Andrew Litton, conductor
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Minnesota Orchestra

It was, ultimately, Litton's and the players' evening. Salome is an enormously complex and demanding score, boasting a gloriously lugubrious heckelphone, semi-crazed xylophone writing, and everything in between. Litton owned the opera's sweep and architecture, and at the conclusion of a long, arduous season the Minnesota Orchestra honored his 15 years' service with playing of thrilling commitment and viscerality. He will be a hard act to follow, whatever shape the orchestra's summer programming (currently under discussion) takes in the future. Sommerfest; Strauss: Salome

— Terry Blain, StarTribune

Litton and the orchestra brought astounding urgency to the [Vaughan Williams symphony] and met its most difficult passages with skilled precision and emotional eloquence. Was Vaughan Williams responding to the state of the world? Perhaps in a broader sense. Not in reaction to specific events that you can read about in historical accounts, but conveying a response to this flawed, often exasperating human condition, this seemingly unstoppable cycle of anger and hurt. And Litton and the orchestra brought that forth with bracing intensity. Minnesota Orchestra; Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 4

— Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

For Litton, concluding his 13th year as artistic director of Sommerfest, this was a demanding weekend. Friday night he led the orchestra in persuasive readings of works by Copland and Dvorak and, quite impressively, conducted Gershwin's Concerto in F while playing the solo part, a task not often attempted. As he has shown in the past, Litton is a first-rate pianist with a special flair for Gershwin. His playing embodies what Abram Chasins said of Gershwin's own playing, that he was the only pianist who could make a piano laugh. Minnesota Orchestra

— Michael Anthony, Star Tribune

The standout performance was led by conductor Andrew Litton: the combination of tone poem and cello concerto that is "Don Quixote." Tremendous beauty also could be found in the suite from "Der Rosenkavalier," an opera for which Litton has claimed a special affection. Minnesota Orchestra; T. Strauss: Don Quixote and Der Rosenkavalier

— Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

A fine balance of bawdy camp and old-world elegance, Die Fledermaus provided three and a quarter hours of relentless smiling and frequent outbursts of laughter, not to mention memorable characterizations, rich, full voices and a score expertly played by conductor Andrew Litton and the orchestra. Throw in a strong-voiced chorus of Minnesota Chorale members and this was a party well worth attending. Minnesota Orchestra; Strauss: Die Fledermaus

— Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

[Litton] has seldom presented a better forum for his varied skills than on this wintry first-weekend-of-spring night. He was able not only to shape some impressive interpretations from the podium (particularly a penetrating take on "La Mer") but also reminded those present that he's a very good concert pianist and a pretty mean jazz pianist, too. Minnesota Orchestra; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Debussy: La Mer

— Rob Hubbard,

The second half was devoted to the Prokofiev, first written in 1930 and radically revised by the composer in 1947. This is obviously a piece that Litton believes in. He drew an affectionate and carefully detailed performance from the orchestra that brought the evening to a rousing finish. Minnesota Orchestra; Prokofiev: Symphony No. 4

— Michael Anthony, Star Tribune

Saturday's spectacular performance, under Litton's baton, of Giuseppe Verdi's 1851 Rigoletto claws at the heart. Litton plainly relished the music's novel sonorities. His vibrant conducting, as pointed as it was propulsive, made the band a full partner in the action. Sommerfest; Verdi: Rigoletto

— Larry Fuchsberg , Star Tribune

Litton, a passionate advocate of Shostakovich, maintained a clear sense of the overriding arc of the piece. He nicely balanced the lyrical and explosive elements, like the first movement's majestic opening and the succeeding pastoral section. Litton gave the lyrical scherzo a sense of mournful nostalgia, and generated an almost religious fervor to the third movement. He brought the finale to an ironic conclusion: There was victory, but a hollow one. Minnesota Orchestra; Shostakovich; Symphony No. 7

— William Randall Beard, Star Tribune

Conductor Andrew Litton has a growing reputation as a Strauss interpreter, and the Minnesota Orchestra sounded terrific as it brought out the opera's interwoven laughter and loss, the waltzes buoyant, the elements of fast-paced farce. Sommerfest; R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

— Rob Hubbard, Pioneer Press

Litton was effective in creating splashy musical effects, investing the score with magic and mystery, but not shying away from its coarseness. He was particularly successful in emphasizing Petrushka's tragedy, from his despair in his grim cell, to his humiliation by other puppets, to his death and ghostly reappearance. Sommerfest; Stravinsky: Petrushka

— William Randall Beard, Star Tribune

Sommerfest artistic director Andrew Litton has a penchant for using the traditional opera finale of the Minnesota Orchestra's summer festival to conduct the warhorses. This year, he turned to Puccini's "Tosca." It was good to have the orchestra onstage rather than in a pit, and to watch them positively revel in Puccini's rich orchestrations. The clarity of the sound revealed many new orchestral details. From the thunderous cords that open the opera to the pastoral Prelude to Act III, Litton lavished loving care on every moment without compromising the overall dramatic thrust. Minnesota Orchestra/Sommerfest: Tosca

— William Randall Beard, Star Tribune

Dvořák cello concerto definitely first rate...Zuill Bailey coaxed from his instrument a complex, multi-hued voice, particularly warm in its upper register. Litton drew complementary colors from the [Minnesota] orchestra, giving his marvelous principals plenty of latitude in their telling dialogues with the cello.

— Larry Fuchsberg, Star Tribune

This year's Minnesota Orchestra Sommerfest ended triumphantly with a stellar performance of Puccini's "La Boheme." The vocal performance was of a quality that would be welcome in most of the world's opera houses. From the opening measures, Andrew Litton conducted with a brio appropriate to the madcap bohemians, without stinting the abundant lyricism. It was gratifying to see his responsiveness to the singers.

— William Randal Beard,, Minneapolis Star Tribune

His first movement suggested an approach to Mahler's [Symphony No. 1] that was less an exploration of nervous impetuosity and dramatic extremism than a focus on careful integration of tempos and enforcecing a sense of inevitability on the music. What he did was save the biggest emotions for the finale, which carried tremendous impact (Minnesota Orchestra).

— Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Drawing a rich and detailed performance from the orchestra, Litton gave vent to the music's exuberant drive, but he sought always to clarify, to balance and to bring into structural unity the composer's ideas. It may be that Litton's considerable experience in the opera pit came to the fore in the work's final pages of almost ecstatic lyricism, where he allowed the phrases to stretch delicately, evoking the consoling, sweet tone of a similar moment in Strauss' opera Der Rosenkavalier.

— Michael Anthony, Minneapolis Star Tribune

In Mahler's Symphony No. 1, Litton created extraordinary visual and emotional imagery that built to triumph. Mahler's first symphony traverses a disturbing emotional landscape where the grotesque and the beautiful cohabit. Litton pushed both extremes. The fury of the last movement was frightening as it broke through a soft, sweet moment. Triumph's final victory was more joyful for being so hard-won.

— Joan Oliver Goldsmith, St. Paul Pioneer Press

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