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The Minnesota Orchestra unveiled its Grammy Award in September with a group that included (clockwise from lower left) Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, orchestra board chair Gordon Sprenger, president Kevin Smith, principal trombone Doug Wright, Gov. Mark Dayton and music director Osmo Vanska. (Photo by Courtney Perry for the Minnesota Orchestra)
The Minnesota Orchestra will resume recording sessions this spring for its Sibelius Symphonies cycle. The project had been a victim of the 16-month lockout of musicians.
Following live performances of Sibelius’s Third, Sixth and Seventh symphonies, the Orchestra will record the works in nine sessions at Orchestra Hall with BIS Records. A release date was not announced.
Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra have previously released four Sibelius symphonies on the Swedish label to good receptions. The recording of the Second and Fifth Symphonies was issued in January 2012 and earned a 2013 Grammy nomination. The second CD, featuring the First and Fourth, was released a year later and won the 2014 Grammy Award for “Best Orchestral Performance.”
“It will be a happy occasion when we again bring together BIS and our Orchestra,” said Vänskä in a statement. “This is meaningful repertoire to us, and it will be very gratifying for us to complete the circle on this project.”
The orchestra and BIS, led by producer Rob Suff, have achieved several recording successes, including a five-disc Beethoven symphony cycle that The New York Times wrote “may be the definitive [cycle] of our time.” Others included Bruckner’s Fourth Symphony; an album featuring the oratorio To Be Certain of the Dawn, composed by Stephen Paulus with libretto by Michael Dennis Browne; and a pair of Beethoven piano concerto albums with Yevgeny Sudbin.
“Over the course of Osmo Vänskä’s tenure, recordings have played a pivotal role in shining an international spotlight on the depth and artistry of the Vänskä-Minnesota Orchestra partnership,” said Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Kevin Smith in a press release. “Creating recordings will continue to be part of our strategy to maintain high visibility for the Orchestra and to preserve its sound, and we are happy to resume the activity with this project.”
The 2015 recording session fees will be underwritten by a donor who did not want to be named.
“Finishing our Sibelius Symphony cycle is an enormously important marker for us,” said Cellist Marcia Peck.
The Minnesota Orchestra, founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1903, issued its first recording in 1924 and has since recorded more than 450 works.
The Minnesota Orchestra will perform a short piece by composer Stephen Paulus at all three weekend concerts. Paulus, who died Oct. 19, was a former composer in residence at the orchestra. He enjoyed a long relationship with the organization. In 2011, the orchestra opened its season with "Timepiece," a jazz-inspired work by Paulus and his son, Greg.
The orchestra will play "Veil of Tears," which is a selection from the large work "To Be Certain of the Dawn." Commissioned by the Basilica of St. Mary's, this Holocaust Oratorio was recorded by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Chorale and the Minnesota Boychoir in 2008.
"Veil of Tears" is a short, instrumental piece. Described as a tribute to Paulus, the composition will open the concerts this weekend at Orchestra Hall.
At right, Paulus reviewed the score of "To Be Certain of the Dawn" with music director Osmo Vanska in 2008. Photo by Sharolyn Hagen.
Women composers remain almost entirely unrepresented in the concert programs of major U.S. orchestras, including the Minnesota Orchestra.
That is among findings of a new study by a writer attached to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Ricky O'Bannon pooled the 2014-15 classical concert seasons of 21 orchestras and looked at ages of composers, whether composers were living or dead, and the countries of origin of composers being played.
Female composers represent 1.8 percent of the works performed. When looking at works by living composers, those by women increases to 14.8 percent. The current season at Minnesota Orchestra includes one work by a woman composer in its regular subscription season (Polina Nazaykinskaya's "Winter Bells," Nov. 13-15 ). Two women composers will be played in the Jan. 16 Future Classics program.
The BSO study determined that the average date of all compositions performed is 1886, and that 9.5 percent of all music performed was composed since 2000. American composers made up less than 11 percent of pieces performed. Additional details are illustrated below.
The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, off to a good start last weekend with something old (Beethoven) and something new (Nicola Campogrande), brings something rare in four concerts at the neighborhood locations this week.
It’s an unusual voice, belonging to John Holiday, last heard locally in “Messiah” with the SPCO in December. Holiday is a countertenor, a voice that you don’t hear every day. He will sing arias by Handel and Vivaldi, who both wrote in an era that was friendlier to the countertenor. Holiday, a young singer, is considered a fine interpreter of Baroque music.
The countertenor roams the vocal range usually reserved for altos and mezzo-sopranos. Composers found it a popular voice to write for in early music (back in the days when the even-rarer castrati was a phenomenon). The countertenor faded in popularity but Alfred Deller, a British singer, brought it back to prominence in the latter half of the 20th century with his dedication to Baroque and Renaissance music.
Holiday got his masters from the University of Cincinnati Conservatory for Music in 2012 and has rapidly become popular because he sings in such a rare register. Well, not just that he sings in that register. We sings beautifully in that register. He made his Carnegie Hall debut last year with Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” joined the Met Opera roster and sang with the Atlanta Symphony.
Conductor Jonathan Cohen is on the podium this weekend for the SPCO in concerts at Stillwater, Eden Prairie, Summit Avenue and Arden Hills. The program will also include Bach’s Concerto in C Minor for Oboe and Violin with Kathryn Greenbank (oboe) and Sunmi Chang. In addition, Kyu-Young Kim and Elsa Nilsson are featured in Vivaldi’s Concerto in B-flat for Two Violins.
Julie Albers has been named Principal Cellist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Albers officially takes the position next season (2015-16) but will play eight weeks of the season that starts this weekend. Beethoven’s Seventh and Eighth Symphonies are on the program.
Albers will not be unfamiliar to SPCO audiences. She has performed as guest principal many times recently. She is the sister of Rebecca Albers, a violist with the Minnesota Orchestra. With their sister Laura, they perform as the Albers Trio.
Julie Albers was the unanimous choice of the musician’s audition committee. She replaces Ronald Thomas, who left the SPCO in June 2012.
“She is an extraordinary artist and a seasoned professional who will be able to hit the ground running as one of the key musicial leaders of the SPCO,” said Kyu-Young Kim, the orchestra’s Principal Second Violinist and Senior Director of Artistic Planning.
Albers lives in Atlanta with her husband. In a statement, she called the SPCO “a unique and inspiring ensemble.”
The orchestra also has appointed seven guest musicians who will play the 2014-15 season. The SPCO currently has 18 permanent musicians on the roster (including Albers) and an authorized complement of 28. The guests, who are committed to the full season, may or may not become permanent members of the orchestra.
They are: Zachary Cohen, bass, on leave from Milwaukee Symphony; Barbara Bishop, oboe, on leave from Kansas City; violist Shuangshuang Liu and violinist Luosha Fang, both graduates of Curtis Institute; violinist Kayla Moffett from the New World Symphony; Jonathan Cohen, clarinet, a graduate of Juilliard and Sycil Mathai, trumpet with the Knights Chamber Orchestra (New York).
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