The Minnesota Orchestra Plays Cuba

The Minnesota Orchestra.  Photo: Greg Helgeson
The Minnesota Orchestra. Photo: Greg Helgeson

HAVANA TIMES (dpa) – The Minnesota Orchestra began a tour of several days to Cuba on Thursday, where the well-known US symphonic band will perform two concerts to participate in the political rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.

“Cuba is a neighbor of the United States, and if there is a possibility to come and share as good neighbors, why not?”, said Vänskä Osmo, the musical director of the Orchestra.

The last time The Minnesota Orchestra visited the island was in 1930, according to its organizers. It is the first orchestra to visit Havana after the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States started in December.

The band felt that this was an “appropriate time” after the US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, announced on December 17 that the two countries restored diplomatic relations, said Vänskä.

Washington and Havana are currently negotiating the reopening of embassies with new talks set for Washington on May 21st.

The Minnesota Orchestra will offer concerts on Friday and Saturday at the National Theatre of Cuba within the framework of the International Cubadisco Fair in Havana.

The repertoire will include works of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven and the song by Cuban composer Alejandro García Caturla known as “El Danzon Caturla”. “We wanted to play something that was familiar to you,” Vänskä said in presenting the program.

Participating with the Minnesotans in the concerts will be several Cuban musicians including virtuoso pianist Frank Fernandez, as well as the National Choir of Cuba and the Vocal Leo chamber music choir.

As part of its program in Havana, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra visited the Superior Art Institute of Cuba (ISA) and the National School of Music on Thusday. On Friday they will rehearse “side-by-side” with the Amadeo Roldán Youth Symphony.

The Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1904, is one of the United States’ foremost orchestras and frequently goes on international tours. In 2014 it won a Grammy for best orchestral performance.

Cubadisco, the main Cuban recording event held annually, has Russia as this year’s guest country of honor. At the music feast, to be held from May 15-24 the Cuban musicians will be joined by participating artists from Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Spain and Australia, among other countries.

7 thoughts on “The Minnesota Orchestra Plays Cuba

  • I haven’t had the opportunity to visit Cuba KEC but the Cuban’s I know in the states are the nicest, friendliest folk I’ve ever met. Interesting how most every one’s parents supported Castro but fled asap when it became obvious what his plans were. As far as the Cubans living in Cuba I can only attest to what I’ve seen on video and in various blogs. Yes, Cuba does have an excellent educational and health system but at what expense?
    OK, the point is that change is coming and that’s a positive, in my opinion.
    I’m all for a fusion of ideas and hopefully a better life for Cuban’s from all sides.


  • For once, don’t just comment off the top of your head. I gave you a link. Use it. The Minnesota orchestra is likely better than any orchestra in Cuba but to praise them as “well-known”. Typical. …

  • Moses, I find humor with both Castro propagandists and anti-Castro propagandists. Are you totally sure the Minnesota Orchestra is not ranked in the Top 50? It that’s true, that really debunks their trip to Cuba.

  • Having had a yearly subscription to the Chicago Symphony, under Solti and also the NY Philharmonic, I too was taken back at the publicity the Minnesota Orchestra received playing in Cuba.
    I spent a year in Minneapolis and never knew they had one. In any case, I’m a big fan of bringing to Cuba our talent and seems it went over well. Amazing what we can accomplish in the USA. Hopefully this will move the bar a fraction towards a better view of those living and performing in the US by Cubans who have a negative view of our way of life.

  • But wouldn’t it be fun Moses if we could select the repertoire!
    From the US – God bless America
    From the UK – Land of hope and glory
    From Canada – The maple leaf forever
    Next please!

  • This post reflects a recurring characteristic of the news of events out of Cuba. The writer claims that the Minnesota symphonic orchestra is a “well-known US symphonic band”. Really? Says who? According to a recent CNN article, this symphony is not ranked among the top 50.
    Castro propagandists have a tendency to over-hype all things Cuban. So even when a decent but midline orchestra visits the island, propagandists will overstate their reputation and relevance.

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