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SPCO’s next season: 125 performances in 17 venues

Rob Kapilow
Photo by John Johansen
A new St. Paul Chamber Orchestra artistic partner has been announced as of today: composer and commentator Rob Kapilow.

It’s a joy each spring to open the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s season announcement, peruse nine months of programming and make a wish list. You can do this without the mental “ka-ching” that often accompanies dreams of attending as many arts events as you can squeeze into your life.

The SPCO – an orchestra of excellence, imagination, passion and high energy – remains stunningly affordable. Kids and students get in free. People in their 20s and 30s can score best-available seats for $10. For everyone else, there’s a membership option: Pay $7 a month and catch as many concerts as you want. Even when you pay full price for tickets, most are $15 or less.

If the SPCO’s home at the Ordway Concert Hall seems far away, just wait for the orchestra to come to you. The orchestra performs in more than a dozen other venues in the Twin Cities and residential neighborhoods. (They have their own truck.) Or you can stay home and stream a concert live, for free, or watch it later on-demand in the SPCO’s online concert library, for free. About the only thing the SPCO won’t do to win your ear is serenade you outside your window. At least, not yet.

For 2019-20, its 61st concert season, the SPCO will give 125 performances in 17 venues. Starting with the opening weekend in September, featuring artistic partner Jeremy Denk, and ending with the season finale in June, featuring artistic partner Jonathan Cohen, it will play 50 programs and more than 100 musical works including classical masterpieces, works by living composers and six premieres.


Sidebar: If “artistic partner” is new to you, here’s what you need to know: The SPCO is a conductorless ensemble. It doesn’t have a maestro. Instead, it has a changing roster of internationally known artistic partners who develop programming with the SPCO and perform with the orchestra.

Here’s a handful of highlights for 2019-20. You can view the whole schedule here.

A new artistic partner. Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Martin Fröst have moved on. British conductor, keyboardist and early music expert Richard Egarr will begin his official tenure this season. And another new artistic partner has been announced as of today: composer and commentator Rob Kapilow. You might already know Kapilow from his “What Makes It Great?” appearances on NPR’s “Performance Today.” He’ll use that format to lead audiences on an exploration of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony – eight times, in six venues. Kapilow will take audiences inside the music and the SPCO’s unique working process.

Mozart’s Requiem at the Cathedral of St. Paul with the St. Olaf Choir. Egarr will conduct.

More Mozart, plus Beethoven, Schumann, Haydn, lots of Bach, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Vivaldi, Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky and other composers from the canon. The SPCO has a serious commitment to contemporary chamber music. So we will also hear …

Six commissioned works by living composers, including the world premieres of new works by Stephen Prutsman, Sky Mackley and Cindy Cox; the U.S. premieres of Nico Muhly’s Violin Concerto and Missy Mazzoli’s Contrabass Concerto; and the Midwest premiere of a new work by Jessie Montgomery. (If you’ve been following pianist Jonathan Biss’s “Beethoven/5” series, the fifth and final concert has been moved to 2020-21.)

Jessie Montgomery
Photo by Jiyang Chen
A new work by Jessie Montgomery will have its Midwest premiere with the SPCO.
Music by other living composers including Dobrinka Tabakova, Chen Yi, Andrea Tarrodi, Anders Hillborg, Valerie Coleman and TJ Cole. Several will be here for pre-concert talks.

The return of artistic partners Denk, Cohen, and Pekka Kuusisto in programs that will include Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, Mozart’s 40th Symphony and Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony.

SPCO musicians as featured soloists. Concertmaster Steven Copes, associate concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini, principal bass Zachary Cohen, principal cello Julie Albers, principal clarinet Sang Yoon Kim, principal flute Julia Bogorad-Kogan, principal horn James Ferree, flutist Alicia McQuerrey and violinist Eunice Kim will all have their turns in the spotlight this season.


Return performances by Leif Ove Andsnes and Thomas Zehetmair.

A new “Celebrate the Northside” program featuring a Northside community choir and led by Sanford Moore.

Bach’s “Brandenburgs” (all six!) and Handel’s “Messiah” for the holidays, including a “Messiah” at the Basilica with The Singers led by Matthew Culloton.

The SPCO debuts of conductor Ruth Reinhardt and violist Tabea Zimmermann.

Seeing the SPCO in nontraditional spaces like Icehouse and the Turf Club. Both series will continue. So will the Happy Hour concerts.

And for you SPCO fans in New York: Our chamber orchestra will play the season finale of your Lincoln Center’s Great Performers Series in May.

Season ticket packages are available now. Go here or call 651-291-1144. Individual tickets for 2019-20 will go on sale in August.

The picks

Tonight (Wednesday, April 17) in the Walker Cinema: Mark Kingwell: “Boredom and the Interface.” Philosophy professor, author or coauthor of 18 books of political, cultural, and aesthetic theory (including one about Glenn Gould) and fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Kingwell sounds like the right guy to ask us if we’re wasting our lives on social media. In what sounds like a fascinating, possibly guilt-inducing talk, he’ll examine “the pressing issues of screen addiction and the lure of online outrage — raising the possibility that current conditions of life and connection are creating hollowed-out human selves, divorced from their own external world.” 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15/12/8). Part of the Walker’s stellar Mack Lecture series.

Carol Anderson
Photo by Dave Wetty
Carol Anderson
Thursday at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival: “N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear.” Jeffrey Palmer’s documentary considers the life, work and enduring legacy of Navarro Scott Momaday, a Native American prose writer and poet who won a Pulitzer  Prize and whose 1968 novel “House Made of Dawn” sparked the Native American art and literature renaissance. 5:10 p.m. FMI including trailer and tickets ($15/11/8).

Thursday at Northrop: Carol Anderson: “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.” Since 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment, every moment of black progress has been met by white backlash. Anderson, a professor of African-American studies at Emory University, catalogs one incident after another – the long lineage of white rage that has blocked democracy and racial equality. Her book was published in 2016, as the Obama presidency wound down. At the end, she called on Americans to “choose a different future.” 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($25/15/5). Allow some extra time to see “Takeover: Morrill Hall, 1969,” an exhibition on display in Northrop’s fourth-floor gallery.


Friday at the Ordway: Black Violin. Fusing classical with hip-hop, performing for students wherever they go, Wilner Baptiste (Wil B.) and Kevin Sylvester (Kev Marcus) encourage audiences to join together, break down cultural barriers and overcome stereotypes. Their music is powerful, exciting and all-ages entertaining. With DJ SPS and drummer Nat Stokes. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($37-62).

Black Violin
Courtesy of the artists
Wilner Baptiste (Wil B.) and Kevin Sylvester (Kev Marcus) of Black Violin encourage audiences to join together, break down cultural barriers and overcome stereotypes.
Saturday at the Ordway: Second Annual Family Arts Blast. Bring the kids and get creative all over the Ordway. Kids can make or try an instrument, learn new dance moves, or design a costume in activities led by TU Dance, House of Dance and more. Every 30 minutes, a new show or concert will start inside three different performance spaces. Performers include the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, Minnesota Percussion Trio, Titambe West African Dance Ensemble, the Ordway, and Minnesota Opera. It’s all fun and all free, including snacks. Drinks and coffee will be available for purchase. There will be a break room, a mothering room, changing tables and family restrooms. All ages, no reservations – just show up.  9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

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