Locked-out Minnesota Orchestra musicians announce indie 10-concert season

The performers will also be producing the season, which is drawing big names such as Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell.

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Osmo Vänskä and locked-out orchestra musicians in February.

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The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra revealed details of 10 concerts they will produce and play between January and May.

While the number of concerts falls far short of a typical orchestra season, it is an ambitious undertaking for a group without an administration or a hall of its own.

The musicians, who have been locked out in a divisive labor dispute with management since October 2012, say they are open to merging this new independent season with the one management has planned, should a resolution be reached.

In a schedule released Thursday afternoon, the musicians said that star violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell each will perform one concert with the musicians. It was previously announced that former Minnesota Orchestra music director Osmo Vänskä will return as guest conductor for two concerts to reopen the renovated Northrop Auditorium in May. Now he has signed on for two additional concerts (March 20-21) to celebrate the orchestra’s second consecutive Grammy nomination, this time for recordings of Sibelius Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4. Other concert venues will be the O’Shaughnessy at St. Catherine University and Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota.

The season, titled “Music for Minnesota: A Season of Shining Stars,” includes music of such mainstays of the repertoire as Beethoven, Mozart and Berlioz, as well as new music, including “Acadia,” a work by the young composer Judd Greenstein that had its world premiere by the Minnesota Orchestra in April 2012.

The season kicks off with former SPCO Music Director Hugh Wolff leading the orchestra in Mozart’s “Requiem” as well as Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem and Beethoven’s Overture to “Coriolan” (Jan. 10-11). The American program (Feb. 20-21) featuring Greenstein’s piece also includes pianist Kevin Cole playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” led by former Minnesota Orchestra associate conductor Mischa Santora. The Bell program (April 15) includes Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole in D minor, and Ravel’s arrangement of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

Vänskä will inaugurate the new Northrop with Dvorák, Liszt and Tchaikovsky (May 2 and 4). Perlman closes the season as soloist and guest conductor with Beethoven, Weber and Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” (May 14). The musicians also will continue playing school concerts during the season.

In addition to playing the concerts, the musicians are handling the complicated details of creating concert programs, securing guest soloists, renting halls, scheduling rehearsals and selling tickets.

“We’re a collective that is essentially doing the same thing management would — we have numerous committees and everyone does a job,” said principal cello Tony Ross, a member of the artistic committee and others. “But you can imagine the difficulty of planning a season at the last minute.”

Ross said the musicians are feeling solidarity for their cause among soloists and guest conductors.

“There’s a big line of people who want to play with us who are equally world-famous, who are upset about our plight, but scheduling is difficult,” he said.

The guest artists are being offered fees “nothing near” their usual ones, Ross said, and some have donated the money back. The group is not receiving discounts on hall rentals, he said.

Musicians will forfeit their unemployment compensation for the weeks of the concerts, just as they do when they are hired to sit in at orchestras in other cities. The musicians have applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and have won a permission to accept tax-deductible donations. They reported last week that they had so far raised $650,000 in concert revenues and donations from several sources including supporters, the musicians themselves and community leaders. The goal is to use 75 percent of concert revenues to pay musicians.

As for the possibility of combining seasons with the one that the Minnesota Orchestral Association has planned if a settlement is reached, Ross said, “it’s all negotiable. It would be interesting to merge, but we don’t have to.”

Asked for a response, the association sent a statement: “Our focus is on reaching a negotiated settlement through conversations with musicians at the bargaining table, and we hope this will be possible soon.”

 

Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046

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