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
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.