Poster Cuban flags in Havana
Cuban flags in Havana
Bryan Ledgard via Flickr - Creative Commons

Listen live to MN Orchestra's historic Cuba concerts on Classical MPR

Next week, Classical MPR's listeners will become "ear-witnesses" to history.

Classical Minnesota Public Radio will broadcast two live, historic performances by Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra from the Teatro Nacional in Havana, Cuba, on May 15 and 16. Brian Newhouse will host the broadcasts.

In addition to the concert broadcasts, MPR News arts reporter Euan Kerr will send reports and multimedia producer Nate Ryan will provide photos of the historic visit, which will be posted to Classical MPR's website, along with blog posts by freelance musician Rena Kraut, who will be traveling and performing with the orchestra.

Orchestra members boarded a ship home in 1929.
Boarding a ship in Havana at the end of their 1929 Cuban tour: (from left) violinist and Personnel Manager Max Schellner, Music Director Henri Verbrugghen, violinist Jenny Cullen, Orchestra Manager Arthur J. Gaines, trombonist Fred Molzahn, cellist Chris Erck and violist Russell Barton.
Courtesy Minnesota Orchestra

The Minnesota Orchestra will perform as part of the opening weekend of the 19th annual International Cubadisco Festival, becoming the first U.S. orchestra to perform in Cuba since the Milwaukee Orchestra performed there in 1999. The Minnesota Orchestra last performed in Cuba during tours in 1929 and 1930.

During the Friday concert, Vänskä will lead the Minnesota Orchestra in a concert of Beethoven masterworks that will prominently feature Cuban artists. In addition to Beethoven's Egmont Overture and Eroica Symphony, they'll be joined by the Cuban National Choir, Coro Vocal Leo and pianist Frank Fernandez for Beethoven's Choral Fantasy.

The concert on Saturday includes the unforgettably Mediterranean melodies that comprise Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story as well as Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite.

Teatro Nacional in Havana, Cuba
Teatro Nacional in Havana, Cuba
Wilder Mendez via Flickr - Creative Commons

"I know the concerts are going to be something really exceptional," Vänksä recently told MPR News host Tom Crann. "We are going to be the ambassadors, going to Havana and playing as the first North American orchestra since President Obama changed the rules."

Audiences can tune in to Classical MPR or stream on starting at at 7 p.m. Central on May 15 and 16 to hear the live broadcasts. The broadcast is possible through a technical collaboration with partners both in Cuba and locally in Minnesota. People in Cuba can listen to the broadcasts on Radio Taino, a national FM station based in Havana.

"It's our goal to be the ears for Minnesota audiences, all of whom are justifiably proud that 'their orchestra,' the Minnesota Orchestra, was selected among many to be the first American orchestra to perform in Cuba in many years," Brian Newhouse says. "The Minnesota Orchestra is making history, and our broadcast team will do likewise, sending what we believe to be the first live music concert broadcast from Cuba to the U.S. We're honored and thrilled to do so."

Encore broadcasts of the concerts will be announced after the orchestra and Classical MPR staff return to Minnesota.


Friday, May 15, 7 p.m. (CDT)

Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Havana, Cuba
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vanska, conductor
Frank Fernandez, piano
Cuban National Choir
Coro Vocal Leo
Digna Guerra, direccion general de coros

BEETHOVEN: Overture to Egmont
BEETHOVEN: Fantasy in C minor for Piano, Chorus and Orchestra, Choral Fantasy
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat major, Opus 55, Eroica

Saturday, May 16, 7 p.m. (CDT)

Teatro Nacional de Cuba, Havana, Cuba
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vanska, conductor

BERNSTEIN: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet Suite

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