The Minnesota Orchestra

In the beginning of Perceval, American conductor Evan Quinn is conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Vienna, Austria.  His usual musical instrument, however, is the Minneapolis State Symphony Orchestra in Minneapolis.  I realized recently that although the Minneapolis State Symphony is his hometown band and extremely important to him, in the Perceval series, he never actually conducts it.  So, I don’t write about this orchestra except in terms of Evan’s memories or the recordings that he made with them. 

The Minneapolis State Symphony Orchestra is actually the name given it by the Arts Council in Washington in the Perceval series.  The AC re-named all American orchestras to include “State” somewhere in the name, e.g. St. Louis State Symphony, Chicago State Symphony, National State Symphony, etc., to reflect their “ownership” of them.  The Minneapolis State Symphony is really the Minnesota Orchestra, and this would not be hard to figure out in the context of the novels.  When I worked for the Minnesota Orchestra, I was writing the early drafts of the first novel in the series and doing research.  I talked with musicians and staff about my research and asked them many questions.  Eventually, however, someone started the rumor that I was actually writing about the people I worked with, which wasn’t the case at all, nor did I base any of my characters on anyone there.  The closest I came to writing about them and the orchestra was to make it Evan’s hometown band and Evan the music director as backstory to the series.

I’ve been thinking about this the last two weeks as the Minnesota Orchestra performed the programs that it will perform on its European tour (they leave today) for the next two weeks.  Evan’s European tour took him to London, Berlin, Paris and Vienna.  The Minnesota Orchestra’s 2009 tour will take them to London, Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, and Vienna.  If the Orchestra were performing Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Joseph Caine’s music, I’d really be spooked.  But no, they’ll perform Carl Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony, John Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox, Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto (with Joshua Bell, violin soloist) and Beethoven’s Third Symphony. (For news of the tour, check Inside the Classics — Sam Bergman and Sarah Hicks will blog during the tour.)  Not all on the same program, of course.  I heard the Adams-Barber-Beethoven program this week: the Adams will really wake them up for the transcendent Barber and the Beethoven sounds like what “heroic” should sound like.  Osmo Vanska will conduct, not Evan Quinn.  And the orchestra is much better off with Osmo Vanska because Evan’s a fictional character and doesn’t really exist…..

Speaking of conductors, the Minnesota Orchestra’s Associate Conductor, Mischa Santora (“Does Height Make the Conductor?”), caught the attention of Tom Purdom at the Broad Street Review  last fall (  Mr. Santora had conducted a concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and discussed the program afterward with Shai Wosner, the soloist for the concert.  Mr. Purdom was extremely impressed with the concert, the discussion and Mr. Santora.  He wrote that he’d add Santora to his “worth watching” list.  So I’m wondering if “worth watching” is also some kind of code in the classical music media for “worth hiring”?  In the highly competitive world of classical music conductors, only time will reveal the answer….


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