SPCO reaches out to youth; MN Orchestra to tour Europe

Photo by Paul Crosby
The SPCO performing at the Ordway Concert Hall

The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra began the new year with new leadership. Principal second violinist Kyu-Young Kim became artistic director (a first for a major American orchestra) and Jon Limbacher returned to the Twin Cities to take over the president’s job from his longtime mentor and friend Bruce Coppock.

It begins the 2016-17 season, announced today, by throwing open the doors to children and teens. Starting in September, up to four kids ages 6-17 will get in free with any adult who has a paid ticket.

This is a big change from the SPCO’s earlier policy of $5 per child, maximum two per adult. In Limbacher’s words, “Now it will be easier than ever to bring the whole family to experience transformational performances with the SPCO.” And the neighbor kids.

Add this twist to the SPCO’s already famously low ticket prices (the $5 monthly membership is still available) and numerous performance venues (the Ordway Concert Hall and a dozen more locations in and around the Twin Cities) and the message is clear: They really want to play for you. “We at the SPCO feel so passionately that ours is a living, breathing art form that can have a real emotional impact on anyone and everyone who experiences it,” Kim said.

There are plenty of chances to hear them, from opening night on Sept. 9, when fiery Moldavan violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja plays Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, to the season finale concerts in June 2017, when Thomas Zehetmair conducts Beethoven’s Seventh. Altogether, over the next nine months, the SPCO will give 109 performances of 31 different concert programs.

Woven throughout are several appearances by new artistic partners Jonathan Cohen and Pekka Kuusisto and returning artistic partners Kopatchinskaja, Jeremy Denk, Martin Fröst and Thomas Zehetmair; newly commissioned works by contemporary composers Dai Fujikura, Pierre Jalbert and George Tsontakis (whose “Coraggio” was performed at the Concert Hall’s opening in March 2015); and the world premiere of a piano concerto by Sally Beamish, part of the SPCO’s deeply interesting five-year Beethoven/5 project with pianist Jonathan Biss.

During her September stay, Kopatchinskaja will give a repeat performance of “Death and the Maiden,” which she first played here in March 2015, though it’s doubtful she’ll do it the same way twice. In January, Kuusisto will lead a concert called “Time Machine,” with music by composers who took inspiration from the past: Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony, Kreisler’s Violin Concerto (in the style of Vivaldi) and the third suite from Respighi’s “Ancient Airs and Dances.”

A three-week festival in May, “Where Words End,” will dive into themes of immigration, displacement and cultural identity, with a focus on Nordic music and culture. Kuusisto and Fröst will lead programs that include music by Sibelius, Grieg, Ligeti and singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane (some of us saw Kahane earlier this week at a Schubert Club Mix concert with Timo Andres). War will cast its shadow over concerts with music by concentration camp survivors Gideon Klein and Erwin Schulhoff and works by Bartók and Shostakovich written during WWII.

A number of artists will make their SPCO debuts, including keyboardist Richard Egarr; flutist Claire Chase, a MacArthur fellow who performs here with 103 other flutists (for real); and indie folkie Sam Amidon, who will appear on the same program as Kahane. Twelve SPCO musicians will be featured soloists during the season. Many concerts will be led by SPCO musicians as the orchestra continues its transition to a largely unconducted ensemble.

Along with core works of the repertoire by Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn and more, 2016-17 presents a wealth of Baroque music by Bach, Vivaldi, Handel and Rameau, including a program called “Masters of the German Baroque” in September, led by Baroque specialist Cohen; a special Easter performance of Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” also led by Cohen; and audience holiday faves the Brandenburgs and “Messiah.” Concerts in January and February will feature music by Dvorák, Mozart, Wynton Marsalis and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint Georges, the first known classical composer of African ancestry – all on the same bill. Conductor Tito Muñoz will return in February for “Flights of Fancy,” a program of works inspired by birds. Premieres of new music will be presented side-by-side with familiar classics.

In October, the SPCO will join the Schubert Club and the Ordway to present “Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos” with Sphinx Virtuos, an ensemble of the nation’s top black and Latino classical string soloists, and Catalyst Quartet. In February, the James Sewell Ballet will dance on the Concert Hall stage as the SPCO plays Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings. Two concert tours are in the planning stages, one international and one American, including the opening-night performance of the 92nd Street Y’s 2016-17 season in New York City on Oct. 15.

Explore the complete schedule online starting today. Take a look at season ticket packages. And don’t forget the kids.


After a history-making tour of Cuba in May 2015 and a smash hit Carnegie Hall appearance in March, Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra will pack their bags again, this time for a four-city, four-country European tour.

The orchestra will perform at famous festivals in Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. First stop: Sibelius Hall in Lahti, Finland, where Vänskä served as music director of the Lahti Symphony from 1988-2008. In Lahti, the musicians will give a concert and take part in a side-by-side rehearsal with student musicians of the youth orchestra VIVO, with Vänskä leading Dvorák’s “New World Symphony.”

The orchestra was last in Lahti in February 2004, during Vänskä’s first season as music director in Minneapolis. “It will be an emotional homecoming for me,” Vänskä said in a statement. “And to have a musical exchange with the young musicians of VIVO is great. This is the type of exchange the orchestra did in Havana, and we plan to make it a part of every tour experience we now do.”

On Aug. 23, the orchestra appears in Scotland’s Usher Hall for the Edinburgh International Festival; on Aug. 24 in the Netherlands’ Concertgebouw for the Robeco SummerNights Festival; and on August 26 in Tivoli Concert Hall for Denmark’s Tivoli Festival. The music for the tour includes two Beethoven symphonies, American composer Steven Stucky’s “Rhapsodies for Orchestra,” and the Sibelius and Prokofiev violin concertos, with Finnish violinist (and new SPCO artistic partner) Pekka Kuusisto as featured soloist.

“It has been six years since the Minnesota Orchestra has performed at these international festivals on these world stages,” Vänskä said. “It is time for us to return.”

They’ll leave on Aug. 18 and return on Aug. 27. A tour send-off concert with Kuusisto will be held at Orchestra Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30-$70). On Aug. 24, Classical MPR will broadcast and stream the Amsterdam concert live.

The picks

Tonight (April 7) at MacPhail’s Antonello Hall: Cantus: Would You Harbor Me? For its spring concert, the sublime men’s ensemble addresses the topic of homelessness in songs, stories, portraits and first-person accounts from St. Stephen’s Human Services and The Oral History of Homelessness. Reflecting on lives marginalized by circumstance, they deliver a universal message of hope and inspiration through music. 7:30 p.m. Also Saturday, April 9, at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater; Sunday, April 10, at the Ordway Concert Hall; Thursday, April 14, at Colonial Church of Edina; and Sunday, April 17, at Wayzata Community Church. FMI and tickets (which vary by venue).

Photo by Curtis Johnson

Tonight at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre: Opening night of the 35th Annual Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Advance tickets are no longer available for “A Man Called Ove,” the opening presentation at 7:15 p.m. So get in the Film Fest spirit and join the rush line. FMI. Your ticket includes admission to the Opening Night party at the Aster. FMI.

Friday and Saturday at the U’s ReUse Program Warehouse: 16th Annual World’s Largest Textile Garage Sale. For artists, crafters, students, church groups, and anyone who loves a bargain: a warehouse full of fabric, yarn, thread, notions, kits, patterns, magazines, books beads, buttons, sewing machines, tools, looms, and specialty equipment, donated by individuals and businesses, sold at garage sale prices to support the Textile Center’s programs. Preview sale Friday, 6-8 p.m.; sale Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. FMI and admission (preview sale $20-$35, Saturday $2).

Sunday at the Cathedral of St. Paul: Music for a Grand Space. The U’s choral ensembles, led by Kathy Saltzman Romey and others, make their annual pilgrimage to the Cathedral for a program of songs by Orlando di Lasso, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dan Forrest, Alice Parker and others. David Baldwin leads the U’s Trumpet Ensemble. 2:30 p.m. $10 suggested donation.

Hot tix

Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel is part opera star, part force of nature. His big, booming, beautiful voice, astonishing technique and on-stage charisma have made him a global superstar. As we know by now, superstars are what the Schubert Club brings to St. Paul for its International Artist Series. Natalia Katyukova accompanies him on the Steinway. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 20. FMI and tickets ($27-$76). Tickets are still available in the balcony and gallery.

Photo by Sharolyn Hagen
Stephen Paulus

On Monday, May 16 at the Ordway, the renowned choral group Conspirare will present “Stephen Paulus: A Lyrical Life,” a one-night-only program honoring the late, great Minnesota choral composer. The music will include some of Paulus’ rarely performed mixed chorus works and the five-movement Conspirare commission “Poemas de Amor.” Presented by Classical MPR. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($47-$67).

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 04/07/2016 - 12:09 pm.


    While some levels of musicianship have not returned to pre-lockout excellence, SPCO is recovering very well in many respects. On the whole, things are much better than expected by some of us SOSPCO folk.

    Outreach was a focus of management determination and also of some fan derision. However one views the current complement, one must confess all is going much better than once predicted. Going very well, in fact.

    So, pick your concert and your venue, and join this renewal of mission, music and membership.
    College students and senior folk have never been so well-served in terms of repertoire, location and pricing. Stability has returned, so join the audiences of this Saint Paul gem that performs near to where you are, not just where they always have been.

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