The Minnesota Orchestra is an American orchestra based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Emil Oberhoffer founded the orchestra as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1903, and it gave its first performance on November 5 of that year. In 1968 the orchestra changed to its name to the Minnesota Orchestra. It makes its home in downtown Minneapolis at Orchestra Hall, which was built for the ensemble in 1974. The orchestra's previous hall, starting in 1929, was Northrop Memorial Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus.
Osmo Vänskä is the most recent music director, serving in that role from the 2003-04 season to 1 October 2013. Under his direction, the orchestra garnered significant critical praise, including a 2010 description from The New Yorker's Alex Ross as sounding, on one particular evening, like "the greatest orchestra in the world."
The orchestra's musicians are engaged in a labor dispute with the orchestra's governing body, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. On October 1, 2012, the association locked out the orchestra's musicians and canceled concerts. The entire 2012-13 concert season was later canceled, and one year after the lockout began, Vänskä resigned.
1.1 Music Directors,
3 Summer festival,
4 Financial concerns,
5 2012-2013 lockout,
7 External links,
Emil Oberhoffer was the orchestra's principal conductor until 1922. He was followed by Henri Verbrugghen (1923-31); Eugene Ormandy (1931-36); Dimitri Mitropoulos (1937-49); Antal Doráti (1949-60); Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1960-79); Neville Marriner (1979-86); Edo de Waart (1986-95); and Eiji Oue (1995-2002). In 2002, Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä was appointed the ensemble's 10th music director, assuming the post in September 2003. In 2005, Vänskä extended his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra through 2011. In September 2009, the orchestra announced the further extension of Vänskä's contract through the 2014-15 season. On June 9, 2011, Vänskä was presented with the Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming by ASCAP.
Vänskä resigned on October 1, 2013, and the orchestra now has no music director.
Erin Keefe was appointed concertmaster in September 2011. The position was open for two years after Jorja Fleezanis departed in 2009 to join the faculty of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Section Leaders include Manny Laureano (trumpet), Doug Wright (trombone), Adam Kuenzel (flute), Gina DiBello (second violin), Thomas Turner (viola), Anthony Ross (cello), John Miller, Jr. (bassoon), Michael Gast (horn), Steven Campbell (tuba), Peter Kogan (timpani) and Brian Mount (percussion). The principal clarinet position has been open since Burt Hara's decision to join the Los Angeles Philharmonic in May 2013. The principal oboe position has been open since Basil Reeve's 2012 retirement. The principal keyboard position has been vacant since 2005; no auditions have been held, but the position has not been officially eliminated. The principal bass position has been vacant since the 2007 departure of longtime principal Peter Lloyd. Matthew Frischman and Kathryn Nettleman are serving as acting co-principals.
The Minnesota Orchestra musicians host a nonprofit website as a community service.
The orchestra first began recording in 1924, and produced some landmark records. Among these was the first electrical recording of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with Eugene Ormandy, who recorded extensively with the orchestra for RCA Victor in the 1930s. In the 1940s, the Minneapolis Symphony was contracted to Columbia Records and made a series of records with Ormandy's successor, Dimitri Mitropoulos. These included the premiere recording of Mahler's First Symphony. In 1954, the group made the first complete recordings of Tchaikovsky's three ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker under the baton of Antal Doráti. That same year, they also made the first recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to include actual cannon fire, again under the direction of Antal Doráti. These recordings were made for Mercury Records as part of the Living Presence series. In the 1970s, the renamed Minnesota Orchestra made a series of recordings for Vox Records under the direction of Stanisław Skrowaczewski. In the 1990s, the orchestra recorded for the Reference Recordings label under the direction of music director, Eiji Oue. More recently Osmo Vänskä has conducted a cycle of the Beethoven symphonies and begun a cycle of the Sibelius symphonies, both for the Swedish label BIS. Their recording of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with the Minnesota Chorale, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance in 2007, as was their recording of Sibelius's Second and Fifth Symphonies in 2012.
Begun in 1980 with Leonard Slatkin at the helm, the orchestra's summer festival has been known by several names, beginning with "Viennese Sommerfest," changing to "MusicFest" in 2001, and eventually reverting to "Sommerfest" in 2003. Sommerfest concerts are held at Orchestra Hall over a four-week period in midsummer. The orchestra also offers free live music on the plaza before and after each show, in genres varying from folk to jazz to polka. Slatkin was Music Director of Sommerfest from 1980 to 1989. Since 2003, Andrew Litton has been Music Director, and in June 2008, his contract in this post was extended to 2011.
Since 2007 the Minnesota Orchestra has suffered from a dwindling endowment, exacerbated by the Financial crisis of 2007-2008 and diminished revenues. In August 2008, the Minnesota Orchestra Association's invested assets totaled $168.5 million, 13% less than the $192.4 million the Association had projected in their 2007 Strategic Plan Summary. In fiscal year 2009 the Minnesota Orchestra's board "sold $28.7 million in securities at a nearly $14 million loss".
During 2009 and 2010, the orchestra's board reported a balanced budget and drew on its endowment to cover operational deficits. At the time it was trying to secure $16 million in state bonding for renovations of Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza. The orchestra posted operational deficits of $2.9 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012.
On October 1, 2012, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (the orchestra's governing body) locked out the orchestra's musicians and canceled concerts through November 18 after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The MOA claimed that spending on musician salaries and benefits was depleting the organization's endowment and that labor costs must be reduced by $5 million per year. The musicians and their union have taken the position that the MOA's proposed cuts are so deep and draconian as to represent an existential threat to the future of the orchestra. The musicians have also announced a unanimous vote of no confidence in MOA president and CEO Michael Henson. That vote, however, has no actual force within the organization, and the MOA's board chairman has dismissed it and hailed Henson as "the perfect leader" for this period in the orchestra's history.
The entire 2012-13 concert season was canceled. During the lockout, the musicians have periodically presented concerts on their own. Several former music directors have publicly decried the lockout and warned that cutting the orchestra so deeply would damage its future prospects, and in December 2012 Vänskä sent a letter to both the board of directors and the musicians warning that the lockout is causing severe damage to the orchestra's reputation at home and abroad.
In February, violinist and Acting First Associate Concertmaster Peter McGuire accepted a position with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich; according to his wife Kimberly, he did so because of the lockout: "Peter absolutely would not have taken the Tonhalle Orchestra - Zurich Audition had management and the Board submitted a respectful offer in April 2012." In March, principal second violinist Gina DiBello accepted a position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She has since joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
On April 30, 2013, Vänskä threatened resignation if the lockout continued, writing to the board, "I must make it clear that in the case Carnegie Hall chooses to cancel the Minnesota Orchestra's concerts this November, i.e. if they lose confidence in our ability to perform ... then I will be forced to resign". He also stated, "the orchestra's musical policy of excellence ... is now under critical threat".
In May, renowned principal clarinetist Burt Hara, after 25 years with the orchestra, accepted a position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, taking a year's leave of absence from the Minnesota Orchestra. Other musicians to leave include violist Matthew Young, who is moving to the San Francisco Symphony, First Associate Concertmaster Sarah Kwak, who is becoming Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, and principal violist Thomas Turner.
On May 8, the 2012-13 season was cancelled in its entirety. Following the failure of mediation in September and cancellation of the Carnegie Hall concerts, Vänskä resigned October 1, 2013, with immediate effect. On October 4 and 5, Vänskä conducted three final concerts with the locked-out orchestra at the University of Minnesota's Ted Mann Concert Hall; Emanuel Ax took the solo part in piano concertos by Mozart and Beethoven, and the program ended with Stravinsky's Firebird Suite. As an encore, Vänskä conducted Sibelius's Valse Triste, which he described as a dance of death. At his request, the audience withheld applause afterward; many reportedly left in tears.