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.

1903-1922
Musical visionary Emil Oberhoffer serves as Music Director.

1907
Lead by Oberhoffer, the Orchestra launches its first tour with concerts in Moorhead, Grand Forks, and Duluth, followed by ambitious annual month-long tours.

1911
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.”

1911
Children’s concerts are introduced under the sponsorship of the Young People’s Symphony Concert Association, a series that continues to this day.

1912
The Orchestra makes its New York City debut at Carnegie Hall as well as in Boston, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

1923-1931
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.

1923
First national radio broadcast concert of the Orchestra under guest conductor Bruno Walter.

1924
One of the first American orchestras to record, the Orchestra makes its first acoustic recordings on the Brunswick label in New York.

1927
Verbrugghen begins a series of radio concerts that eventually grows to 20 per season.

1929
Orchestra musicians take ship in Miami for a crossing to tour Cuba.

1930
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.

1931-1936
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.

1937-1949
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.

1949
The Orchestra is featured in concerts at the Goethe bicentennial celebration held in Aspen, Colorado.

1949-1960
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.

1952-53
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.

1957
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.

1960-1979
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.

1966
Igor Stravinsky conducts the Orchestra at a subscription concert.

1968
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.

1974
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.

1974-1978
The orchestra records with Skrowaczewski for Vox under its new name.

1976
Eminent composer Aaron Copland conducts a special Bicentennial celebration concert on July Fourth, “Copland On America”

1979-1986
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.

1979-1982
Klaus Tennstedt serves as principal guest conductor.

1980
The innovative Viennese Sommerfest debuts under the leadership of founding artistic Director Leonard Slatkin.

1983-1986
Swiss-born Charles Dutoit serves as principal guest conductor.

1985
The Orchestra travels to Australia with Marriner.

1986
The Orchestra plays at the Hong Kong Festival in February and is featured at the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico in May.

1986-1995
Dutch conductor Edo de Waart becomes Music Director and records with the Orchestra for EMI and Virgin Classics.

1990-1992
Musicologist Michael Steinberg serves as Music Director of Viennese Sommerfest.

1993-1996
Conductor David Zinman follows as Music Director of Viennese Sommerfest.

1995-2002
Japanese-born Eiji Oue serves as Music Director and makes eighteen acclaimed recordings on the audiophile Reference Recordings label.

1997-2000
British conductor Jeffrey Tate continues Viennese Sommerfest traditions as its new Music Director.

1998
Under Oue, the Orchestra makes its first European tour, performing in five countries, followed by a nine-city tour of Japan.

2000
Second European tour under the baton of Eiji Oue, highlighted by the Orchestra’s Berlin debut.

2003
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.

2003
American conductor Andrew Litton assumes leadership of the Sommerfest, highlighted by spectacular semi-staged operas.

2004
Vänskä and the orchestra launch an initiative to record the Beethoven Symphonies on the BIS label to rave reviews.

2004
First full tour of Europe under the baton of Osmo Vänskä, including Vienna, Berlin and London.

2005-2008
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.

2009
Second full tour of Europe under the baton of Osmo Vänskä.

2010
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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