Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


MN Orchestra reveals ’14 season to please subscribers, lure newcomers

Hennepin shows to include “Kinky Boots” and “Pippin,” as well as a Great Gatsby Gala to aid libraries and “Schubertiade” at Hamline.

Photo by Timothy White
Vänskä will conduct superstar violinist Joshua Bell

Eager to throw open the doors to Orchestra Hall and get the musicians back on stage, the Minnesota Orchestra last week announced two weekends of homecoming concerts for February. Today it revealed its 2014 classical season, a full slate of concerts featuring great music, star soloists, a parade of visiting conductors, and the premiere of a new work by a Minnesota composer that celebrates the hall’s reopening. It’s a series that should please subscribers and draw newcomers curious to see the renovated space and hear the musicians who stayed together and played their own concerts during a grueling 15-month lockout. Even Osmo Vänskä will return to Orchestra Hall, though his title is now “former Music Director,” not Music Director.

Article continues after advertisement

The classical season, which runs from February to July, includes 39 concerts that are being called “the core of a concert season that also includes educational and family concerts, the renamed Live at Orchestra Hall series and Sommerfest.” Dates and details for the latter events will be announced next week.

Here’s what we can look forward to:

On Feb. 20, Michael Christie (the Minnesota Opera’s music director) will lead Stravinsky’s “Firebird” Suite, Ravel’s “Bolero” and Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, with pianist Daniil Trifonov. Feb. 28 and March 1, “West Side Story.” The Minnesota Orchestra will perform Leonard Bernstein’s score live to a screening of the remastered film. Sarah Hicks will conduct. March 6-8, Andrew Litton (our longest-tenured Sommerfest artistic director) will lead the orchestra and pianist (and MacArthur fellow) Stephen Hough in works by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. March 13-15, Mark Wigglesworth will conduct Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10. March 22-23, Litton leads Debussy’s “La Mer” and works by Ravel and Britten, conducting from the piano.

Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra
Eric Whitacre will lead the orchestra and the Minnesota
Chorale in a choral celebration to include several
works by Whitacre.

On March 27-29, Vänskä will conduct Sibelius’ Symphonies Nos. 1 and 4 in Grammy Celebration concerts originally planned by the musicians for earlier in March. April 10-11, Grammy winner Eric Whitacre will lead the orchestra and the Minnesota Chorale in a choral celebration to include several works by Whitacre. April 15, Vänskä will conduct superstar violinist Joshua Bell and the orchestra in works by Rimsky-Korsakov, Lalo, and Mussorgsky-Ravel (the evergreen “Pictures at an Exhibition”). The musicians will spend May 5-10 in Hibbing for a week-long Common Chords outreach residency. On May 15-17, Concertmaster Erin Keefe will be featured in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto; the program, led by Wigglesworth, will also include Wagner/de Vlieger’s “The Ring: An Orchestral Adventure.” June 5-7, Christopher Warren-Green will conduct Mozart’s three final symphonies; June 12-14, Associate Conductor Courtney Lewis will take the podium for Mahler’s Fifth. The June 14 performance will be a multimedia concert experience presented as part of the Northern Spark festival.

From June 26-29, the Minnesota Chorale and Yan Pascal Tortelier will return for the perennially popular “Carmina Burana” by Carl Orff and St. Paul composer Steven Heitzeg’s “Now We Start the Great Round,” a newly revised version of the final work heard at the orchestra’s season finale concerts in June 2012, plus Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. July 10-11, Andrew Litton will conduct Rachmaninoff and Brahms, with guest pianist Natasha Paremski. July 12, Litton and Paremski will present “A Night in Vienna,” with works by Chopin and Strauss. The classical season ends Friday, July 18, with Courtney Lewis leading the orchestra and guest pianist Michael McHale in works by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Mozart (Piano Concerto No. 23).

Continuing a long partnership with MPR, the Friday evening concerts will be broadcast regionally on MPR stations.

And there we have it. If this is what you’ve been missing – the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, the nights at Orchestra Hall, the sounds of a great orchestra playing classical music live – then for heaven’s sake, go. Even if you’re mad at management, the board, the musicians, the union, or the people who have been calling and asking for donations. If you’ve been saying that the Minnesota Orchestra is a vital part of our cultural scene, then we humbly suggest you put your money where your mouth is. Supporters are people who show up.

Fans of Broadway musicals, get out your calendars now. Hennepin Theatre Trust has announced its 2014-15 season, a glittery mélange of Tony winners and old favorites to be staged at the Orpheum, the State and the Pantages. First, if you missed out on one of last season’s hottest tickets, “The Book of Mormon” will circle back Aug. 20 – Sept. 7. October 7-19: “Dirty Dancing–The Classic Story on Stage.” November 25-30: “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. December 16-28: “Motown The Musical.” Jan. 20-25, 2015: “I Love Lucy Live on Stage.” Feb. 4 – March 1: “Oliver,” the newest Broadway Re-Imagined offering from the Hennepin Theatre Trust/Theater Latté Da partnership, whose latest, “Cabaret,” is at the Pantages now and a must-see. Feb. 17-22: “Pippin,” the Tony-winning revival. March 10-15: “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” March 31-April 5: “Annie.” April 28-May 3: “Jersey Boys.” July 28-Aug. 2: “Kinky Boots,” winner of six 2013 Tony awards. “Motown The Musical,” “Pippin,” and “Kinky Boots” are all Minnesota debuts. Season packages are on sale now. Individual tickets will come later. FMI.

According to a recent Pew report, the vast majority of Americans ages 16 and older say that public libraries play an important role in their communities – because they provide materials and resources that give everyone a chance to succeed, because they promote literacy and a love of reading, because they improve the quality of life, and because they provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere. Here’s our chance to show the libraries some love. The Friends of the Ramsey County Libraries will hold a “Great Gatsby Gala” fundraiser at the Roseville Library on Saturday, Feb. 1. MPR’s Kerri Miller will emcee, and the night will include Roaring 20s music, hors d’oeuvres, wine, silent and live auctions, games, dancing, and prizes for the best 1920s attire. (Costumes are encouraged.) The Friends hope to raise $20,000 to add 1,000 items to the lending collections of seven libraries. 6:30 – 9 p.m., 2180 Hamline Ave. N. FMI and link to tickets ($50 in advance, $60 at the door, $25 tax-deductible).

Libraries, schools, bookstores, community centers: Would you like a copy of this year’s National Poetry Month poster? Designed by artist Chip Kidd, it features a quote from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself.” And it’s free for the asking.

Is winter dragging on and on and on? Take a class. The U of M’s Learning Life program has several to choose from, including one on the wines of the Pacific Northwest (three sessions, with tastings, at the Carlyle in downtown Minneapolis), one on the role that setting plays in mystery, a book-clubbish course taught by three Minnesota mystery writers (Mary Logue, Rick Shefchick, and William Kent Krueger), one on French novels, and one on drawing birds (Can’t draw? No worries). See the complete list here.

Our picks for the weekend

Saturday at the Ritz: Ashwini Ramaswamy, “Swarupa” (Revelation). A member of the internationally renowned Ragamala Dance, and a 2013 recipient of an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Ashwini explores in solo dance the need to find meaning in an unpredictable world, and the desire to transform finite earthly emotion into infinite, transcendent emotion. She’ll perform to live music by her mother Ranee (nattuvangam), Rajna Swaminathan (mridangam), Anjna Swaminathan (mridangam and violin), and Lalit Subramaniam (voice). 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15).

Courtesy of Ashwini Ramaswamy
Saturday at the Ritz: Ashwini Ramaswamy

Saturday and Sunday at the Roy Wilkins: 38th Annual Saintly City Cat Club Championship Cat Show. An excuse for us to post a cute cat picture, a reason for you to brave the cold and get out of the house. More than 300 cats representing as many as 26 breeds from the U.S. and Canada will compete for the “Best Cat” title. Cats will be judged in four classes: kittens (awww), championship, premiership, and household pets. You can park in the RiverCentre ramp on Kellogg and take the skyway to the Roy Wilkins. 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets ($4/$3) at the door.

Sunday at the Artists’ Quarter: The club is closed, its future (as of this writing) still up for grabs, but you can buy a piece of history on Sunday afternoon. The sale will include hundreds of CDs for $1 each (many still shrinkwrapped, several recorded at the AQ, others by artists who played there, and artists who hoped to play there), signed and framed photos of jazz musicians (some from the Jackson St. location), plus books from doorman Davis Wilson’s eclectic collection. In the basement of the Hamm Bldg., 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul. 1 – 4 p.m.

Sunday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall: “Schubertiade.” A concert in the spirit of Franz Schubert, who knew how to throw a party. In Schubert’s day, he and his friends would get together to make music, enjoy each other’s company, eat, and drink. That’s the plan for Sunday, when The Musical Offering presents Schubert’s Quintet in A major (“The Trout”), “Die Forelle” for piano and solo voice, the song cycle “Die schöne Müllerin,” and the Octet in F major. The afternoon begins with Schubert’s Quintet in A major, interspersed with breaks for food, drink, and socializing. The program starts at 3 p.m. and runs into the evening. Each block of music lasts about an hour. FMI and tickets ($50/$40, including dinner and refreshments).

Monday at Common Good Books: Joe Plut and Gretchen Hassler discuss John Hassler’s novel “Simon’s Night.” Minnesota novelist Jon Hassler, whose “Staggerford” is required reading, died in 2008. His novel “Simon’s Night,” the story of a retired professor of English at a small Minnesota college who has begun to forget things, was first published in 1979. It’s available again in a new edition that includes an essay by Hassler, “My Simon’s Night Journal,” annotated by Plut; Gretchen Hassler is the author’s widow. 7 p.m., free.

Monday at Plymouth Church: First reading from “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford.” There’s poetry, and then there’s poetry. Not to tangle with the academy or disparage any stars or prize winners, but some poetry is a puzzle, and other poetry rings like a bell. It stays with you. You ponder it. You feel wiser and more insightful because of it. That’s the kind of poetry William Stafford (1914-1993) wrote in more than 60 books. Clear, thoughtful, plainspoken, profound. Graywolf Press has just published a collection of what they call “the poet’s 100 most essential poems.” Stafford’s son Kim did the selecting and editing, and he’ll give the inaugural reading at Plymouth as part of its Literary Witnesses series.  Co-sponsored by Graywolf, the Loft, and Rain Taxi Review of Books, this will be a carillon. 7 p.m. Free.

From the poem “Are You Mr. William Stafford?”

You can’t tell when strange things with meaning

will happen. I’m [still] here writing it down

just the way it was. “You don’t have to

prove anything,” my mother said. “Just be ready

for what God sends.” I listened and put my hand

out in the sun again. It was all easy.

 From the poem “Just Thinking”

Let the bucket of memory down into the well,

bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one

stirring, no plans. Just being there.

This is what the whole thing is about.