|Former name||Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra|
|Location||Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States|
|Concert hall||Orchestra Hall|
|Principal conductor||Osmo Vänskä|
Emil Oberhoffer founded the orchestra as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra in 1903, and it gave its first performance on November 5 of that year. In 1968 the orchestra changed to its name to the Minnesota Orchestra. It makes its home in downtown Minneapolis at Orchestra Hall, which was built for the ensemble in 1974. The orchestra's previous hall, starting in 1929, was Northrop Memorial Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus.
Since the 2003–04 season the orchestra's music director has been Osmo Vänskä. Under his direction, the orchestra has garnered significant critical praise, including a 2010 description from The New Yorker's Alex Ross as sounding like "the greatest orchestra in the world."
Emil Oberhoffer was the orchestra's principal conductor until 1922. He was followed by Bruno Walter (chief guest conductor 1922–23); Henri Verbrugghen (1923–31); Eugene Ormandy (1931–36); Dimitri Mitropoulos (1937–49); Antal Doráti (1949–60); Stanisław Skrowaczewski (1960–79); Neville Marriner (1979–86); Edo de Waart (1986–95); and Eiji Oue (1995–2002). In 2002, Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä was appointed the ensemble's 10th music director, assuming the post in September 2003. In 2005, Vänskä extended his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra through 2011. In September 2009, the orchestra announced the further extension of Vänskä's contract through the 2014–15 season. On June 9, 2011, Vänskä was presented with the Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming by ASCAP.
Leonardo De Lorenzo was first flutist from 1915 to 1919. Erin Keefe was appointed concertmaster in September 2011. The position was open for two years after Jorja Fleezanis departed in 2009 to join the faculty of Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music. Section Leaders include Manny Laureano (trumpet), Doug Wright (trombone), Adam Kuenzel (flute), Gina DiBello (second violin), Thomas Turner (viola), Anthony Ross (cello), Burt Hara (clarinet), John Miller, Jr. (bassoon), Michael Gast (horn), Steven Campbell (tuba), and Brian Mount (percussion). The principal oboe position is now open, with Basil Reeve's 2012 retirement. The principal keyboard position has been vacant since 2005; no auditions have been held, but the position has not been officially eliminated. The principal bass position has been vacant since the 2007 departure of longtime principal Peter Lloyd. Matthew Frischman and Kathryn Nettleman are serving as acting co-principals.
The Minnesota Orchestra musicians host a nonprofit website as a community service.
The orchestra first began recording in 1924, and produced some landmark records. Among these was the first electrical recording of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony with Eugene Ormandy, who recorded extensively with the orchestra for RCA Victor in the 1930s. In the 1940s, the Minneapolis Symphony was contracted to Columbia Records and made a series of records with Ormandy's successor, Dimitri Mitropoulos. These included the premiere recording of Mahler's First Symphony. In 1954, the group made the first complete recordings of Tchaikovsky's three ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker under the baton of Antal Doráti. That same year, they also made the first recording of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture to include actual cannon fire, again under the direction of Antal Doráti. These recordings were made for Mercury Records as part of the Living Presence series. In the 1970s, the now Minnesota Orchestra made a series of recordings for Vox Records under the direction of Stanisław Skrowaczewski. In the 1990s, the orchestra recorded for the Reference Recordings label under the direction of music director, Eiji Oue. During his tenure, current music director Osmo Vänskä has conducted a cycle of the Beethoven symphonies for the Swedish BIS label. Their recording of the Ninth Symphony, with the Minnesota Chorale, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007.
Begun in 1980 with Leonard Slatkin at the helm, the orchestra's summer festival has been known by several names, beginning with "Viennese Sommerfest," changing to "MusicFest" in 2001, and eventually reverting to "Sommerfest" in 2003. Sommerfest concerts are held at Orchestra Hall over a four-week period in midsummer. The orchestra also offers free live music on the plaza before and after each show, in genres varying from folk to jazz to polka. Slatkin was Music Director of Sommerfest from 1980 to 1989. Since 2003, Andrew Litton has been Music Director, and in June 2008, his contract in this post was extended to 2011.
Allegations of financial malfeasance
Since 2007 the Minnesota Orchestra has suffered from a dwindling endowment, exacerbated by the Financial crisis of 2007–2008 and diminished revenues. In August 2008, the Minnesota Orchestra Association's invested assets totaled $168.5 million, 13% less than the $192.4 million the Association had projected in their 2007 Strategic Plan Summary.
In fiscal year 2009, according to their publicly available Form 990s, the Minnesota Orchestra's board "sold $28.7 million in securities at a nearly $14 million loss"; what securities were sold and who made the decision to sell them are not yet public information.
During 2009 and 2010, the orchestra's board reported a balanced budget and drew on its endowment to mask operational deficits because it was trying to secure $16 million in state bonding for renovations of Orchestra Hall and Peavey Plaza. The orchestra posted operational deficits of $2.9 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012.
On October 1, 2012, the Minnesota Orchestral Association (the orchestra's governing body) locked out the orchestra's musicians and canceled concerts through November 18 after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. The MOA claimed that spending on musician salaries and benefits was depleting the organization's endowment and that labor costs must be reduced by $5 million per year. The musicians and their union have taken the position that the MOA's proposed cuts are so deep and draconian as to represent an existential threat to the future of the orchestra. The musicians have also announced a unanimous vote of no confidence in MOA president and CEO Michael Henson. That vote, however, has no actual force within the organization, and the MOA's board chairman has dismissed it and hailed Henson as "the perfect leader" for this period in the orchestra's history.
The entire 2012–13 concert season has since been canceled. In late December, it was announced that the musicians and management would meet on January 2 for the first time since the lockout began.
During the lockout, the musicians have periodically presented concerts on their own. Several former music directors have publicly decried the lockout and warned that cutting the orchestra so deeply would damage its future prospects, and in December 2012 Vänskä sent a letter to both the board of directors and the musicians warning that the lockout is causing severe damage to the orchestra's reputation at home and abroad.
In February, violinist and Acting First Associate Concertmaster Peter McGuire accepted a position with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich; according to his wife Kimberly, he did so because of the lockout: "Peter absolutely would not have taken the Tonhalle Orchestra – Zurich Audition had management and the Board submitted a respectful offer in April 2012." In March, principal second violinist Gina DiBello accepted a position with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
On April 30, 2013, Vänskä threatened resignation if the lockout continued, writing to the board, “I must make it clear that in the case Carnegie Hall chooses to cancel the Minnesota Orchestra’s concerts this November, i.e. if they lose confidence in our ability to perform … then I will be forced to resign". He also stated, "the [orchestra’s] musical policy of excellence ... is now under critical threat".
In May, renowned principal clarinetist Burt Hara, after 25 years with the orchestra, accepted a position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, taking a year's leave of absence from the Minnesota Orchestra. Other musicians to leave include violist Matthew Young, who is moving to the San Francisco Symphony, First Associate Concertmaster Sarah Kwak, who is becoming Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, principal violist Thomas Turner, and cellist Pitnarry Shin (who is moving to New York City with husband Kyu-Young Kim, who left the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for a position with the New York Philharmonic and cited the orchestras' labor disputes as the reason they auditioned elsewhere: "The last thing we wanted to do was displace our family again so soon after moving here, but this is the reality of the lockouts").
On May 8, the 2012–13 season was cancelled in its entirety, although the board hoped there would be three summer concerts.
- "History". Minnesota Orchestral Association. 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
- Ross, Alex (22 March 2010). "The orchestral Olympics at Carnegie Hall". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-03-09.
- "Music Director Osmo Vänskä Extends Contract With Minnesota Orchestra" (Press release). Minnesota Orchestra. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- "ASCAP "Adventurous Programming" Awards Presented at League of American Orchestras Conference in Minneapolis". 9 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
- "Orchestral Principal Flutists".
- "Minnesota Orchestra names Erin Keefe as new concertmaster".
- "Orchestra Musicians". Music and Musicians. Minnesota Orchestral Association. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- "The Musicians of the Orchestra".
- David A, Pickett, PhD
- Oestreich, James R. (17 December 2006). "A Most Audacious Dare Reverberates". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Rob Hubbard, "Sommerfest artistic director Litton extends contract with Minnesota Orchestra". Pioneer Press, 30 June 2008.
- Hogstad, Emily E. (31 May 2013). "Questions remain about fiscal performance of Minnesota Orchestra's board". MinnPost.
- Minnesota Orchestral Association, "MOA's invested assets are lower than projected," in Vision for a Sound Future, http://www.minnesotaorchestra.org/pdf/strategic_plan/#/10/zoomed
- Royce, Graydon (6 December 2012). "Minnesota Orchestra's board walked thin line on finances". Star Tribune.
- Royce, Graydon (6 December 2012). "Minnesota Orchestra reports record deficit of $6 million". Star Tribune.
- "Lawmakers Call For Hearing Into Minn. Orchestra Finances". CBS Minnesota. December 20, 2012.
- Kerr, Euan (December 14, 2012). "Emotions, economy collide for locked out Minnesota Orchestra musicians show". MPR.
- Platt, Russell (December 4, 2012). "Trouble in the Twin Cities". The New Yorker.
- Lebrecht, Norman (21 February 2013). "Musicians flee Minnesota, one as far as Switzerland". Slipped Disc. Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds (blog).
- Lebrecht, Norman (22 March 2013). "Minnesota loses another shining star". Slipped Disc. Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds (blog).
- Royce, Graydon (3 May 2013). "Vänskä threatens to resign if Minnesota Orchestra lockout isn't settled". Star Tribune.
- Minnesota Orchestra Musicians, "Burt Hara," http://www.minnesotaorchestramusicians.org/?p=4404
- Oestreich, James R. (12 May 2013). "An Orchestra in the Throes of a Lockout". The New York Times.
- More Minnesota Orchestra Musicians Move On, blog post by the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra, March 13, 2013, http://www.minnesotaorchestramusicians.org/?p=4320
- Espeland, Pamela (22 February 2013). "SPCO musician's departure a sad sign of the times". MinnPost.
- Raihala, Ross (8 May 2013). "Minnesota Orchestra cancels rest of season, but hopes for summer concerts". TwinCities.com.
- Minnesota Orchestra website
- Regional and National Radio Broadcasts by Minnesota Public Radio
- Minnesota Orchestra Archives home page
- November 1903: Review of Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra's first concert