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Minnesota Orchestra to Close Season With Performances of Historic LGBTQ+ Composers

The orchestra is bringing Pride Month festivities to the concert hall to conclude its 2023/24 season from June 20–22, 2024


Led by its recently appointed music director Thomas Søndergård, the Minnesota Orchestra’s final program for this season will showcase historic composers from the LGBTQ+ community, including Dame Ethel Smyth, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Karol Szymanowski. 

The concerts from June 20–22 will feature Smyth’s On the Cliffs of Cornwall, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, and Szymanowski’s Symphonie concertante for Piano and Orchestra, featuring pianist Francesco Piemontesi, who will make his first return with the Minnesota Orchestra since February 2020. 

In its Minnesota Orchestra premiere, Søndergård Smyth’s On the Cliffs of Cornwall involves sweeping melodies meant to evoke the 18th-century practice of shipwreck plunder in a Cornish village. An early leader of the English suffragette movement, Dame Smyth challenged societal norms in her personal life and lived as an out bisexual woman. She was also one of the first British women to earn wide recognition in classical music. 

Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 was written after a tumultuous period in his personal life. Many historians consider the time as an attempt to conceal his sexuality — which was also evident in his marriage to Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova in 1877, which ended with a separation two months later. Lastly, blending both symphonic and concerto elements, Szymanowski’s 1932 Symphony No. 4 (Symphonie concertante) for Piano and Orchestra originated from the rhythmic patterns of folk music from the composer’s native Poland. 

The intention of celebrating the contributions of LGBTQ+ composers is close to Søndergård’s heart, reads Minnesota Orchestra’s press release. In July 2022, Søndergård married his longtime partner, Swedish baritone Andreas Landin. The Twin Cities’ official Pride celebrations first began 51 years ago, but it took 41 more years before Minnesota passed a law that allowed same-sex couples to marry.

“Music history often ‘edits’ the narratives of gay composers,” Søndergård said on the impetus behind the programming. “In this program, we honor them for exactly who they were and what they contributed.”

The June 21 concert will be broadcast on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) and on YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio. It will also be live-streamed for free on the Orchestra’s website and social media channels. 

Additionally, each performance will feature a pre-concert event — on June 21, Nadine Hubbs, professor of Women’s Studies and Music at the University of Michigan and award-winning author of The Queer Composition of America’s Sound, will lecture about the influence of Queer composers on American music. The same lecture will also be held in a morning session on June 20.

Also 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, jazz singer Jennifer Grimm will perform the music of Judy Garland and more.

For more information, click here. Ticket prices range from $25 to $106; free tickets are available to listeners aged six to 18.

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