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Violinist is new artistic partner at SPCO; the ‘Monuments Men’-MIA connection

ALSO: ‘Danish Modern’ show at Goldstein; a ‘Siberia’ preview at the Weisman; opening weekend for Art Shanty Projects; and more.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a new artistic partner: violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
Photo by Marco Borggreve

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a new artistic partner: violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja (ko-pot-chin-SKY-ah). Born in the former Soviet republic of Moldova to musical parents, now in her mid-30s, she has earned an international reputation for her wide repertoire, unpredictable and imaginative performances, curiosity and wit. Her numerous recordings include “Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti,” a 2014 Grammy nominee and Gramophone’s 2013 Recording of the Year.

The SPCO will be the first American orchestra to present Kopatchinskaja in concert, a fact that tickles its president, Bruce Coppock, who said in a statement, “One of the great joys of our work at the SPCO is to introduce Twin Cities audiences to sparkling and effervescent artists … Kopatchinskaja is the most ravishingly intense and virtuosic musician I have heard in a very long time.” Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCO’s senior director of artistic planning and principal second violinist, calls her “one of the most electrifying artists to emerge in decades.” Kopatchinskaja will begin her tenure in the 2014-15 season. In a series of concerts spanning Nov. 20-30, 2014, she’ll make her SPCO debut with her parents, Emilia (violin) and Vikor (cimbalom, a concert hammered dulcimer). Here they are, together in a video, perilously close to setting their instruments on fire.

About that “artistic partners” thing: While most orchestras have music directors, the SPCO decided in 2004 to scrap that for a diverse and rotating group of conductors and other accomplished musicians. Its current artistic partners include Roberto Abbado, Edo de Waart, Christian Zacharias and Thomas Zehetmair. Among its past artistic partners are Dawn Upshaw, Joshua Bell and Nicholas McGegan.

Both the Guthrie and Pillsbury House Theatre have won prestigious and substantial 2014 Joyce Awards, the Joyce Foundation announced Thursday. The $50,000 awards will support new works from prominent African-American playwrights. In 2015, the Guthrie will stage a premiere production of “Reading Play” by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. She started writing it after interviewing people in Reading, Pa., which in 2011 was named America’s poorest city. Tracey Scott Wilson will work with Pillsbury House to produce “Prep,” a play about a group of teachers changing their students’ test scores to receive yearly bonuses. Scott will weave Minneapolis’ own racial tensions into the performance, to premiere in the fall of 2015. With these two winners, arts organizations from Minneapolis-St. Paul have now received more Joyce Awards than any other city. Add this to Thursday’s $8 million announcement of new Knight Foundation funding for St. Paul and we can call this a very good week indeed.

Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Benedetto da Rovezzano, Saint John the Baptist, c.
1505, terracotta. The John R. Van Derlip Fund, 2013.
Purchased by the Nazis in the Netherlands in 1941.

“The Monuments Men” is a fascinating World War II story. Megalomaniac (and failed art student) Hitler wanted more than to rule the Western world; he also wanted to own all of its great art. He ordered his armies to find and bring back Europe’s art treasures, some for his planned “Führermuseum,” others to be destroyed as “degenerate.” As the Third Reich fell, his orders changed: Destroy everything. The Monuments Men – curators, archivists, artists and art historians from 13 nations – went behind enemy lines to save and preserve what they could, finding over 1,000 caches of looted art. Robert Edsel wrote the book; George Clooney directed the movie, which opens nationwide Feb. 7. And the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, in a giant-lightbulb-over-the-head moment of programming, has identified items in its own collection that were saved by the Monuments Men or have other ties to the story. You can take a self-guided tour starting Monday, Feb. 3. Turns out two Monuments Men worked at the MIA after the war: Richard S. Davis (senior curator 1946-56, director 1956-58) and Harry Grier (assistant director 1946-51). Also starting Monday, a series of  MIA Stories about the art by MIA writer (and former Minnesota Monthly editor) Tim Gihring. Go here then.

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If you’re buying Minnesota Orchestra season tickets, you can save 15 percent on “Create Your Own” packages, or 20 percent on four-concert same-seat Classical packages. Or you can save 25 percent if you use a special code from the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra (SUPPORT14), Save Our Symphony Minnesota (SOSMN14), or Orchestrate Excellence (EXCELLENCE14). Go here to start shopping. Or stop by the Minnesota Orchestra Administrative Office, International Centre, 5th floor, 920 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis, anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.  The box office at Orchestra Hall is no longer open during regular business hours. Except for the weekends of the homecoming concerts (Feb. 7-8 and 14-15), when it opens at 4 p.m., the box office is staffed only on concert days, when it opens two hours before start times and stays open through intermission. Honestly, we’re perplexed by this box-office decision. You’d think the MOA would want to make it easy – really easy – to buy tickets. Pulling up in front of Orchestra Hall and running in for tickets is easy. Paying for parking and taking the elevator up to the fifth floor of an office building nearby is not easy.

We live in an age of lists. Some are semi-useful, some are fun reads, but most are click bait. And yet, we love the lists that praise us. Most recently, as you’ve probably heard and bragged about to friends in Florida or Arizona, USA Today named St. Paul “Best Romantic North American City.” As in No. 1 before Savannah (No. 2), Santa Fe (No. 4), Mendocino (No. 8), and Honolulu (No. 10, although we weren’t aware that Honolulu is in North America). On Wednesday at the Knight Foundation event, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman explained everything. “That doesn’t surprise me a whole lot,” he said, “because when it’s 28 below, you need to cuddle someone by the fire, right? So of course we’re romantic.” Or desperate.

Film festival fans: Gold and Silver passes to the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival 14 go on sale today at a 15% discount. Through Feb. 14. This year’s festival is April 3-19.

Our picks for the weekend

Tonight at the Goldstein Museum of Design: Opening party for “Danish Modern: Design for Living.” Who doesn’t love Danish Modern? Those clean lines, that smooth, cool teak, those fabulous Dansk housewares! We’ve been dying to see this show, and we’re expecting it will draw crowds of Midcentury Modernists. Opening party tonight, 6 – 8 p.m., in Gallery 241, McNeal Hall on the U’s St. Paul Campus. Free. Through April 27. On March 6 at 6 p.m. there’s a panel discussion on Scandinavian modern design, “Designing the Beautifully Useful,” with Laureann Gilbertson (chief curator, Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Decorah, Iowah), Curt Pederson (curator, American Swedish Institute), and Tova Brandt (curator of Danish-American culture, Museum of Danish America, Elk Horn, Iowa). FMI.

Courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Jens Quistgaard, Covered bowl, 1955.

Tonight at the Weisman: Preview party for “Siberia: Imagined and Reimagined.” In another example of enlightened and relevant programming (see “Monument Men” above), the Weisman is hosting a Siberia exhibit in the midst of the worst-ever winter. Why not? It can only put our own lives in context. The show brings photographs of Siberia by Russian photographers to the American public for the first time, providing both a historical and a current view of a place most of us know little about, except that Russians were sent there for punishment. This will be both an indoor and outdoor preview party, with an ice bar and a real reindeer. 7 – 10 p.m. Free. FMI. Through May 18.

Tonight and tomorrow at Studio Z in Lowertown: Keys Please. Pianist-composers Carei Thomas, Todd Harper and Paul Cantrell gather for their annual midwinter program of joyous, adventurous, unpredictable music. Keys Please is always a special concert, filled with a sense of camaraderie, shared adventure, a generous spirit, and “weather permitting” compositions. This year’s guest is flutist Julie Johnson. Highly recommended. 8 p.m. both nights, $10 online or at the door. FMI and samples from past concerts.

Tonight through Sunday at the Cowles: Beyond Ballroom Dance Company. Think Fred and Ginger, beautiful gowns, and bendy dancers gliding across the floor. Foxtrot, salsa, and steamy Latin dance, all with BBDC’s contemporary twist. The company was founded by professional competitive ballroom dance champions. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($31).

Saturday and Sunday on White Bear Lake: Art Shanty Projects Opening Weekend. It will be warmer this weekend. A little. During the days, at least. Anyway, especially if you’re suffering serious cabin fever, you can bundle up and head out to White Bear Lake. Do some “snowga” in the Meta Shanty, No. 16. Cover yourself in aluminum foil and glitter and march in the Sparkle Parade at the Pedal Bear Shanty, No. 08. Hear stories at the Noah’s Art Shanty. Or simply marvel at the existence of this Minnesota tradition. Haven’t a clue what we’re talking about? Here’s a bit from “Minnesota Original” about 2012’s shantytown on Medicine Lake. Download the opening weekend calendar here. Weekends through Feb. 23.

Sunday at the Chapel of Mary of the Angels in Winona: The Singers with the Saint Mary’s Chamber Singers. The Twin Cities-based choral ensemble and the Saint Mary’s group premiere a new work by Minnesota composer Patrick O’Shea, “Nocte fletuum angelis,” that commemorates the lives lost in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. The program also includes music by Morten Lauridsen and Benjamin Britten. 2 p.m., 1155 W. Wabasha St., Winona. Free (thanks in part to Legacy money) and open to the public. The chapel is on the campus of St. Mary’s University.