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Brief History

On November 5, 1903—three weeks before the Wright brothers made their first airplane flight—the Minnesota Orchestra performed its inaugural concert. Founded as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, it soon achieved distinction in its home city and abroad.

The Orchestra played its first regional tour in 1907, performed its first major city concert in Chicago in 1911, and made its New York City debut in 1912 at Carnegie Hall. Outside the United States, the Minnesota Orchestra has played concerts in Australia, Canada, Europe, the Far East, Latin America and the Middle East. Performances in Carnegie Hall have been regular events for nearly nine decades.

In the early 1920s, the Minnesota Orchestra became one of the first to be heard on recordings, as well as on the radio—in 1923 it played a nationally broadcast concert under guest conductor Bruno Walter—and it has been recording and broadcasting ever since. Its landmark Mercury Living Presence LP recordings of the 1950s and 1960s, under music directors Antal Dorati and Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, have been reissued on compact disc to great acclaim. The Orchestra has appeared on other labels as well, including Telarc, EMI/Angel, CBS, Philips, Argo and Virgin Classics. Under former music director Eiji Oue, it made seventeen highly regarded discs for Reference Recordings, and six Minnesota Orchestra CDs have received Grammy Award nominations since 1996.

Osmo Vänskä, the ensemble's tenth music director, has launched a five-year, five-disc initiative to record the complete Beethoven symphonies with the Minnesota Orchestra on the BIS label. The first CD in the set, featuring Beethoven's Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, was released to critical accolades in January 2005 and the next album in the series is due in 2006. In honor of its centennial season in 2003, the Minnesota Orchestra released Minnesota Orchestra at One Hundred: A Collection of Recordings and Broadcasts, an acclaimed 12-CD set featuring recordings and broadcasts dating from between 1924-2003.

In 1968, the Minneapolis Symphony, renamed the Minnesota Orchestra, continued on its path of distinctive membership in the ranks of top American symphonic ensembles. In 1974, the Orchestra moved into Orchestra Hall, its own home in downtown Minneapolis.

The 98-member ensemble now performs nearly 200 concerts each year. Its award-winning concert broadcasts, produced by Minnesota Public Radio and distributed by American Public Media to more than 120 radio stations nationwide, reach approximately 200,000 people each week.

In addition to traditional concerts, the Minnesota Orchestra connects with more than 85,000 music lovers annually through Young People's Concerts (YPs), Adventures in Music for Families programs and Kinder Konzerts. In the last decade more than half a million students have experienced a Minnesota Orchestra YP. Musicians also engage in such Minnesota Orchestra-sponsored initiatives as the Adopt-A-School program (founded in 1990) and Side-by-Side rehearsals and concerts with young area musicians.

With a long history of commissioning and performing new music, the Minnesota Orchestra continues to nourish a strong commitment to contemporary composers. The ensemble has premiered and commissioned more than 175 compositions since 1903, including works by John Adams, Dominick Argento (Minnesota Orchestra Composer Laureate), Aaron Copland, John Corigliano, Charles Ives, Aaron Jay Kernis (Orchestra New Music Advisor), Libby Larsen, Stephen Paulus, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (Orchestra Conductor Laureate), and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. In addition, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has bestowed upon the Minnesota Orchestra thirteen awards for adventuresome programming, including the 2004 Award for American Programming on a Foreign Tour and the 2005 Leonard Bernstein Award for Education Programming.

The Minnesota Orchestra welcomed Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä in the fall of 2003 as he took the podium as the ensemble's 10th music director. Praised for his intense and dynamic performances, Vänskä is recognized for compelling interpretations of the standard, contemporary, and Nordic repertoires, as well as the close rapport he establishes with the musicians he leads. In February 2004, Vänskä led the Minnesota Orchestra on a highly acclaimed eleven-city European Tour—including performances in Austria, Germany, England, Scotland and his native Finland—and in 2005, he and the Orchestra embarked on a five-city Minnesota Tour. Vänskä recently extended his tenure with the Minnesota Orchestra through 2011.

Music Directors of the Minnesota Orchestra
(Founded in 1903 as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra)

Emil Oberhoffer
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
Henri Verbrugghen
Sir Neville Marriner
Eugene Ormandy
Edo de Waart
Dimitri Mitropoulos
Eiji Oue
Antal Dorati
Osmo Vänskä
more information or digital images

Sandi Brown
Public Relations Coordinator
The Minnesota Orchestra
1111 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 371-5641 phone

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