Minnesota Orchestra Champions Women Composers In New Season: ‘We Are Changing The Conversation’

Jenna Ross
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Women wrote just 1.3 percent of the music performed by 85 major American orchestras during the 2016-17 season. The Minnesota Orchestra is breaking barriers by helping to change those stats.

Minneapolis

The Minnesota Orchestra will kick off its next season with something still rare for symphony orchestras, a piece written by a woman.

At a time when critics and audiences are knocking the country’s top orchestras for programs devoid of women, the state’s symphony orchestra will perform five works by female composers during the 2018-19 subscription series.

At this time last year, that number was zero.

“We are changing the conversation, internally,” said Kenneth Freed, a violist who co-chairs the orchestra’s artistic advisory committee. “We are still charged with Beethoven, Mahler and Dvorak. There’s no question: We’re not going to forsake that. This is a both/and proposition.”

Women wrote just 1.3 percent of the music performed by 85 major American orchestras during the 2016-17 season, a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra survey shows. But they penned 7 percent of the works so far announced for the Minnesota Orchestra’s flagship series next season.

There’s a symphony by Florence Price, who in 1933 became the first black woman to have her music played by a major American orchestra. A piece that acclaimed Twin Cities composer Libby Larsen wrote for the Minnesota Orchestra in 1984: “Symphony: Water Music.” And, at the season’s start, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” by pioneering composer Joan Tower.

“When I saw they were opening the season with Joan Tower, I actually teared up,” said Emily Hogstad, a Twin Cities classical music blogger. “I hadn’t realized how meaningful and inspiring that representation would be to me as a female audience member and subscriber and donor.”

The upcoming season also spotlights American music in a three-week festival. Music director Osmo Vanska will conduct, and then record, Mahler’s Seventh and Tenth Symphonies. The orchestra will play more than a dozen works it never has before, including a world premiere.

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