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A Season of Firsts

A Season of Firsts

Since September 2020, in a concert season like no other, the Minnesota Orchestra has performed just over one dozen concerts at Orchestra Hall for audiences around the world on a virtual stage, reimagining its originally planned 2020-21 season due to restrictions created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite offering significantly fewer performances than in a typical year, the Orchestra expanded its repertoire by nearly 40 pieces this season, bringing an array of new music to the stage to listeners worldwide via livestreamed performances. Some concerts have introduced new compositional voices and others have intentionally revisited the work of composers from the past who, until recently, had been excluded from many orchestras’ programming.

Pandemic-related limitations around the number of musicians who could play together at any one time created a need for artistic planners to shift from programming large orchestra repertoire to smaller chamber pieces, and the Orchestra’s commitment to diversifying programming was a top priority as each new concert was designed.

One composer whose work has truly captured us all is New York-based American contemporary composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery. Throughout the season, members of the Orchestra have performed four of her works: Strum, Starburst, Voodoo Dolls and Source Code. Audiences have responded with great enthusiasm to each of these pieces and Orchestra violist Kenneth Freed agrees. Freed, who serves as a member of the Artistic Advisory Committee (AAC), that helps to determine concert programming, calls Montgomery an “insanely talented voice with lots of risk-taking. She pushes the boundaries of what an orchestra can do.”

In the spring of 2020, when the Minnesota Orchestra was not able to perform together during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orchestra trombonist Kari Sundström turned to composing as a creative outlet, something he had explored as a student. His Four Portraits for three trombones and tuba received its world premiere in September 2020 when the Orchestra first returned to the stage. It was written specifically with his Orchestra colleagues in mind. “We have all known Kari as a performer since he joined the Orchestra in 1996,” said Freed, “but now we all know this beautiful, imaginative, creative side, too. His music is really exciting, and his colleagues really believe in him.”

In November, an ensemble of Orchestra musicians performed Jamaican-born British composer Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartet No. 2. Her music is rooted in technique, and still her imagination, improvisation and emotional range are powerfully distinct. “Alberga is an absolute standout for me,” says first violinist Rebecca Corruccini, who also serves as an AAC member. The String Quartet No. 2 made such an impression that another of Alberga’s works, Shining Gates of Morpheus, has been programmed for an upcoming concert. “The quartet and Morpheus both stand as season highlights for me personally,” says Corruccini. “It's thrilling to find a composer who makes me feel this inspired.”

It is the Minnesota Orchestra’s goal to continue to expand and diversify the voices that we listen to and musically represent at Orchestra Hall. As we do, we hope you will come along so that we can get to know these composers and experience their music together. 

Many of the works listed below are available for viewing in our on-demand concert library.  

September 2020 through April 2, 2021

Louis Ballard Ritmo Indio
Georges Barboteu Esquisse for Flute, Horn and Harp
Chiayu Voyage for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon: Stockholm and London
Valerie Coleman Tzigane
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Allegro moderato, from Four Novelletten
Enrique Crespo Bruckner Etude
Paquito D’Rivera Aires Tropicales: Vals Venezolano, Habanera and Contradanza
Paquito D'Rivera Four Pieces for Brass Quintet
Anthony DiLorenzo Fire Dance for Brass Quintet
Jean Françaix Woodwind Quartet
Edvard Grieg Norwegian, from Two Melodies for String Orchestra
Philip Herbert Elegy: In Memoriam—Stephen Lawrence
Jennifer Higdon Amazing Grace for String Quartet
Devonte Hynes Perfectly Voiceless
Ulysses Kay Six Dances
Jacques Ibert The Little White Donkey
Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson Rondo: Allegro furioso, from Sinfonietta No. 1
Steve Reich Duet for Two Violins and Orchestra
Chevalier de Saint-Georges Symphony No. 1
Jack Stamp Eagles on Red Cedar Lake
James M. Stephenson Fanfare for an Angel
Komitas Vardapet Vagharshapati par
Grace Williams Calm Sea in Summer, from Sea Sketches
Nebojša Jovan Živković Meccanico, from Trio per Uno

Coming up in April through June programs

(How to watch)
Eleanor Alberga 
Shining Gate of Morpheus
Miguel del Águila Herbsttag
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Nonet
Yaz Lancaster dis[armed]
Krzysztof Penderecki Chaconne in Memory of John Paul II
Chevalier de Saint-Georges Violin Concerto in D major / Symphony No. 2
Carlos Simon An Elegy: A Cry from the Grave
Osmo Vänskä Overture




  • 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.
    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.
  • Official Airline of the Minnesota Orchestra
    Official Airline of the Minnesota Orchestra