Minnesota Orchestra Names Thomas Søndergård as Music Director

By Chris Ruel
Photo: Andy Buchanan

Minnesota Orchestra has announced the appointment of Thomas Søndergård as Music Director. The Danish maestro will succeed Osmo Vänskä as the 11th Music Director in the Orchestra’s 120-year history. Søndergård will helm the Orchestra as Music Director Designate in the 2022-23 season before beginning his duties as Music Director in Sept. 2023.

The conductor has agreed to a five-year contract, starting in the 2023-24 season, and will lead the Orchestra in at least 12 weeks of concerts and activities a year. Søndergård also serves as music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and will remain in this role alongside his Minnesota appointment.

“My impression of the Minnesota Orchestra is that it is an ensemble with tremendous heart. 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,” Søndergård says on the Orchestra’s website.

Audiences will get to see the maestro in action over three performances between October 20-22, 2022. The conductor will lead a program that includes Lili Boulanger’s “Of a Spring Morning” and two ballet scores: Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose” and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” On October 21, the Orchestra will livestream the concert on its website and social media channels.

Søndergård isn’t new to the Orchestra. The conductor first led the band in December 2021 in a program that included Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra, Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben,” and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. Søndergård to the podium again in April 2022 to conduct Debussy’s “La Mer” and Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.

“He understands the many dimensions of being a music director, including the need to curate imaginative seasons for wide audiences, to bring out the best in musicians and to galvanize the community with an artistic vision. His approach is a good fit for our collaborative leadership model. He has the qualities of a great musical leader,” Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns states on the website.

Søndergård began as a timpanist with the Royal Danish Orchestra after graduating from the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He has led many major European orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic and the London Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras, among others. In 2005, he led the Royal Danish Opera in Poul Ruders’ “Kafka’s Trial” premiere. He has returned several times to the Royal Danish Opera to lead works by Rossini, Mozart, Puccini, and Janáček.