If a single dominant message can be construed from the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2015-16 season lineup, it is, “We’ve been back for a bit, and building. Now we’re back to where we used to be.”
The orchestra is firmly resettled with a refurbished hall, new president and board chair, and its first full season following a historic 16-month lockout. Next season is short on risk-taking, but long on traditional repertory, featuring works at which the orchestra and its music director, Osmo Vänskä, excel.
The season will open Sept. 11-12 with Vänskä conducting Grammy and Tony-winning guest vocalist Audra McDonald, followed by 22 weeks of classical subscription concerts. Vänskä will conduct 12 of those weeks, beginning Oct. 1-3 with Mahler’s Fourth Symphony and ending in June with Mahler’s Fifth, which will be recorded for release on the BIS label.
A two-week marathon featuring all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies, as well as all five of his piano concertos performed by Russian soloist Yevgeny Sudbin, begins New Year’s Eve.
The work of Vänskä favorite Jean Sibelius will receive three weeks of concerts in 2016, the Finnish composer’s 150th birthday year, including the orchestra’s first performance of his seldom-heard “Kullervo” (Feb. 4-6) since it won rave reviews for a 2010 Carnegie Hall appearance. That work will be recorded live with a Finnish male choir and vocal soloists.
Other soloists featured next season include violinist Hilary Hahn performing Sibelius Feb. 18-20 and principal cellist Anthony Ross playing Schumann’s Cello Concerto Oct. 15-17, conducted by former music director Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. On May 26-28, orchestra concertmaster Erin Keefe will play Brahms’ Violin Concerto, with the first date as part of “Symphony in 60,” a series of three one-hour concerts.
Another three-concert series, the fun, conversational “Inside the Classics,” also is back with conductor Sarah Hicks and host Sam Bergman, a violist. It begins Feb. 12 with “Hipster vs. Nerd,” contrasting Mozart and Haydn.
As part of the “Live at Orchestra Hall” series, Hicks will also conduct performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” in a semi-staged concert April 7-10.
Contemporary works offered among the classics-heavy programs include the world premiere of Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas’ “Migrations,” with the YL Male Voice Choir and mezzo Lilli Paasikivi singing text by Duluth poet Sheila Packa. Peter Lieberson’s “Neruda Songs” will be performed Nov. 19-20, and Kevin Puts’ “Two Mountain Scenes” will be performed May 27-28.
Subscription series tickets go on sale April 3, with flexible packages available June 15 and individual tickets July 31.