Category Archives: Minnesota Orchestra

A bow-dacious view of Beethoven

The Minnesota Orchestra shared this YouTube video of its March 31 concert, which included Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 2.

From the camera’s point of view, we can see the vigorous, dramatic movement of the players’ bows in the string section. It’s almost mesmerizing to watch:

The music is thrilling and captivating. To hear more, listen to Classical MPR on Friday, April 1, starting at 8 p.m. We’ll broadcast the entire concert live from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Here is the complete program:

Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Arto Noras, cello

Leonore Overture No. 2

Cello Concerto No. 2

Symphony No. 3

VIDEO: Minnesota Orchestra, Sibelius Symphony No. 1

Today, Nicollet Avenue; tomorrow, Broadway.

Thursday to Saturday, Feb. 18 to 20, the Minnesota Orchestra, led by Osmo Vänskä, perform Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 3, as well as Sibelius’s Violin Concerto (for which the orchestra will be joined by guest soloist Hilary Hahn). Classical MPR will broadcast Friday’s live concert, starting at 8 p.m.

The weekend’s concerts at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis are a preview of the same concert the Minnesota Orchestra and Hahn will perform at Carnegie Hall in New York on March 3.

To get a sense of what will air on Classical MPR on Friday, Feb. 19 (and what will be heard at Carnegie Hall on March 3), watch this video from Thursday night’s concert in Minneapolis. In this clip, we see Vänskä leading the orchestra in the first minutes of Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1. The emotion of the music and the passion of the performers leaps from the screen:

As this video suggests, listeners in Minnesota are in for a treat this weekend … as New Yorkers will be on March 3.

Here’s a sneak peek at the Minnesota Orchestra’s New Year’s concert

No tuxedos, formal gowns or bouquets of flowers — this video is an unfettered look at musicians hard at work.

Ahead of its New Year’s Day concert featuring Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the Minnesota Orchestra released this video of Osmo Vänskä leading a Dec. 31 rehearsal. Watch the intense movements of conductor and musicians as they practice the first movement of Beethoven’s Ninth.

It’s a sneak preview of the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert that takes place Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Classical MPR will broadcast this live concert; Brian Newhouse hosts.

Osmo Vanska plays clarinet with Cuban ensemble

Osmo Vänskä joined a jazz ensemble, playing his clarinet.

The eyes of much of the world were on Cuba as the Minnesota Orchestra performed two historic concerts in Havana. In addition to playing the spotlight concerts, orchestra musicians — including Music Director Osmo Vänskä — ventured out to perform Cuban music in a smaller venue.

MPR photographer Nate Ryan’s images from Cuba are truly captivating, but Nate explains he was not alone in covering the Minnesota Orhcestra’s historic visit to the island nation. In and around the musical activities in Havana, Nate saw teams from Al-Jazeera America, from BBC World (which produced this video) and from Chinese media. As one might expect, Nate also met a photographer from Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest newspaper in Osmo Vänskä’s native Finland.

Helsingin Sanomat’s Vesa Sirén covered the concerts at the Teatro Nacional, but Sirén and his colleague Juhani Niiranen also reported on and captured video of Vänskä and other Minnesota Orchestra musicians playing with a Cuban jazz ensemble. Minnesota Public Radio’s Toni Karlsson provided this translation of what Sirén wrote in Helsingin Sanomat:

As expected, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra Osmo Vänskä played jazz in a nightclub on Saturday night in Havana. The first visit of a U.S. orchestra in this century ended up in the Habana Café nightclub, where the orchestra players who are skilled in jazz jammed with the traditional Cuban ensemble, Orquesta Aragón.

Before his conducting career, Vänskä was first-chair clarinet in both the Turku and Helsinki orchestras. On this evening in at the Habana Café, Vänskä plays clarinet on many of the numbers [watch video here]. The audience consisted mostly of people from the Minnesota Orchestra or from the U.S. delegation; Habana Café is too expensive for local Cubans. On the other hand, the Minnesota Orchestra concert tickets were affordable to Cubans, who filled the Teatro Nacional twice.

The audience, saturated as they are with the Castro brothers’ socialist rhetoric, weren’t bothered by the U.S. national anthem when the orchestra played it alongside the Cuban national anthem on Saturday.

The Saturday-night concert was not quite as good as the previous night’s supernatural Beethoven concert. The Minnesotans sought to achieve Cuban rhythms in the Alejandro Garcia Caturian danzón, and in the Bernstein, they achieved the evocations of the musica, West Side Story. The playing was very good, but not quite exceptional.

In bits and pieces of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet music, we heard many bulls-eyes. And matching the Latin rhythms, Vänskä concluded both nights with the Säkkijärven polka.

The Cuban audience was spellbound.

MPR’s Nate Ryan was also at the Habana Café nightclub, where he captured the photos below.

Photos by Nate Ryan

Musicians Kate Nettleman and Manny Laureano talk on the way to Habana Cafe.

Walking up the stairs at Habana Cafe.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians arrive at Habana Cafe.

Osmo Vänskä playing clarinet on stage at Habana Cafe

Osmo Vänskä performs with a Cuban jazz ensemble. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

The Habana Cafe.

Dancers on stage

Cuban performers at the Habanera Cafe

More coverage available at

Photos: Minnesota Orchestra’s final 24 hours in Havana

Osmo Vänksä

The Minnesota Orchestra closed out their whirlwind tour of Havana Saturday night with an awe-inspiring performance of both the Cuban and American national anthems. Classical MPR’s Brian Newhouse writes, “‘Burst into song’ is cliché, but that is exactly what happened, a mix of shock and joy on those faces. An American orchestra playing the Cuban National Anthem? While the roar of applause afterward was still going, the Orchestra went right into the Star-Spangled Banner. That’s when the tears began. The Cubans didn’t know the words, of course, but they instantly knew the music, and the symbolism of playing the two anthems back-to-back.”

While the trip was so intently focused on music — both in terms of outreach and education — as well as performance, it’s important to get a final tour of the surrounding area. Photographer Nate Ryan captured the scenes, the performances, and the after-hours fun before the members of the Orchestra boarded their charter back home.

Saturday morning around Havana

Residents of Havana on the street as a pedicab goes by.

Mural of Che Guevara. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Broadcast engineer Johnny Vince Evans riding in a Desoto convertible.

The Havana skyline.

Desoto convertible dashboard.

Driving down the Malecón.

A woman smokes outside of a small restaurant.

Banyan tree.

Palm trees line the road in Havana.

Havana apartment building.

Hotel Cohiba outdoor lunch.

Motorcycles and travel cases.

Havana street scene.

A coconut drink on a sunny Saturday in Havana, Cuba.

Live performance at Teatro Nacional de Cuba

Featuring performances of the Cuban national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, and pieces by Caturla, Bernstein and Prokofiev.

A musician reviews the score before the May 16th performance

Trombonist warming up

Anthony Ross applies rosin to his bow.

View from the Teatro Nacional de Cuba

Sculptures outside the plaza

Guests dropped off in front of the theater.

A quick candid snap of rehearsal.

Osmo Vänskä takes a bow.

The audience, already standing for the Cuban national anthem, applauds.

The Minnesota Orchestra perform The Star Spangled Banner

A view from the strings section.

Tubaist Steven Campbell.

Trumpet player Manny Laureano.

The woodwinds section of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Osmo Vänskä viewed from behind the harps.

Osmo Vänksä

The audience rises to their feet for the first of several ovations.

Osmo Vänskä reacts to the audience's applause.

The Minnesota Orchestra bows as the audience gives them another standing ovation.

Post-concert at Café Habana

Musicians Kate Nettleman and Manny Laureano talk on the way to Habana Cafe.

Walking up the stairs at Habana Cafe.

Minnesota Orchestra musicians arrive at Habana Cafe.

Osmo Vänskä joined a jazz ensemble, playing his clarinet.

Osmo Vänskä playing clarinet on stage at Habana Cafe

Osmo Vänskä performs with a Cuban jazz ensemble. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

The Habana Cafe.

Dancers on stage

The trip home

Minnesota Orchestra board the Delta charter back to Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Family and fans await the return of the Minnesota Orchestra and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The musicians arrive through customs.

A warm welcome from fans at MSP.

Complete coverage can be found at

Photos: Minnesota Orchestra perform at Teatro Nacional in Havana, Cuba

The Minnesota Orchestra onstage at the Cuban National Theater, Osmo Vänskä conducting. Joined in Beethoven's Choral Fantasy by Cuban pianist Frank Fernandez; and the Coro Nacional de Cuba and Coro Vocal Leo.

The Minnesota Orchestra played to a packed house in Havana last night for the first concert of its historic tour. The all-Beethoven program received repeated standing ovations.

After the concert, French horn student Arletto Juarez explained that a U.S. orchestra is unlike anything she’s heard.

“Ah, [it] was amazing. Here the sound was different, here in Cuba we don’t have that sound.”

Tonight, the orchestra will perform a final concert that will be broadcast live across Cuba and can be heard starting at 7 p.m. on Classical Minnesota Public Radio.

After Saturday’s concert, some orchestra members will sit in on a jam session at a Cuban jazz club.

Media set up for the performance

Theater lobby

Host Brian Newhouse, Director of Operations, Rob Byers, Managing Producer Brad Althoff and Technical Director Michael Osbourne.

Teatro Nacional de Cuba

Teatro Nacional exterior

Outside Teatro Nacional

View from the Teatro Nacional

Inside the broadcast booth at the Teatro Nacional.

Minnesota Orchestra takes a bow

Osmo Vänskä thanks the Cuban audience.

Taking a bow.

The Minnesota Orchestra on stage in Havana

The Minnesota Orchestra onstage at the Cuban National Theater, Osmo Vänskä conducting.

Performing an all-Beethoven concert, Osmo Vänskä conducts the Minnesota Orchestra.

Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä conducting the Minnesota Orchestra

Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra musicians on stage.

Osmo Vänskä prepares the Minnesota Orchestra musicians.

Osmo Vänskä returns to the stage

Audience members

The Minnesota Orchestra onstage at the Cuban National Theater

The Minnesota Orchestra onstage

More photos and coverage can be found at

Photos: Rehearsing with Orquesta Sinfonica Juvenil

Teatro Nacional de Cuba, the venue for the historic concerts.

Part of the Minnesota Orchestra’s goal in coming to Cuba was to participate in a couple of musical cultural exchanges. On Thursday, the orchestra went to “Music City” to work with high school and college-age musicians. On Friday, the musicians returned to Teatro Nacional de Cuba — the scene of last night’s rehearsal — and the venue for this weekend’s broadcasts. This time, they were rehearsing side-by-side with Orquesta Sinfónica Juvenil del Conservatorio Amadeo Rold​án, a Cuban youth symphony.

Kate Nettleman is a string bass player with the orchestra. She says her Spanish isn’t strong, but there are times in Havana when that doesn’t matter.

“When we sit together and play music sharing a stand with these students, there’s tremendous communcation. And there’s so much that’s shared in common that we undertsand without having to say a word and that’s what music is – is a language that everyone can connect through.”

The Minnesota Orchestra will return to the same stage tonight for the first of two concerts from the Teatro Nacional in Havana. Listen live at 7 p.m. CDT both nights.

A flutist from the Cuban National Symphony and Wendy Williams of the Minnesota Orchestra

Cuban National Youth Orchestra

Osmo shares notes with Minnesota Orchestra

Combined orchestras

Oboist from the National Cuban Youth Symphony

Osmo's back!

Global language - Bass

Osmo Vänskä

David Williamson from the Minnesota Orchestra

Rehearsing with the Cuban National Youth Symphony

Kevin Watkins from Minnesota Orchestra compares tambourine notes

Teatro Nacional de Cuba, the venue for the historic concerts.

Cellist Anthony Ross and the Cuban National Youth Symphony

Photos: 13 breathtaking scenes from Havana

Sunrise over Havana

On May 15th, photographer Nate Ryan embarked on a short tour of the city with patrons of the Minnesota Orchestra. The tour bus navigated through the streets of Havana, brought the tour to a seafood restaurant for lunch, and to the famed cigar manufacturer Cuesta-Rey. More photos can be found at

Misty sunrise over Havana

View from The Melia Cohiba Hotel

Tour for supporters of the Minnesota Orchestra on the trip

Street scene, Havana, Cuba

Classic cars

A seafood lunch with Minnesota Orchestra musicians.

Kids hanging out in the afternoon sun.

Life in Havana

Teal car on the street in Havana.

Street view in Havana.

A horse-drawn carriage in front of Cuesta-Rey.

Cigar manufacturer Cuesta Rey & Co.

More photos can be found at

Photos: Minnesota Orchestra rehearsal and Cuban nightlife

Osmo Vänskä

The Minnesota Orchestra topped a day visiting “Music city,” a concentrated school for high school and college-age musicians, by getting comfortable in the Teatro Nacional de Cuba, the venue for tonight and tomorrow’s concerts.

After a rigorous rehearsal, Osmo Vänskä released the musicians, who enjoyed a meal in Plaza de la Catedral in old Havana, Cuba and then went out to enjoy a bit of Havana nightlife.

Photos by Nate Ryan

Rehearsal music stand

Strings rehearsal

Sheet music at rehearsal MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Concertmaster Erin Keefe leads the violinists. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Violinist Cecilia Belcher MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Full rehearsal

Osmo conducts in rehearsal

Osmo conducts rehearsal in Havana. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

The Minnesota Orchestra rehearses

Osmo Vänskä MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Minnesota Orchestra at Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Havana, Cuba

Orchestra rehearsal at Teatro Nacional de Cuba,

Piano rehearsal

Cuban National Choir

Osmo Vänsä

Teatro Nacional de Cuba

View from the seats

Travel crates

The Melia Cohiba hotel where the Minnesota Orchestra is staying

Classic car


City from beach point of view


A classic American car drives along the Malecón along the coast of Havana Cuba.

Pedicab ride

Pedicab driver at dusk in old Havana, Cuba

A small bar in old Havana, Cuba.

Dinner in the plaza

Dinner in the plaza


The streets of old Havana, Cuba.

Old Havana, Cuba

Septeto Habanero

Septeto Habanero



More photos and broadcast information at

Cuba, Day 2: Education in action

Havana skyline

A few years after it got going in 1903, the Minneapolis Symphony learned that a path to community relevance took them right up to a school door. Since then, they’ve appeared in schools all across Minnesota and given countless Young Peoples Concerts at Orchestra Hall. Today that path grew a few thousand miles.

The Minnesota Orchestra dropped into two Havana music schools, playing small-ensemble concerts and then serving as workshop clinicians for the students. This passion for education is so deeply ingrained into the Orchestra’s mission now, that some players told me they were looking forward to the school visits even more than their sold-out Friday and Saturday concerts.

The kids ate it up. I loved how they filled the chairs and then stood along the walls of the classrooms to hear the Minnesota musicians. I loved how they especially whooped after a wild Piazzolla wind quintet. I loved how you could hear their tone waver with nervousness as they started playing for the pros, and then with the gentle coaching and encouraging, the tone got stronger, surer. Education in action. Thing of beauty.

Photos by Nate Ryan

Boarding the bus

Students at "Music City"

"Music City" students perform. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan


"Music City" hallway. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Manny Laureano and ensemble

Brass ensemble and students

Piano and trumpet. MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

French horn student

Music teacher

French horn instruction

Horn instruction

Wind ensemble

Flutist Wendy Williams

Cubadisco panel discussion MPR Photo / Nate Ryan

Osmo interview

Osmo Vänskä gives an interview.

Outside the Teatro Nacional