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Minnesota Orchestra to resume Grammy-winning Sibelius recording project

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: January 12, 2015 - 10:00 AM

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.

 

 

Osmo Vänskä announces engagement

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: January 2, 2015 - 3:38 PM

 

 

Erin Keefe/ photo by Bre McGee

Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vänskä and concertmaster Erin Keefe have announced via Facebook that they are engaged. The relationship between the two was addressed in a New York Times article this past April and Vänskä answered questions about it to the Orchestra Board before agreeing to return to his duties earlier this year.

Keefe divorced in 2013; Vänskä divorced in 2009.

Keefe, a violinist, has been concertmaster since 2011.

No further details were available.

Minnesota Opera's president resigns

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: November 21, 2014 - 4:40 PM
Nina Archabal, who became interim president at Minnesota Opera on Thursday.

Minnesota Opera, which has become a national leader in generating new work, appears to be less than stable at the executive level. President and General Director Kevin Ramach has resigned after about two and one-half years in the role.

Ramach himself had succeeded Allan Naplan, who quit in March, 2012 after only one year in the job. According to a news release, Nina Archabal – the former director of the Minnesota Historical Society – took over on Thursday as interim general director.

The fact that the Opera is appointing an interim director on short notice indicates that Ramach’s decision was not long planned. When longtime president Kevin Smith announced plans to retire in May, 2010, he stayed on and Naplan’s hiring was announced six months later. Naplan took over the following March and surprisingly quit the next year. Ramach was appointed interim president and general director and then named permanently to the post in July of 2012.  

The Opera has had a tight budget the past few years and announced a deficit for the last fiscal year.  At that time, Ramach said the company had cut costs when it was clear that revenue was not matching expenses, even though ticket revenue was at an all-time high with the best season-subscription numbers in 14 years.

Fundraising, marketing and communications departments were streamlined. In the past year, two key players in those roles – marketing director Lani Willis and communications director Daniel Zillman – left the Opera for other positions. Several other people in key positions have also left the company. Ramach had also indicated in the report of the deficit that the company would be hiring a consultant  to examine productivity.

The company has launched prominent world premieres in recent years. “Silent Night,” “Doubt,” and the upcoming “The Manchurian Candidate” are three new works the Opera has commissioned.

Ramach, 54, joined Minnesota Opera in 1988 and left 11 years later for Kentucky Opera. He returned to the Twin Cities in 2006 and served as production director for six years before he succeeded Naplan. Friday’s news release quoted him as saying he wanted to “return to my creative interests.” He will not stay with the company.

The news release also did not indicate when the Opera board will conduct a search for a permanent leader. It is unlikely that Archabal, 74, will be a candidate long term. She had been with the Minnesota Historical Society for more than 30 years before retiring as director in 2010. She is president of the Schubert Club board.

Opera board chairman Jim Johnson said late Friday that he does not feel the Opera has a problem in the administration. "I think we have everything under control," Johnson said.

40 brides for 40 brothers

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: November 19, 2014 - 2:52 PM

Minneapolis composer Jake Runestad had a blast writing the music for a bloody mini-opera. 

“Daughters of the Bloody Duke” sounds more like the title of a Vincent Price camp horror flick than a new opera. And that’s fine with its Minneapolis-based composer, Jake Runestad.“There’s not a lot of comedic opera being written now, and I like making people laugh,” he said. Loosely based on a Greek tragedy, the 20-minute work (with libretto by David Johnston) receives its world premiere Friday from the Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center in D.C. along with two other short operas. The synopsis: A duke with 40 daughters is marrying them all off to the 40 sons of a ruler from a neighboring land. On the wedding night, he instructs the daughters to all kill their husbands so he can overpower his rival. “Throughout you hear screams and shouts offstage as they fall, like, ’14!’ and ‘23!,’” Runestad said. “One daughter, Margot, falls in love with her husband and questions whether she should listen to Dad or follow her heart.” Side characters include grandma’s ghost and a drunken sister who keeps stumbling into Margot's room asking if she's killed her hubby yet.

Martin Frost weighs in on SPCO collaboration

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: November 12, 2014 - 6:11 PM

Martin Frost, star clarinetist, will work with the SPCO on tours, recording and some concerts here at home through the 2018-19 season.

When Martin FrÖst performed a weekend of concerts with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in October, audiences were so excited they looked as if they might turn cartwheels in the aisle. This week, the SPCO announced that FrÖst will be the next in a line of impressive artistic partners, with plans for recording, international tours, new commissioned works and involvement with the star clarinetist's current passion, his" Genesis Project," which will trace the development of classical music from its earliest folk and religious roots to modern compositions.

FrÖst, 43, also recently signed a contract with Sony Classical, and hopes to record with the SPCO as both soloist and conductor on that label during his partnership. He said he's branching out beyond just performing now because "I didn't want to look back on my life and say, oh, I did [Mozart's] Clarinet Concerto 900 times. I'd like to be able to say I was brave enough to try new things, to open new doors for classical music."

FrÖst waxed enthusiastic about his upcoming collaborations with the orchestra (to last through the 2018-19 season). He described the chamber orchestra’s members as musicians who “don’t just sit there. They sit on the edge of their chairs. They're very flexible to work with and can play some extremely hard stuff. They are offering a wonderful musical home for me, a perfect pairing to try new things.” One of those new things, he hopes, will be performances of his original conceptual work “Dollhouse,” which combines music, dance and special lighting effects, with musicians taking cues from his choreographed movement onstage. The work premiered in Stockholm in 2013 and was performed last month in Gothenburg, Sweden.

"I call it 'conductography,' " he said."It's about liberation, in both physical and symbolic form.". Okay, SPCO -- prepare to be liberated.

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