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Osmo Vanska announced his joy at being part of the Minnesota Orchestra's Grammy win for classical recording. Vanska issued a statement through his London-based manager early Monday morning.
"I am absolutely thrilled that this recording of Sibelius Symphonies 1 and 4 -- works so close to my heart -- has been honored with a Grammy Award. I am immensely happy and proud to have been able to achieve this in partnership with my dear and devoted friends at BIS record label and with the remarkable musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra. it is the greatest honor to be presented with such a distinctive award by our peers -- and I convey my genuine thanks to The Recording Academy for this wonderful recognition."
Vanska has been busy lately with guest conducting gigs in Europe and in San Francisco. He quit the Minnesota Orchestra on Oct. 1, to protest the inability to forge a new collective bargaining agreement.
He has not said publicly what his plans are in regards a possible return to Minnesota. A Facebook post was reported to have said he'd like to return but he needs to be asked.
The Grammy-winning disc was the second in what had been intended as a full Sibelius symphony cycle. The first disc was nominated for a Grammy last year.
All doubt that the returning Minnesota Orchestra would generate much interest has been dashed. The organization's web site has been overwhelmed by demand for the Feb. 7-8 and Feb. 14-15 homecoming concerts.
Tickets can also be purchased by phone at 612-371-5656. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski will conduct Beethoven's Third on the 7th and 8th. Yan Pascal Tortelier will lead Holst's The Planets and the Elgar Cello Concerto the following weekend.
Spokeswoman Gwen Pappas said the greatest demand is for the Feb. 7 concert. There are still several hundred tickets available for that night. The remaining concerts are about half sold, Pappas said shortly before 11 a.m.
The orchestra is expected to announce its classical subscription season for the remainder of the year on Friday morning.
These empty seats in the newly renovated Orchestra Hall will likely be filled when the orchestra returns to the stage for four homecoming concerts.
The Minnesota Orchestra will stage two weeks of homecoming concerts February 7 through 15, marking both the orchestra's return to its home, the recently renovated Orchestra Hall, and the end of the labor dispute that locked the muscians out of that home for the last 15 months. Tickets go on sale Jan. 22.
The official season will launch later next month, with programs to be announced before the end of January.
The homecoming concerts begin Feb. 7-8 with Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski conducting Beethoven's Third Symphony and his own orchestration of Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue -- the work that opened the first concert at Orchestra Hall in 1974.
On Feb. 14-15, French conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier will lead an all-British program of Holst’s popular The Planets, with the women of the Minnesota Chorale, and Elgar’s Cello Concerto featuring virtuoso soloist Steven Isserlis.
All concerts will be are preceded by a free open house at Orchestra Hall, with doors opening at 4 p.m. The public is invited to come and see the renovated facility whether or not they are attending a concert.
“We’re pleased to bring the music back to our audiences at Orchestra Hall with our musicians onstage and a dear friend on the conductor’s podium,” said Robert Neu, the Orchestra’s vice president and general manager, adding that it was fitting for Skrowaczewski to conduct the first concerts in the Hall he "helped build...40 years ago."
“We are thrilled to return to Orchestra Hall, our home, and the home for world class symphonic music in this community," said Anthony Ross, the Orchestra’s principal cellist.
Given only a few weeks as opposed to the usual months of preparation time, the orchestra’s administration, which is down 18 staff members since the lockout began, has been scrambling to put together a season. How, in hte three days since the contract was ratified, did they line up four concerts with international guest artists? They starting hoping for the best and planning ahead a while ago.
"We had about 50 percent of it in place, and there's been a huge outporuing of support from around the world from people who want to help us," said general manager Robert Neu.
Rehearsals will begin Feb. 5, two days before the first concert. Neu said the opening programs were chosen in part because the musicians are familiar with them, but that “it’s really about the statement we’re making to the public. Playing the heroic Beethoven, the Eroica, is a positive message that we’re back and we love music.” The musicians had input in planning the programs as well, he said.
Not featuring a soloist that first weekend was intentional, he said, because “we are featuring the musicians of the orchestra.” He isn't yet sure how many, if any, of the seven musicians currently on leave will return for the homecoming concerts.
Heather Johnson, being fitted last summer for Mill City Opera's "The Barber of Seville."/photo by Courtney Perry.
Heather Johnson, who grew up in White Bear Lake, just got some nice props for her performance as Lizzie Borden in Boston Lyric Opera's production. Johnson was back in the Twin Cities last summer for Mill City Opera's "The Barber of Seville" and mentioned that she would be taking on the title role in the world premiere chamber version of the 1965 opera.
Writing in the February Opera News, critic Kalen Ratzlaff didn't have much good to say about the concept and staging from director Christopher Alden. "Cheap laughs" and "depictions of sophmorically 'edgy' sexual behavior," Ratzlaff wrote. However, the critic waxed on about the singers. "If only one could have lifted them up lock, stock and barrel and dropped them into a production worthy of their gifts."
"In the title role, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson was fearless, channeling a seething fury worthy of Electra and singing with dramatic focus, power and control."
Johnson sang at Roseville High School and then studied with Dan Dressen at St. Olaf. She has lived in New York for 14 years. Next up, according to her web site is a short engagement of "La Cenerentola" at Intermountain Opera, in May.
Anthony Tommasini had an interesting column in yesterday's New York Times. Surveying the wreckage of 2013, a year in which the City Opera went under and the Minnesota Orchestra continued to limp through its labor dispute, Tommasini argues that arts organizations (in particular classical music) need an "effective business model." Of course, what constitutes an effective model is open to interpretation but that topic has been a key component to the Minnesota talks.
Citing the sad case of the City Opera in New York, Tommasini noted that former mayor Michael Bloomberg declined a chance to rescue the institution, which needed $7 million to survive, because as Bloomberg put it, the "business model doesn't seem to be working."
Tomassini goes on, in his own words: "So what is the lesson Mr. Bloomberg implied in his comment? In short, artistic excellence is not enough."
The piece is here.
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