Editor's note: This essay by Brian Newhouse was published before the broadcast of the Minnesota Orchestra's Aug. 6 concert at the BBC Proms. You can hear the archived recording of this live event for a limited time through SymphonyCast on our sister site, YourClassical. Just click above.
It's a homecoming 4,000 miles from home. A dozen years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra got invited to perform at the BBC Proms. This summer series in London packs the gargantuan Royal Albert Hall night after night with about 6,000 fans eager to hear what's generally considered the best in classical music. One invitation to the Proms stage is a bucket-list achievement. But if the Proms starts asking you back year after year, and then wants you to give several concerts in a row, that's historic.
That's the status the Minnesota Orchestra held after several years of Proms concerts. And then came the lockout, the punishing 16-month silence (October 2012 to January 2014) that canceled an ultra-rare multinight Proms "residency." Of the myriad bitter pills of the lockout, canceling that Proms series was one of the hardest to swallow.
But that was then. This Monday night (London time), the Royal Albert Hall is nearly sold out for the Minnesota Orchestra's first Proms performance since the lockout. And Britain's leading paper, the Times, led its arts section Friday with a big article on the return. Britons could also read the whole bloody backstory of the Minnesota lockout.
If there's any final nail needed to pound into the coffin of the lockout, Monday's concert will be it. The mood at the Royal Albert Hall is ebullient that Osmo Vänskä and his band are set to return. The newspaper article cites Vänskä's "trademark furious energy and almost pathological attention to detail" as one of the reasons his London concerts are so popular.
I'll be there with my co-host, the BBC's Petroc Trelawney, and I hope you will be, too. You'll have a lot of company, as this broadcast will also be carried live across the UK and several other European countries.