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Minnesota Orchestra
Mineapolis Symphony Orchestra (Symphony Orchestra)

Founded: 1903 as Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra- Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Re-named: 1968 as Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra, now in its second century and led by Music Director Osmo Vänskä, ranks among America’s top symphonic ensembles, with a distinguished history of acclaimed performances in its home state and around the world; award-winning recordings, radio broadcasts and educational outreach programs; and a visionary commitment to building the orchestral repertoire of tomorrow.

Founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the ensemble gave its inaugural performance on November 5, 1903, shortly after baseball’s first World Series and exactly six weeks before the Wright brothers made their unprecedented airplane flight. The Orchestra played its first regional tour in 1907 and made its New York City debut in 1912 at Carnegie Hall, where it has performed regularly ever since. Outside the USA, the Orchestra has played concerts in Australia, Canada, Europe, the Far East, Latin America and the Middle East. Since 1968 it has been known as the Minnesota Orchestra.

The 98-member ensemble now presents nearly 200 programs each year, primarily at its home venue of Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis, and its concerts are heard by live audiences of 400,000 annually. Its Friday night performances are broadcast live regionally by Minnesota Public Radio, and many programs are subsequently featured on American Public Media’s national programs, SymphonyCast and Performance Today.

In the early 1920’s, the Minnesota Orchestra became one of the first ensembles to be heard on recordings, as well as on the radio - in 1923 it played a nationally broadcast concert under guest conductor Bruno Walter - and it has been recording and broadcasting ever since. Its landmark Mercury Living Presence LP recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, under music directors Antal Doráti and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, have been reissued on compact disc to great acclaim.

In addition to traditional concerts, the Minnesota Orchestra connects with more than 85,000 music lovers annually through educational programs including Young People’s Concerts (YPs) and Target Free Family Concerts. In the last decade more than half a million students have experienced a Minnesota Orchestra YP. Musicians also engage in such Orchestra-sponsored initiatives as the Adopt-A-School program, Side-by-Side rehearsals and concerts with young area musicians, and the UPbeat program, which establishes multi-year relationships with communities throughout the Twin Cities and around the state.

The ensemble also offers numerous pops concerts, presenting the greatest contemporary pop performers in genres ranging from rock, jazz and Big Band to Latin, country and world music. In 2008, the Orchestra established Jazz at Orchestra Hall, a jazz series featuring top performers from around the nation, and named Irvin Mayfield as the series’ artistic director. American conductor Andrew Litton serves as Artistic Director for the Orchestra’s beloved urban summer music festival, Sommerfest, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2010.

With a long history of commissioning and performing new music, the Minnesota Orchestra continues to nourish a strong commitment to contemporary composers. Since 1903 the Orchestra has premiered and/or commissioned nearly 300 compositions, including works by John Adams, Dominick Argento (Minnesota Orchestra Composer Laureate), Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Charles Ives, Aaron Jay Kernis (Director of the Orchestra’s Composer Institute), Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (Orchestra Conductor Laureate) and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. In addition, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has bestowed upon the Orchestra 18 awards for adventuresome programming, including Leonard Bernstein Awards for Education Programming in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and, in 2008, the John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music.

The Orchestra welcomed Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä as its tenth music director in the fall of 2003. Praised for his intense and dynamic performances, Vänskä is recognized for compelling interpretations of the standard, contemporary and Nordic repertoires. During his tenure, he has drawn extraordinary reviews for concerts both at home and abroad, including appearances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, three European tours - the most recent in February and March 2009 - and Minnesota tours in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Vänskä has extended his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra through 2015.


The orchestra first began recording in 1924, and produced some landmark records. Among these was the first electrical recording of Gustav Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with Eugene Ormandy, who recorded extensively with the orchestra for RCA Victor in the 1930’s. In the 1940’s, the Minneapolis Symphony was contracted to Columbia Records and made a series of records with Eugene Ormandy's successor, Dimitri Mitropoulos. These included the premiere recording of G. Mahler's First Symphony. In 1954, the group made the first complete recordings of Tchaikovsky's three ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker under the baton of Antal Doráti. That same year, they also made the first recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to include actual cannon fire, again under the direction of Antal Doráti. These recordings were made for Mercury Records as part of the Living Presence series. In the 1970’s, the now Minnesota Orchestra made a series of recordings for Vox Records under the direction of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. In the 1990’s, the orchestra recorded for the Reference Recordings label under the direction of music director, Eiji Oue.

Under Music Director Osmo Vänskä, the Orchestra has completed a five-year, five-disc initiative to record the complete L.v. Beethoven symphonies on the BIS label. The collection has amassed rave reviews, with The New York Times writing that it “may be the definitive [cycle] of our time” and the Financial Times of London praising it as the “modern L.v. Beethoven recording par excellence.” The Orchestra’s recording of L.v. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with the Minnesota Chorale, received a 2008 Grammy nomination for “Best Orchestral Performance,” and the CD featuring the Second and Seventh Symphonies was nominated for a 2009 Classic FM Gramophone Award. In 2009 BIS released its newest collaboration with the Orchestra, the premiere recording of To Be Certain of the Dawn, a Holocaust memorial oratorio by Stephen Paulus on a libretto by Michael Dennis Browne.

Vänskä and the Orchestra have recently embarked on a series of new recording initiatives, include a five-year project with BIS to record all five L.v. Beethoven piano concertos with Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin and, for the Hyperion label, live in-concert recordings of Tchaikovsky’s three piano concertos and Concert Fantasia, recorded over two seasons with British pianist Stephen Hough.

Summer Festival

Begun in 1980 with Leonard Slatkin at the helm, the orchestra's summer festival has been known by several names, beginning with Viennese Sommerfest, changing to MusicFest in 2001, and eventually reverting to Sommerfest in 2003. Sconcerts are held over a four-week period in midsummer at Orchestra Hall. The orchestra also offers free live music on the plaza before and after each show, with genres varying from folk to jazz to polka band. Leonard Slatkin was Music Director of Sommerfest from 1980 to 1989. Since 2003, Andrew Litton has been Music Director of Sommerfest, and in June 2008, his contract in this post was extended to 2011.

Music Directors

Emil Oberhoffer (1903-1922)
Henri Verbrugghen (1923-1931)
Eugene Ormandy (1931-1936)
Dimitri Mitropoulos (1937-1949)
Antal Doráti (1949-1960)
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1960-1979)
Sir Neville Marriner (1979-1986)
Edo de Waart (1986-1995)
Eiji Oue (1995-2002)
Osmo Vänskä (2003-Present)


Source: Minnesota Orchestra Website (September 2009); Wikipedia Website (May 2010)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2010)

Recordings of Arrangements/Transcriptions of Bach’s Works




Dimitri Mitropoulos


Bach- Boessenroth: Chorale Prelude Wir glauben all an einen Gott (I) (We all believe in one Creator), BWV 680, transcribed for grand orchestra [1st]
Bach-Mitropoulos: Fantasia & Fugue in G minor ("Great"), BWV 542, transcribed for orchestra [1st]
Bach-Weiner: Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C major, BWV 564, orchestrated for large orchestra

Eugene Ormandy


Bach-Cailliet: Prelude & Fugue in B minor, BWV 544, transcribed for orchestra
Bach-Cailliet: Chorale Prelude Herzlich tut mich verlangen (Fervent is my longing), BWV 727, transcribed for orchestra

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski


Bach-Skrowaczewski:: Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, transcribed for orchestra

Links to other Sites

Minnesota Orchestra (Official Website)
Minnesota Orchestra Archives (UMN)
Minnesota Orchestra (Minnesota Public Radio)

Minnesota Orchestra (Wikipedia)

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Last update: Monday, May 29, 2017 14:58