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Goodbye to Osmo; Artists’ Quarter to close; a successful ‘Carrie’

Photo by John Whiting
For scattered moments on Saturday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, we were carried away and forgot this was almost certainly the last time Osmo Vänskä would lead a concert by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

It was a night of deep sadness and divine music. For scattered moments on Saturday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, we were carried away and forgot this was almost certainly the last time Osmo Vänskä would lead a concert by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. But then we’d see a cloud cross the face of violist Richard Marshall, or Sam Bergman, or bassist Matthew Frischman, or cellist Tony Ross, or violinist Sarah Kwak (now the concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, she returned for the weekend to join her former colleagues) and remember.

The musicians and Vänskä and guest soloist Emanuel Ax – who waived his fee and played six piano concertos in three days, not counting rehearsals, as if he were a 24-year-old marathon runner and not a 64-year-old classical pianist – gave a performance that was part farewell, part fist in the air. It began with “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture; named for a 16th-century Dutch nobleman who stood against oppression and was condemned to death, the “Egmont” was an addition to the program. With Ax at the Steinway, Beethoven’s Third and Mozart’s 27th stormed and sparkled. Stravinsky’s “Firebird” suite was the ideal closer: It featured the whole orchestra, many solos, and a wild ride through the dynamics the Minnesota Orchestra perfected under Vänskä’s baton, including the famed “Osmo pianissimo,” a sound quieter than a baby’s sigh. There were shouts and tears and standing ovations – until just before the encore, Sibelius’ devastating “Valse Triste,” when Vänskä addressed the audience and asked for no more applause.

Death was the theme of the “Egmont” and the encore, and some are now saying the Minnesota Orchestra is dead, or might as well be. If so, this is a senseless, needless death of a living thing cut down in its robustly healthy prime, a death that could have been prevented. Or could it? Many believe that Vänskä’s departure was in the cards for years, or at least since management decided to retire the $6 million deficit all at once. What’s next for Vänskä? He’s not talking, but we can look for him to land on his feet at some other lucky orchestra with the potential for greatness, because greatness is what he does. And for the musicians? More self-produced concerts (the next two in November, led by Stanislav Skrowaczewski, with soloist Lydia Artymiw; tickets here), and the hint that going it alone is the direction they might take. What about Orchestra Hall, which stands in empty splendor on Nicollet Mall? It’s available to rent.

The New York Times’ James Oestreich attended the first farewell concert on Friday. Kristin Tillotson was there for the Star Tribune; Rob Hubbard for the Pioneer Press; Euan Kerr for MPR. Scott Chamberlain, who’s been blogging about the labor dispute since it began, has written an eloquent, very personal response to the weekend (he was at the Ted Mann both nights). MPR, which broadcast the final concert Saturday night, is seeking permission to rebroadcast and archive the audio. We’ll let you know what happens with that.


It’s a trying time to be a music lover in the Twin Cities, if your tastes extend beyond rock and pop. We learned Monday night that St. Paul’s iconic jazz club, the Artists’ Quarter, will close at the end of 2013. Owner Kenny Horst told the Star Tribune’s Chris Riemenschneider that his rent “literally doubled” after his former landlord passed away. (For a small basement club in a building on a neglected mall with lousy parking? Shame on you, landlord.) We’ll have more on this in the coming weeks, but for now, we’re going to crawl off and cry. 

artists quarter
Photo by John Whiting
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman stopped by the Artists’ Quarter jazz club earlier this year to congratulate Kenny Horst on his 70th birthday and proclaim Jan. 5 Kenny Horst Day.

We went into “Carrie: The Musical” anticipating a night of camp. We came out happy campers. Almost everyone knows how Stephen King’s now-classic horror novel ends – bullied teen with telekinetic powers strikes back – so what matters in any adaptation is how we get there. A strong cast, good songs, fine singing, a simple but effective set, a live band and nonstop action made this a thoroughly enjoyable, even thought-provoking evening. If you’ve heard the story behind the musical – the original version was “the most expensive quick flop in Broadway history” – don’t worry in the least. This “reimagined” show (smaller cast, new songs) is a hit. Jill Iverson is a convincing Carrie, Rebecca Gebhart a deliciously bitchy Chris, Natalie Schleusner a sweet Sue, and Lori Maxwell a magnificent and terrifying Margaret White (Carrie’s uber-religious, abusive and fearful mother) in a production that’s mostly about the girls. Like, come to think of it, Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna,” now playing in the big tent at the Mall of America. Presented by Minneapolis Musical Theatre and Hennepin Theatre Trust at the New Century Theatre in City Center, “Carrie” ends Oct. 27. FMI and tickets.

Courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust
A strong cast, good songs, fine singing, a simple but effective set, a live band and nonstop action made “Carrie: The Musical” a thoroughly enjoyable, even thought-provoking evening.

Speaking of “Amaluna”: Until 11:59 a.m. today, you can buy three tickets and get one free for select show dates and times. The tent folds after Oct. 20. We saw this show and loved it.

Will our fascination with the Kennedy assassination ever end? As the 50th anniversary approaches (Nov. 22, for those who don’t have personal memories of that hideous day), here are three ways to indulge your curiosity. 1) Take a Learning Life class at the U of M called “The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: An Event That Changed the World.” Instructor and retired humanities professor James Norwood insists that we can know the truth by asking the right questions. Read more here about this evening class, which starts Thursday, Oct. 24, and ends Nov. 21 – four meetings (no class Thursday, Oct. 31). We’re guessing this is based on a semester-long course Norwood previously taught at the U. Go here to begin the registration process. 2) Read former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura’s new book, “They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK.” Ventura will sign copies at the Mall of America starting at 1 p.m. this Sunday, Oct. 13. Look for hizzoner in the Rotunda. 3) Read “Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald” by Judyth Vary Baker. Once a promising science student, Baker fell in love with the wrong man, to put it mildly. She’ll be at SubText beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Chris Yon and Taryn Griggs will curate this year’s Choreographers’ Evening, the Walker-hosted showcase for the Twin Cities independent dance community. Ten companies will each have seven minutes to strut their latest stuff. For dance fans, this highly anticipated annual event, now in its fourth decade, is a no-brainer; for the curious, it’s an appetite-whetting introduction. Mark your calendar for Saturday, Nov. 30, and what the heck, just order tickets now and get that out of the way. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in the Walker’s McGuire Theater. 

Some days it seems the arts are collapsing around us and we’re becoming a nation of stupid-head reality-TV watchers. And then there are those arts organizations, presenters, and worker bees who are changing the game and shaping new markets. Tomorrow night, big thinkers and provocateurs will gather at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for what’s being called “A Night of Social Wonder.” That’s a fancy name for a panel discussion among Maja Heuer of Sweden’s The Glass Factory, which is keeping Sweden’s glass artists viable in an outsourced market; Sarah Schultz of the Walker, who’ll talk about a crazy idea called the Internet Cat Video Festival; Steven Dietz of Northern Spark, which keeps us up all night; Kim Bartmann, whose Bryant-Lake Bowl, Red Stag Supper Club, and more are helping redefine the restaurant and entertaining business; and Caroline Casey of Coffee House Press, which gets people excited about books. The Current’s Mark Wheat moderates; the American Craft Council is co-presenter. We’ll report back Friday on our takeaways. 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Call 612-871-4907 for tickets ($10/$12) or order online.

Our picks for the week

Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 8): Vinicius Cantuaria at the Dakota. Brazilian singer, singwriter, guitarist and percussionist Cantuaria is no stranger to the Twin Cities; he has played the Dakota before, and in February 2011 gave an unforgettable concert with Bill Frisell at the Cedar. Now living in New York City, Cantuaria has collaborated with other big names including Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, Brian Eno and Caetano Veloso (Brazil’s Bob Dylan). Yet he probably won’t draw the crowd he deserves for his exquisitely expressive, sensitive and just plain beautiful music. Here’s a taste. 7 p.m. (one show only). FMI and tickets.

Courtesy of Vinicius Cantuaria
Brazilian singer, singwriter, guitarist and percussionist Vinicius Cantuaria is no stranger to the Twin Cities.

Tonight: Accordo at the Amsterdam. The top-tier chamber group opened its 2013-14 season last night at Christ Church Lutheran, its Saarinen-designed home in the Twin Cities. Tonight they cross the river to the St. Paul bar and music hall for a more casual evening. They’ll play the same program as last night – Mozart and Brahms viola quintets – in a hipster-friendlier setting. Accordo is SPCO and Minnesota Orchestra concertmasters Steven Copes and Erin Keefe, SPCO principal viola and cello Maiya Papach and Ronald Thomas, and special guest violinist Hsin-Yun Huang. 7 p.m., doors at 6:45. FMI and tickets.

Wednesday, Oct. 9: Type Directors Club Exhibition Opening Night Preview Party at Rat Race Studios. Heaven for type-o-philes, this traveling juried international exhibition features the winning entries from the Type Directors Club’s annual communication design and typeface competition – the most beautiful and ambitious work from today’s best designers and typographers. It also kicks off the annual AIGA design conference (AIGA is an American professional organization for design), being held this year in Minneapolis. Designer groupies, keep your eyes peeled for stars like Joe Duffy and Chank Diesel. 5 – 9 p.m. Free and open to the public. The exhibition ends Saturday, Oct. 12. FMI.

Thursday, Oct. 10: “Eurydice” at the Nolte Xperimental Theater in Minneapolis. The New York Times called Sarah Ruhl’s retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story “weird and wonderful.” Tonight’s performance is followed by a post-show discussion. Ages 12 and up. 7:30 p.m. at the Rarig Center on the U of M’s West Bank. Ends Sunday. FMI and reservation information.

Thursday, Oct. 10: Cocktails with Culture at the Landmark Center. Sponsored by the Schubert Club, this happy-hour event celebrates the renovation of a Wurlitzer piano built in 1935, one of the many treasures of the Schubert Club Museum. Pianist Laura Caviani and saxophonist Peter Whitman will play music composed around that time. 5 – 7 p.m. in the Art Gallery on the second floor. Cash bar. FMI.

Thursday night and Friday morning, Oct. 10 and 11: George Saunders at the Hopkins Center for the Arts. The masterful short story writer, New York Times best-selling author and MacArthur fellow comes to the Pen Pals reading series. His appearance is part of the 2013 Twin Cities Book Festival happening Saturday. Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 11 a.m. FMI and tickets.

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