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SPCO features Upshaw, Greenbank; MN Orchestra plays Sibelius, Grieg, Mozart

Minnesota’s two first-rank orchestras can hardly be confused by the programming that is being offered this week in Minneapolis and St.

Minnesota’s two first-rank orchestras can hardly be confused by the programming that is being offered this week in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

On the west side, the Minnesota Orchestra is being led by Finnish conductor Esa Heikkilä, while over in the east, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is being fronted by soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Of the two programs, the more familiar is on the Minneapolis side of the river, where Keikkilä is conducting all-orchestra performances — i.e., no soloists — of works by Sibelius (what a surprise!), Grieg (ditto!) and Mozart.

The SPCO’s offering is more complex. It opens with Telemann’s Suite in B-flat for Strings and Harpsichord, performed without a conductor. Then Upshaw and Principal Oboist Kathryn Greenbank will perform three cantata arias by J.S. Bach — two from his Wedding Cantata No. 202, and “Wie freudig ist mein Herz,” from his Cantata No. 199, which has the rather off-putting title, “Mein herze schwimmt im Blut.”

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After that, Upshaw will perform Bela Bartok’s quirky Five Hungarian Folks Songs, which were arranged for her seven or eight years ago by Richard Tognetti, the artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. And she’ll conclude with “Scenes from a Novel,” a setting of poems by Rimma Dalos by Romanian composer Gyorgy Kurtag for soprano, violin, double bass and cimbalom. And there’s more: Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, performed by the SPCO strings without a conductor.

Sibelius and ‘Peer Gynt’ suite
The Minnesota Orchestra’s program opens with “En Saga,” a tone poem by Sibelius that, though composed in the 1890s, didn’t receive a commercial recording until Osmo Vanska and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra recorded it in 2003.

That’s the only unfamiliar work on the program. From there, Heikkilä conducts the First Suite from “Peer Gynt,” a full-string version of Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” and Mozart’s Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”).

There are plenty of opportunities to hear both orchestras. The Minnesota Orchestra concerts are 11 a.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday in Orchestra Hall. The SPCO performs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Ordway Center. Details are here for the Minnesota Orchestra and here for the SPCO.