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NEWS: MN Orchestra’s Season Finale Meets Pride

Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Photo by George Heinrich Photography.

The Minnesota Orchestra will close out its 2023-2024 season with a series of performances June 20-22 of music by LGBTQ+ composers. Works by Ethel Smyth, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Karol Szymanowski will round it the season. The middle concert, on Friday, June 21, will be broadcast on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) as livestreamed online.

Music Director Thomas Søndergård led the move to bring Pride Month festivities to Orchestra Hall in concerts with music by historic composers from the LGBTQ+ community. Søndergård, who identifies with this community, is married to Swedish baritone Andreas Landin, and said, “Music history often ‘edits’ the narratives of gay composers. In this program, we honor them for exactly who they were and what they contributed.”

Søndergård will open the concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra premiere of Dame Ethel Smyth’s On the Cliffs of Cornwall. An early leader of the English suffragette movement, Smyth also challenged societal norms in her personal life, and lived as an out bisexual woman. She was one of the first British women to earn wide recognition as a composer of classical music, notably for her opera The Wreckers (1906), from which On the Cliffs of Cornwall was extracted. On the Cliffs of Cornwall is filled with sweeping melodies meant to evoke the 18th-century Cornish sea villages – and the practice of tricking ships into wrecking so that the locals could plunder their contents.

At the center of the program, the Orchestra will perform with pianist Francesco Piemontesi, making his first return to MN Orchestra since February 2020. Piemontesi will perform Karol Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 4 (Symphonie concertante) for Piano and Orchestra (1932), which incorporates elements from Polish folk music into a kaleidoscopic tour of sound color.

The program will conclude with Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. This alternately lyrical and dramatic work was written following a tumultuous period is the composer’s personal life. In what many historians consider an attempt to conceal his sexuality (“bearding” in contemporary lingo), Tchaikovsky married Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova, one of his students at the Moscow Conservatory, only for the two to separate almost instantly. Written amidst this backdrop of personal emotional turmoil, the symphony opens with a notable Fate motif that recalls the distinctive motif opening Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

A number of activities will enliven Orchestra Hall prior to each concert.

  • Nadine Hubbs, professor of Women’s Studies and Music at the University of Michigan, and the award-winning author of The Queer Composition of America’s Sound, will lecture about the influence of Queer composers on American music on June 20 at 10:15 a.m. and June 21 at 7:15 p.m.
  • On June 21, also beginning at 7:15 p.m. on June 21, drag artists from the Twin Cities-based LGBTQ+-focused entertainment company Flip Phone Events—including Sasha Cassadine, Luna Muse and Dick von Dyke—will perform in the Hall’s lobby and later during intermission.
  • On June 22 at 6:15 p.m., before the concert, jazz singer Jennifer Grimm will perform the music of Judy Garland and more.

Minnesota Orchestra Classical Concerts



Thursday, June 20, 2024, 11 a.m. / Orchestra Hall

Friday, June 21, 2024, 8 p.m. / Orchestra Hall*

Saturday, June 22, 2024, 7 p.m. / Orchestra Hall

Minnesota Orchestra

Thomas Søndergård, conductor

Francesco Piemontesi, piano

SMYTH On the Cliffs of Cornwall
SZYMANOWSKI Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orchestra
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 4

[Please noteAn earlier announcement included Benjamin Britten’s Young Apollo in this program; that work has since been removed from the repertoire.]


Tickets: $25 to $106 [Free tickets available for young listeners ages 6 to 18, thanks to the Hall Pass program.]

* The performance on Friday, June 21, will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) and YourClassical MPR, and streamed for free through the Orchestra’s website and social media channels. The concert will subsequently be released for on-demand viewing through the Minnesota Orchestra’s Digital Concert Hall.

Twin Cities Arts Reader