020, in the city of Austin, Minnesota.



The Holiday season at Orchestra Hall begins with the return of Handel’s Messiah, the beloved masterpiece last performed by the Orchestra in 2016 (December 6, 7). The performances are conducted by Nicholas Kraemer and feature four guest soloists and the Minnesota Chorale. New this year are Holiday Brass performances of seasonal favorites performed by the Orchestra’s entire brass and percussion sections; these concerts are held at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi (December 6) and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis (December 8). Appearing for a one-night-only concert on December 13 is the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, bringing big band, jazz and blues to the Orchestra Hall stage.

Home for the Holidays—a concert led by Sarah Hicks, written by playwright-storyteller Kevin Kling and directed by Twin Cities-based theater director Peter Rothstein—returns for a third season, with even more stories, music and Minnesota traditions (December 14, 15, 19). The Holiday season also features the audience favorite Merry and Bright with Charles Lazarus, now in its fifth year at Orchestra Hall (December 20); performances of Dimitri Tiomkin’s complete score to It’s a Wonderful Life alongside the film (December 21, 22); and a return visit by pianist-composer George Winston, who will perform music from his timeless “Winter Show” in addition to several new selections from his recently-released album Restless Wind (December 22).


The Live at Orchestra Hall series presents performances and collaborations with great artists from across the world and directly from Minnesota, as well as live performances of film scores while the major motion pictures are shown in high definition on a large screen above the stage. Many of these concerts are conducted by Sarah Hicks, the Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall.

“The 2019-20 Live at Orchestra Hall season represents an art form in constant motion,” says Hicks. “We’ll continue our journey through two timeless film sagas with The Empire Strikes Back and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; return to the hilarious and heartwarming themes of Home for the Holidays; and continue our one-of-a-kind collaborative work with Cloud Cult. It’s all about creating dynamic concert experiences and showcasing the incredible musicianship of the Minnesota Orchestra.”

The season takes off in October and November with three incredible films and music by three brilliant composers, starting with a Minnesota Orchestra performance of John Williams’ iconic score to the 1980 film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (October 3 through 6). The excitement continues with the fourth installment of the beloved Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, featuring the music of composer Patrick Doyle (October 25, 26, 27). Then, in November, Hicks conducts Disney Pixar’s Up, the animated Academy Award-winning film featuring Michael Giacchino’s Oscar-winning score (November 29, 30, December 1).

Additional highlights of the Live at Orchestra Hall season include Fly Me to the Moon, a concert of much-loved American standards from the Big Band era, featuring Orchestra trumpet player Charles Lazarus and led by Associate Conductor Akiko Fujimoto (Nov 10); vocalists Tony DeSare and Capathia Jenkins, who will celebrate the musical friendship of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald onstage along with the Minnesota Orchestra in Frank and Ella (February 8); the return of Minnesota-based indie rock band Cloud Cult (March 20, 21), whose first unique visual-musical performances with the Orchestra in 2018 were a season highlight; and visually-stunning acrobatic performances paired with music from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, among others, by cirque-dance-theater group Troupe Vertigo (May 8, 9). 


The Orchestra’s Chamber Music series presents four Sunday afternoon concerts that are designed by the musicians and showcase small ensembles made up of Orchestra members. Three of the four concerts are held in the intimate setting of Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium (November 3, February 2 and March 22) and the Chamber Music finale will be performed onstage in the main auditorium (May 31). The music selected for these concerts includes favorites such as Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in C minor, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 1 and Brahms’ String Quartet No. 2, as well as new repertoire never performed at Orchestra Hall, including Karim Al-Zand’s Canticle and Caprice, Gabriella Smith’s Carrot Revolution and Minnesota composer Reinaldo Moya’s Violin 3.0. See the 2019-20 Season Calendar for a complete listing of Chamber Music programs.



During the 2019-20 season, the Orchestra will present six unique Young People’s Concert programs over 23 performances. These concerts are created for students of a variety of ages from grade one through high school, and include programs such as Mozart the Adventurer, Star Wars and Beyond, Pictures at an Exhibition, Music Around the Globe, American Riffs and others. Young People’s Concerts are scheduled during the school day and provide an educational field trip opportunity for students across Minnesota.

Two of these programs—Pictures at an Exhibition (February 9) and Star Wars and Beyond (March 22)—will also be performed for the general public as Relaxed Family Concerts on Sunday 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. In addition, there are three Sensory-Friendly Concerts in the Target Atrium during the season, which feature individual musicians or small ensembles (October 26, January 14 and May 9) and also offer opportunities for audience members to perform.

Symphonic Adventures bring the entire Orchestra to metro-area high schools for one-hour concerts designed especially for secondary students. Each program is hosted by Orchestra violist Sam Bergman, who introduces students to the music, musicians and key concepts throughout the performance. The 2019-20 Symphonic Adventures schedule will be announced at a later date.


Minnesota Orchestra introduces a new program in the 2019-20 season, focusing on Music and Mindfulness. This program expands upon the Yoga Class at Orchestra Hall series that was introduced in 2018, and continues in the new season with three one-hour yoga classes in Orchestra Hall’s lobby, each led by a certified yoga instructor and featuring live music performed by a Minnesota Orchestra musician or duo (November 10, February 23 and May 31). New is a series of three Musical Mindfulness classes, presented in collaboration with the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing. Each 45-minute session takes place onstage at Orchestra Hall and features music performed by an Orchestra musician or small ensemble with guided meditation led by a University of Minnesota faculty member (February 17, March 23 and April 27). A full-length Minnesota Orchestra concert, Music and the Mind, led by Sarah Hicks, conductor, and Sam Bergman, violist and host, explores the myriad ways that our brains respond to music (February 7).

  • For a chronological listing of all Minnesota Orchestra events for the 2019-20 season, please see the separate Season Calendar.

  • Press Contacts:
    Gwen Pappas, Director of Communications, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Emma Plehal, Assistant Editor and Communications Manager, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Subscription packages for 2019-20 Classical series are available to the general public online and by phone starting on Monday, April 15. Classical subscription packages include three to 24 concerts featuring the same seat location for every concert. Classical, Live at Orchestra Hall, Holiday, Chamber Music and Family performances as well as new Mindfulness events are all available as part of a Minnesota Orchestra Create Your Own package available to the general public beginning April 15, 2019. 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 flexible vouchers) and can be used for the rest of the current 2018-19 Minnesota Orchestra season, including Sommerfest. Easy Passes are also redeemable for 2019-20 season concerts beginning on July 24, 2019. Individual tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, August 2, 2019.

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 Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis (open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at the box office 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 Music & Movies series is sponsored by U.S. Bank

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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Press Contacts

Gwen Pappas

Director of Communications
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Carl Schroeder

Publications Editor
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Emma Plehal

Communications Manager and Assistant Editor
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Isaac Risseeuw

Social Media and Content Manager
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Communications Office

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

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