Artistic Timeline

Artistic Achievements of the Minnesota Orchestra – A Timeline

November 5, 1903
Opening concert of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the eighth major symphony orchestra founded in America.

Musical visionary Emil Oberhoffer serves as Music Director.

Lead by Oberhoffer, the Orchestra launches its first tour with concerts in Moorhead, Grand Forks, and Duluth, followed by ambitious annual month-long tours.

Following its triumphant debut in Chicago, the orchestra plays in 120 cities in eleven weeks of touring in one season alone. Determined to build classical music audiences for America, the Minneapolis Symphony becomes known as “The Orchestra on Wheels.”

Children’s concerts are introduced under the sponsorship of the Young People’s Symphony Concert Association, a series that continues to this day.

The Orchestra makes its New York City debut at Carnegie Hall as well as in Boston, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

Belgian-born Henri Verbrugghen leads the Orchestra as Music Director, and appoints violinist Jenny Cullen as the first woman to hold a chair in the orchestra.

First national radio broadcast concert of the Orchestra under guest conductor Bruno Walter.

One of the first American orchestras to record, the Orchestra makes its first acoustic recordings on the Brunswick label in New York.

Verbrugghen begins a series of radio concerts that eventually grows to 20 per season.

Orchestra musicians take ship in Miami for a crossing to tour Cuba.

Beginning of an unprecedented partnership with the University of Minnesota, the Orchestra makes Northrop Auditorium its home. Through the challenging economy of the Depression era, in the 4800-seat Northrup the Orchestra plays for a 75 to 80% capacity audience.

Hungarian conductor Eugene Ormandy becomes Music Director, capturing major recording contracts and receiving widespread praise for recordings produced under the Victor label. The Orchestra broadcasts a performance from Minneapolis as a part of the opening celebration for the opening of Radio City Music Hall.

Athens-born Dimitri Mitropoulos, Music Director, continues touring with the Orchestra during WW II and produces legendary recordings such as the first release of Mahler Symphony No. 1 and the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto with Artur Rubinstein.

The Orchestra is featured in concerts at the Goethe bicentennial celebration held in Aspen, Colorado.

Antal Dorati serves as Music Director. Dorati  records nearly 120 works with the Orchestra, including the landmark recording of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture which earned a Gold Record, selling more than one million copies. Dorati also leads the world premiere of Bartók’s Viola Concerto.

The Golden Jubilee Season. The Orchestra has now performed in 442 different cities and begins recording for Mercury, whose outstanding Living Presence series brings international recognition.

Goodwill tour of the Middle East sponsored by the U.S. State Department. The orchestra shares great symphonic music with audiences who have never heard a Western symphony orchestra before in cities including Ankara, Athens, Baghdad, Beirut, Bombay, Karachi, Tehran, and Istanbul. The orchestra wins kudos and fame for Minneapolis in the international press.

Polish-born conductor and composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski begins a nineteen-year tenure as Music Director and initiates a decade of growth to a year-round season.

Igor Stravinsky conducts the Orchestra at a subscription concert.

Reflecting its commitment to Minnesota, the sixty-five year-old Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra changes its name to the Minnesota Orchestra and performs at the United Nations in New York City.

The Orchestra moves its home to Orchestra Hall, whose acoustics are hailed at opening concerts. Minnesota Public Radio begins regular live broadcasts of concerts at Orchestra Hall.

The orchestra records with Skrowaczewski for Vox under its new name.

Eminent composer Aaron Copland conducts a special Bicentennial celebration concert on July Fourth, “Copland On America”

Sir Neville Marriner, founder of the Academy of St. Martin-in-the Fields, becomes Music Director. Marriner and the Orchestra record for Philips, CBS Masterworks, and EMI during the transition from LP recordings to digital CD recordings.

Klaus Tennstedt serves as principal guest conductor.

The innovative Viennese Sommerfest debuts under the leadership of founding artistic Director Leonard Slatkin.

Swiss-born Charles Dutoit serves as principal guest conductor.

The Orchestra travels to Australia with Marriner.

The Orchestra plays at the Hong Kong Festival in February and is featured at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico in May.

Dutch conductor Edo de Waart becomes Music Director and records with the Orchestra for EMI and Virgin Classics.

Musicologist Michael Steinberg serves as Music Director of Viennese Sommerfest.

Conductor David Zinman follows as Music Director of Viennese Sommerfest.

Japanese-born Eiji Oue serves as Music Director and makes eighteen acclaimed recordings on the audiophile Reference Recordings label.

British conductor Jeffrey Tate continues Viennese Sommerfest traditions as its new Music Director.

Under Oue, the Orchestra makes its first European tour, performing in five countries, followed by a nine-city tour of Japan.

Second European tour under the baton of Eiji Oue, highlighted by the Orchestra’s Berlin debut.

100th anniversary of the orchestra is celebrated. Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä becomes the orchestra’s 10th Music Director. The orchestra has now played in 661 cities around the world.

American conductor Andrew Litton assumes leadership of the Sommerfest, highlighted by spectacular semi-staged operas.

Vänskä and the orchestra launch an initiative to record the Beethoven Symphonies on the BIS label to rave reviews.

First full tour of Europe under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, including Vienna, Berlin and London.

Regional Minnesota Tours, continuing the tradition of bringing great orchestral music to cities and towns across the region.

August, 2006
Tour of  European Festivals lead by Osmo Vänskä, including Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and Helsinki.

Second full tour of Europe under the baton of Osmo Vänskä.

The Orchestra launches Music on Demand, making downloads of select major works recorded live in concert and available online.

March, 2010
Vänskä and the orchestra perform “Kullervo” at Carnegie Hall. Reports Alex Ross, New Yorker, “For the duration of the evening of March 1st, the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world.”

June, 2010
Vänskä and the Orchestra begin recording the Beethoven Piano Concertos on the BIS label with Yevgeny Sudbin.

August, 2010
European Festivals tour, including two performances at the BBC Proms performing Beethoven Symphony No. 9.

June, 2011
Vänskä and the Orchestra begins a new project to record all seven symphonies of Sibelius for BIS.

October, 2011
Orchestra launches the Common Chords Project, a multi-year initiative designed to create partnerships between the orchestra and participating Minnesota cities, featuring performances and activities that celebrate the heritage of each community.

January, 2012
CD featuring Sibelius Symphony No. 2 and 5 is released to great acclaim…”Here are the two most popular Sibelius symphonies in stunning sound, played by a superb orchestra.” (American Record Guide)

From 1902 to 2012
The Orchestra premieres and/or commissions nearly 300 compositions, including works by Adams, Bartók, Copland, Corigliano, Ives, Kernis, and Skrowaczewski. The orchestra is honored with 19 awards for adventuresome programming from ASCAP. The orchestra has also received the ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Award for Education Programming five times, in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2011, and 2012.

October 1, 2012
The Minnesota Orchestra is locked out for the next 16 months during a contentious contract dispute. The Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra present dozens of their own sold-out programs of great symphonic works, including education and community concerts, led by former music directors Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Edo de Waart, and Osmo Vänskä.

October 1, 2013
Music Director Osmo Vänska resigns due to the cancellation of the orchestra’s planned series of concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York and at the BBC Proms in London. The Musicians play three farewell concerts with Maestro Vänskä and guest pianist Emanuel Ax, broadcast live on MPR. The Musicians plan and produce their own series of concerts which are performed from October 2013 through January 2014.

February 1, 2014
A new contract is signed and regular concerts resume, beginning with two weeks of Homecoming Concerts. On February 7th and 8th Conductor Laureate Stanislaw Skrowaczewski led the orchestra in concerts featuring Beethoven’s heroic Third Symphony and Skrowaczewski’s own powerful orchestration of Bach’s D-minor Toccata and Fugue—the work that opened the first concert at Orchestra Hall in 1974.

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