Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


Vänskä to conduct ‘future classics’; Lowertown Classics No. 8

ALSO: Met in HD: “The Merry Widow”; The Bach Society: “Now Boarding” coming up; and more.

Osmo Vänskä
Courtesy of the Minnesota Orchestra

Has it really been only a year since the Minnesota Orchestra lockout ended? It seems much longer than that. Last year at this time, we were relieved the lockout was over, but grumpy about what had happened and wary about what would come next. (The Jan. 17 2014 Artscape was basically a body count of musicians and staff members who had left.) It’s not all sweetness and light – there’s still that pesky deficit, and the contracts coming up for renewal are a bit like a speeding train – but what a difference just 12 months can make.

Today we see new leadership, new attitudes, new programming, ideas, collaborations, transparency, flexibility, energy and relationships: between management and the public, musicians and their audience. Everyone who worked with the citizens’ groups Orchestrate Excellence or Save Our Symphony Minnesota, sang a song at a protest, waved a green hankie, stuck a lawn sign in their yard or shook a musician’s hand after a concert at the Ted Mann or the Convention Center feels a personal connection to the Minnesota Orchestra, a stake in its future. Our 112-year-old orchestra was worth fighting for, and a lot of people fought, giving their passion, expertise, and time to the cause.

We believe we would be in another place entirely right now if it weren’t for Orchestrate Excellence and SOSMN. Their stories should be told someday, and made available as a handbook for other cities and towns where the arts are treated as just another balance sheet.

And with that, welcome back to the Composer Institute, whose former director, the esteemed American composer Aaron Jay Kernis, was a casualty of the lockout, and whose new director, Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Puts, wraps up a week of seminars and mentoring sessions tomorrow night (Friday. Jan. 16) with a concert at Orchestra Hall. Hosted by Fred Child of “Performance Today,” “Osmo Vänskä Conducts Future Classics” features new works by this year’s participants, an impressive group of seven emerging composers with big ideas, impressive credentials and promising futures.

Article continues after advertisement

It will be something, for them and for us, to hear their work performed by the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra under Vänskä’s direction in Orchestra Hall, all of which seemed impossible in our very recent past. The concert starts at 8 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12-$20). There aren’t many left.

The picks

Tonight (Thursday, Jan. 15) at Jazz Central in Minneapolis: “Chet — The Beautiful Music and Tragic Life of Singing Trumpeter Chet Baker.” If you saw “Let’s Get Lost,” Bruce Weber’s harrowing film about 1950s jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker, you know that Baker was a horrible human being. But he was movie-star handsome in his pre-junkie days, and he sure could play the trumpet and sing. Pianist/composer Larry McDonough can sing like Chet, quiet and cool, and he’s asked Steve Kenny to play the trumpet for an evening of exploring Baker’s catalog, something that hardly ever happens. With Richard Terrill on saxes, Greg Stinson on bass and Dean White on drums. 7:30 p.m. $10 suggested donation at the door.

The weekend

Friday at the Lowertown Lofts Artist Cooperative in St. Paul: Lowertown Classics No. 8. A free concert of classical music by clarinetist Pat O’Keefe of Zeitgeist, guitarist Eva Beneke, and Ladyslipper Ensemble, a trio with mezzo-soprano Sahar Hassan, bassist Christopher Brown and guitarist Chris Kachian. Works by Schubert, Albeniz, Gershwin, Poulenc, and Kurt Weill, plus spirituals. Enter through the back alley on Wall Street; follow the signs to the third floor atrium. 8 p.m. No charge, no tickets, but donations at the door are appreciated.

Saturday at the movies: “The Merry Widow.” Is it opera, or is it Broadway? The Met’s new production of Lehár’s operetta stars Renée Fleming as the femme fatale who captivates Paris, with barihunk (not our word, honest) Nathan Gunn as Danilo and Broadway’s Kelli O’Hara as Valencienne. Directed and choreographed by Broadway’s Susan Stroman, a five-time Tony winner, it will be broadcast live to movie theaters around the world. Showtime 11:55 a.m., run time 3 hrs. FMI and tickets (you’ll enter your ZIP to find the theater nearest you). Here’s the trailer.

Saturday and Sunday in St. Paul and Winona: The Bach Society: “Now Boarding.” Here’s an ingenious new angle on presenting Bach’s music: a program exploring the life of the itinerant musician of Bach’s day. As the musicians (on period instruments) and soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw perform cantatas 51 and 52, Brandenburg Concerto V and Trio Sonata in G for Flute and Violin, artistic director Paul Boehnke will share insights into the lives of soloists of the time. We wonder how it compares to problems musicians face today when flying with their instruments. (Oh, look: here’s an article about that.) 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hamline’s Sundin Music Hall, 3 p.m. Sunday at Central Lutheran Church in Winona. FMI and tickets ($22/$17/$5).

Save the date

Friday and Saturday, Feb. 13 and 14 at the Como Conservatory: Valentine’s Dinner. You can try for a V-Day reservation at one of the hot new restaurants, or you can go for romance and ambience among amaryllis and azaleas. Dinners for two will be served at candlelit tables in the Conservatory’s three gardens, with live music by the Baroque Trio. Two seatings per night: 5:30 p.m. for early birds, 8 p.m. for the rest of us. Child care is available on site. FMI and reservations ($165/couple; some is tax-deductible).

Thursday, Feb. 19 at Macalester’s Mairs Concert Hall in St. Paul: Osmo Vänskä performs the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with Macalester faculty and friends. A free concert by the Minnesota Orchestra’s maestro, who is also a highly accomplished clarinetist; he began his music career as principal clarinet chair of the Turku Philharmonic, then held the co-principal chair of the Helsinki Philharmonic. The Mairs is in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center at 130 S. Macalester St. 7:30 p.m. Tickets required; reserve here.