Announcing our 2016.17 season

One of the highlights of every spring is the moment when we can tell the world about our upcoming season, and this year is no exception.

We just released the details of our 2016-17 season, looking ahead to a year of transformational performances. Find more information in the press release below, listen to some of the scheduled works in the Music from Upcoming Concerts page. And of course, season tickets are now on sale. We can’t wait for you to join us!



“We at the SPCO feel so passionately that ours is a living, breathing art form that can have a real emotional impact on anyone and everyone who experiences it,” said Artistic Director and Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim. “The season that we’re announcing today reflects what an exciting time it is artistically for the SPCO and we look forward to sharing it with our community.”

All children’s tickets free

In an effort to make SPCO performances as accessible as possible to everyone in the Twin Cities community, especially young people, the SPCO announces that children ages 6-17 can attend unlimited regular SPCO concerts free of charge starting in the 2016-17 season, with up to 4 free child tickets per paid adult ticket.

“The SPCO is committed to sharing our music with the broadest possible audience in our community, so we’ve made our performances accessible through affordable ticket prices and performance venues conveniently located throughout the metro area,” said Managing Director and President Jon Limbacher. “We are expanding our accessibility even further in the 2016-17 season by inviting children to attend unlimited SPCO concerts for free. Now it will be easier than ever to bring the whole family to experience transformational performances with the SPCO.”

Violinist Pekka Kuusisto and conductor, keyboardist and cellist Jonathan Cohen to begin tenures as Artistic Partners

Lauded by both audiences and critics for their recent collaborations with the orchestra, violinist Pekka Kuusisto and multi-instrumentalist and Baroque specialist Jonathan Cohen will begin their tenures as artistic partners starting in the 2016-17 season.

  • January 6-8, Kuusisto will lead Time Machine, a program of works inspired by the music of another time, including Prokfiev’s Classical Symphony, Kreisler’s Violin Concerto (in the style of Vivaldi), and the Third Suite from Resphigi’s Ancient Airs and Dances.
  • Kuusisto will return May 4-13 to lead two weeks of performances as part of Where Words End, a festival exploring themes of immigration and cultural identity through the lens of Nordic music.
  • Cohen will lead performances featuring music by Bach and his German Baroque contemporaries September 23-25 and Easter performances of Pergolesi’s sacred Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater April 14-15.

Four premieres of newly commissioned works

The SPCO once again asserts its role as a champion of new works by presenting four premieres of SPCO commissions or co-commissions in the 2016-17 season.

  • October 14-29, the SPCO will present the world premiere of a new work for chamber orchestra by George Tsontakis, a commission funded by the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, thanks to a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation. This is the SPCO’s fourth commission by the acclaimed American composer. Previous SPCO premieres of Tsontakis’s work include the Grawemeyer Award-winning and Grammy-nominated Second Violin Concerto written for Concertmaster Steven Copes, Clair de Lune, and a new arrangement of Coraggio for Strings, which the SPCO performed at the opening of the new Ordway Concert Hall in March 2015.
  • The world premiere of a new piano concerto by British composer Sally Beamish, written for Jonathan Biss, will be performed January 20-22, as the second installment of a five-year project pairing Beethoven’s five piano concertos with newly commissioned concertos inspired by Beethoven’s work. Beamish’s concerto will be paired with Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto.
  • On February 4, the SPCO will be joined by MacArthur fellow and flutist Claire Chase for the Midwest premiere of Japanese-British composer Dai Fujikura’s Concerto for Flute and Chamber Ensemble, an SPCO co-commission with the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • The final program of the season will feature Steven Copes as soloist and Artistic Partner Thomas Zehetmair as conductor on the world premiere of a violin concerto by American composer and “acknowledged chamber music master” (The New Yorker) Pierre Jalbert, a work co-commissioned with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

Year 2 of Beethoven/5, a 5-year commissioning project with Jonathan Biss

The SPCO continues its Beethoven/5 project with celebrated pianist Jonathan Biss next season. Beethoven/5 features the SPCO leading an international collective of orchestras in commissioning five composers to write new piano concertos for Biss, each inspired by one of Beethoven’s five piano concertos. The project launched in November 2015 when Biss joined the SPCO to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, along with the new concerto it inspired: The Blind Banister, by Timo Andres. Sally Beamish composes the concerto for the coming season, to be paired with Beethoven’s First Concerto. Future installments of this project will see concertos by Salvatore Sciarrino, paired with Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto, to premiere in 2017-18; by Caroline Shaw, paired with Beethoven’s Third Concerto, to premiere in 2018-19; and by Brett Dean, paired with Beethoven’s Fifth Concerto, to premiere in 2019-20.

Where Words End

In May, the SPCO presents Where Words End, a 3-week festival that takes its name from a quote by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius: “For me, music begins where words end.” The festival brings together artists of various disciplines and backgrounds to join the SPCO in exploring themes of immigration and cultural identity, with a special focus on Nordic music and culture. “Where Words End will explore deeply resonant themes of our time that connect us with various waves of migration from the 19th century to the present,” said Artistic Director and Principal Violin Kyu-Young Kim. “We are looking forward to examining these themes through the lens of Nordic music and the Nordic heritage that is so deeply woven into the cultural fabric of our community.”

  • May 4-7, Artistic Partner Pekka Kuusisto will join the SPCO to present Intimate Voices, a program of works by Sibelius, including his Rakastava, Five Rustic Dances and his Intimate Voices Quartet, arranged for string orchestra.
  • Kuusisto leads a program during the second week of the festival called Migration Patterns that features works exploring the theme of migration, including American composer Gabriel Kahane’s Orinoco Sketches, a piece based on Kahane’s grandmother’s diary entries describing her journey from Hitler’s Germany to Havana, and ultimately to Los Angeles, where she lived much of her life. This program also includes Swedish and American folk songs and features composer Gabriel Kahane on piano, guitar and vocals, indie folk musician Sam Amidon on fiddle, guitar and vocals, and the SPCO debut of conductor Eric Jacobsen.
  • The festival concludes May 26-28 with Exodus: Musicians in Exile, a program led by Artistic Partner Martin Fröst that examines works of composers throughout the 20th and 21st centuries who have been displaced or emigrated from their birth country. The program will culminate in a series of American premieres, including a new arrangement of a 19th century Swedish emigrant ballad, Vi sålde våra hemman (“We sold our homesteads”), the lyrics of which were an inspiration for the thematic thread of the festival, and the American premiere of Exodus, a new work for clarinet and strings by Swedish-Russian composer Victoria Borisova-Ollas.

In Times of War

Another thematic focus of the season is music born out of the horrors of war with a particular focus on music from World War II.

  • Works by Gideon Klein and Erwin Schulhoff, composers who were imprisoned in concentration camps during the Holocaust will be performed in September, November and May.
  • May 19-21, SPCO musicians lead In Times of War, a program featuring Gideon Klein’s Partita for String Orchestra, written while he was a prisoner during the Holocaust at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the Czech city of Terezín. The program also features works written in the shadows of World War II, including Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings and Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony based on his Third String Quartet, a profound and personal statement on war written in 1946.

International and American Tours

The SPCO plans two concert tours in the 2016-17 season, one international tour and one American tour, including the opening night performance of the 92nd Street Y’s 2016-17 season in New York City with pianist and Artistic Partner Jeremy Denk on October 15. Additional dates, venues and other details will be announced at a later date.

A multitude of programs led by SPCO musicians, highlighting the SPCO’s transformation to a primarily unconducted ensemble

  • Artistic Partner Jeremy Denk will join the SPCO to perform works by Schumann, Mozart, and Kurtág on an unconducted program October 7-8 that will close with a musician-led performance of Schubert’s Second Symphony.
  • Back-to-back weekends of neighborhood concerts October 21-29 will feature a new work by George Tsontakis, Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, and a performance of Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante for Oboe, Bassoon, Violin and Cello featuring SPCO musicians Kathryn Greenbank (oboe), Charles Ullery (bassoon), Steven Copes (violin) and Julie Albers (cello).
  • November 18-27 will highlight the SPCO’s wind section with performances of Dvořák’s Serenade for Winds along with works by early twentieth-century composers Leo Smit, Kurt Weill and Erwin Schulhoff.
  • SPCO Principal Cello Julie Albers will be featured as soloist in Schumann’s Cello Concerto along with unconducted performances of Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony January 12-14.
  • SPCO musicians will lead performances of Dvořák’s American Quartet arranged for string orchestra January 27-February 3 alongside Mozart’s Serenade No. 12 for Wind Octet, selections from Wynton Marsalis’s string quartet At the Octoroon Balls, and the First Symphony of French composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the first known classical composer of African ancestry.
  • Artistic Partner Jeremy Denk returns March 24-28 and March 31-April 2 for two separate programs featuring musician-led performances of works by Bach, Shostakovich, Ives, Beethoven, Bartók and Brahms.
  • SPCO musicians lead performances of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony along with works by Dvořák and William Walton April 21-30 in various neighborhood venues and the Ordway Concert Hall.
  • Themes of war are explored May 19-21 in musician-led performances of works by Eastern European composers Bartók, Shostakovich and Gideon Klein.

Baroque in abundance

For Baroque lovers, there will be ample opportunity to experience this important part of the SPCO’s core repertoire during 2016-17.

  • Newly appointed artistic partner and Baroque specialist Jonathan Cohen joins the SPCO September 23-25 for a program exploring music of Bach and his German contemporaries.
  • Jeannette Sorrell, founder and artistic director of early music ensemble Apollo’s Fire, leads a program of works by Bach, Handel, Rameau and Vivaldi April 6-9 in four different neighborhood venues.
  • Jonathan Cohen returns April 14-15 to lead Easter performances of Pergolesi’s sacred Baroque masterpiece Stabat Mater at the Ordway Concert Hall.
  • The SPCO continues its annual holiday tradition of performing Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos December 8-10 and Handel’s Messiah with conductor Paul McCreesh and the Minnesota Chorale at The Basilica of Saint Mary and the Ordway Concert Hall December 16-18.

Guest artists make their SPCO debuts

  • Soprano Elizabeth Atherton, mezzo-soprano Avery Amereau, tenor Thomas Walker and bass-baritone Dashon Burton will make their SPCO debuts as soloists in Handel’s Messiah December 16-18.
  • On February 1, flutist Claire Chase, a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, described by the LA Times as a “force of nature, and a force of the flute,” will make her SPCO debut in a special program that features Salvatore Sciarrino’s Cutting the Circle of Sounds for 104 flutists (four flute soloists and 100 community flutists). Chase will also solo on a program of music inspired by birds on February 4.
  • British keyboardist Richard Egarr will direct a program of works by Bach, Haydn, Mozart and Purcell in his SPCO debut March 2-4.
  • Jeannette Sorrell, founder and artistic director of early music ensemble Apollo’s Fire, makes her SPCO debut leading a program of works by Bach, Handel, Rameau and Vivaldi April 6-9.
  • May 12-13, as part of Where Words End, a festival exploring themes of immigration and cultural identity through the lens of Nordic music, conductor Eric Jacobsen and indie folk singer, guitarist and fiddle player Sam Amidon will make their SPCO debuts.

Returning guest artists

  • The Minnesota Chorale will join the SPCO once again for holiday performances of Handel’s Messiah, conducted by returning British conductor and audience favorite Paul McCreesh.
  • Pianist Jonathan Biss will return January 20-22 for the second installment in Beethoven/5, a five-year project pairing newly commissioned piano concertos with one of Beethoven’s five piano concertos. This season, he will perform the world premiere of a new piano concerto by Sally Beamish, paired with Beethoven’s First Concerto in a program conducted by Mischa Santora.
  • American conductor Tito Muñoz will return to conduct Flights of Fancy, a program of works inspired by birds on February 4.
  • For the first time since 2006, the SPCO will collaborate with James Sewell Ballet on Mendelssohn’s String Octet as part of James Sewell Ballet’s performance season November 4-6 at Saint Paul’s O’Shaughnessy Auditorium and as part of the SPCO’s concert season on February 18 at the Ordway Concert Hall.
  • After his performances on the SPCO’s Liquid Music Series in the 2013.14 season, composer and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Kahane returns to the SPCO on piano, guitar and vocals for a program that features his composition Orinoco Sketches for String Orchestra May 12-13.

SPCO musicians featured as soloists

  • Associate Concertmaster Ruggero Allifranchini will perform Bach’s First Violin Concerto September 23-25, on a program that also features Principal Flute Julia-Bogorad Kogan, flutist Alicia McQuerrey and Principal Bassoon Charles Ullery as soloists on Telemann’s Concerto for Two Flutes and Bassoon.
  • Principal Viola Maiya Papach will perform Schumann’s Pictures from Fairyland for Viola and Piano with Artistic Partner Jeremy Denk October 7-8.
  • Charles Ullery will join Principal Oboe Kathryn Greenbank, Concertmaster Steven Copes and Principal Cello Julie Albers as soloists on Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante for Oboe, Bassoon, Violin and Cello at various Neighborhood Series venues and the Ordway Concert Hall October 21-29.
  • Julie Albers will also perform Schumann’s Cello Concerto January 12-14.
  • Kathryn Greenbank and Principal Violin and Artistic Director Kyu-Young Kim will be featured soloists on Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin March 2-4.
  • Cellists Joshua Koestenbaum and Sarah Lewis will perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos April 6-9.
  • Violinist Maureen Nelson will be soloist on Dvořák’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra April 21-30.
  • The season closes June 9-11 with the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Pierre Jalbert with Steven Copes as soloist.

Mendelssohn’s String Octet with James Sewell Ballet

For the first time since 2006, the SPCO will collaborate with James Sewell Ballet on performances of Mendelssohn’s String Octet with choreography by Artistic Director James Sewell. Performances will be held November 4-6 as part of James Sewell Ballet’s performance season and on February 18 at the Ordway Concert Hall as part of the SPCO’s concert season.

Music Moves

The SPCO will continue its Music Moves program in the 2016-17 season, which brings performances to those who cannot attend regular concerts, such as patients recovering from cancer treatments at American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, residents of memory care units in assisted living facilities and children receiving treatment at Children’s Hospital of Minnesota.

Cutting the Circle of Sounds

On February 1, flutist Claire Chase, a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, described by the LA Times as a “force of nature, and a force of the flute,” will make her SPCO debut in a special program that features Salvatore Sciarrino’s Cutting the Circle of Sounds for 104 flutists (four flute soloists and 100 community flutists). Sciarrino places the four soloists in a circle surrounding the seated audience, creating a blanket of often barely audible sounds, which are then disrupted by processions of the other 100 migrating flutists, effectively “cutting the circle of sounds.” In the week leading up to the performance, the SPCO will bring together 100 amateur flutists of varying ages, backgrounds and ability levels from the community for a unique two-day flute camp that will include master classes, workshops, and Q&A sessions with Claire Chase, along with SPCO flutists Julia Bogorad-Kogan and Alicia McQuerrey, and University of Minnesota flute professor Immanuel Davis. The camp will advance the individual skills of the participating amateur flutists and will prepare them for participation in the performance at the Ordway.

Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos

On October 30, the SPCO will join the Ordway and The Schubert Club in presenting Sphinx Virtuosi with Catalyst Quartet – Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos. Comprised of the nation’s top Black and Latino classical string soloists, all alumni of the prestigious Sphinx Competition for young American string players, Sphinx Virtuosi and Catalyst Quartet will take audiences on a journey that honors our vastly diverse backgrounds through the music of both revered and lesser known composers of Latin heritage.

13 regular performance venues throughout the Twin Cities
In addition to the Ordway Concert Hall, the SPCO will continue its series in Twin Cities suburbs and residential neighborhoods of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in 2016-17:

  • Saint Paul’s United Church of Christ in Summit Hill, Saint Paul
  • Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis
  • Temple Israel in Uptown Minneapolis
  • Capri Theater in North Minneapolis – these concerts are produced in partnership with the Capri and once again, a third of the seats will be offered for free on a first-come, first-served basis, released within a month of each concert date
  • Benson Great Hall at Bethel University in Arden Hills
  • Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater
  • Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi
  • Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Apple Valley
  • Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie
  • Wayzata Community Church in Wayzata
  • Sundin Music Hall at Hamline University, Saint Paul
  • Center for the Performing Arts at Saint Paul Academy and Summit School, Saint Paul