The changing of the guard is officially happening: After the Minnesota Orchestra’s longtime music director, Osmo Vänskä, announced way back in 2018 he’d step down at the end of his contract in August 2022 (his new role is conductor laureate, and he still conducts the orchestra every now and then), Thomas Søndergård, current music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, will step into the role.
“My impression of the Minnesota Orchestra is that it is an ensemble with tremendous heart,” he said in a statement. “After my first rehearsal in Minnesota I remember thinking that it was one of the best experiences that I have ever had in a first meeting with an orchestra. There is a warmth, an openness and a cooperative spirit among the musicians that fits very well into the way that I like to make music.”
For the upcoming 2022–2023 season, Søndergård, who is originally from Denmark and has led orchestras all over Europe and North America, will serve as music director designate. He’ll officially become music director in September 2023. And he’s not new to the MN Orch: He led the group in performances in December 2021 and April 2022.
“Our search committee sat up and took notice of the captivating concerts that Thomas Søndergård conducted with the Minnesota Orchestra last December, and his return performance this spring proved similarly electric,” board chair Joseph T. Green said in a statement. “Here was a conductor of the highest caliber who invited the musicians to make music with him, and the result was thrilling. We believe he will be a powerful advocate for our music and musicians in the years ahead. His humanity, artistry, and collaborative approach are a great match for the Orchestra and our community.”
In its 120-year history, the Minnesota Orchestra has had just 10 other music directors—Søndergård will be the 11th. Vänskä served in his role for nearly 20 years, leading the group to Grammy nominations (and a win!) and deepening its international acclaim. (Read our feature on Vänskä’s swan song here.) Søndergård’s contract, which starts at five years, requires at least 12 weeks of performances, concerts, and activities each year.
Want to see him in action: He’s conducting the orchestra in Lili Boulanger’s Of a Spring Morning, Maurice Ravel’s Mother Goose, and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring October 20–22. Can’t make it in person? The October 21 show will be livestreamed.