Danish conductor Thomas Søndergård, who this fall begins his tenure as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, is a highly regarded conductor in both the orchestral and opera spheres. He has earned a reputation for incisive interpretations of works by composers from his native Denmark, a great versatility in a broad range of standard and modern repertoire, and a collaborative approach with the musicians he leads.
Søndergård first conducted the Minnesota Orchestra in December 2021 performances, establishing an immediate rapport with musicians and audiences; he was quickly reengaged for an April 2022 concert and then announced as the next music director in July 2022. His inaugural season begins this September with two weeks of historic concerts highlighted by Richard Strauss’ Alpine Symphony and, with the Minnesota Chorale, Ravel’s complete ballet score Daphnis and Chloe. Another season highlight will come in June 2024, as he conducts season finale concerts of music by LGBTQ+ composers.
Since 2018, Søndergård has been music director of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), a role he will continue alongside his Minnesota appointment. Between 2012 and 2018, he served as principal guest conductor of the RSNO and principal conductor of BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW), after stepping down as principal conductor and musical advisor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.
Søndergård has appeared with many notable orchestras in leading European centers such as Berlin (including the Berlin Philharmonic, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Konzerthausorchester Berlin), Leipzig (Gewandhausorchester), Paris (Orchestre National de France), London (London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, London Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra), and Amsterdam and Rotterdam (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic and Rotterdam Philharmonic). He is a familiar figure in Scandinavia, with such orchestras as the Oslo Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Danish National Symphony, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony and Helsinki Philharmonic. His North American appearances to date have included the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, St. Louis, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. He has made highly successful tours to China, Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
After launching the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2023-24 season in September, Søndergård opens the RSNO’s season the following month with piano soloist Lise da la Salle performing concertos by Grieg and Beethoven. His busy slate with both ensembles is complemented by upcoming guest engagements with major orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Aalborg Symfoniorkester, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
The 2022-23 season saw Søndergård return to the Edinburgh International Festival (Mahler Symphony No. 3) and the BBC Proms with the RSNO. The two Proms performances were centered around Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto, performed by Nicola Benedetti. On the operatic stage, following his Reumert Award-winning appearance in early 2022 for Die Walküre, he returned to the Royal Danish Opera to conduct Richard Strauss’ Elektra. In his native Denmark, he returned to the Danish National Symphony Orchestra to conduct the world premiere of Rune Glerup’s new violin concerto with Isabelle Faust.
In 2015, as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of both Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, Søndergård conducted a wide variety of their works with many leading orchestras. A passionate supporter of the music of Nielsen, he led a performance with Swedish Radio Symphony of Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5 that was praised as “equal of the great pioneers of Nielsen interpretation... It’s hard to imagine a finer performance of this remarkable symphony” (Dagens Nyheter); in 2019 he participated in a special concert to celebrate Nielsen’s work with the Royal Danish Academy of Music Copenhagen.
Following his acclaimed debut for Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial), he has returned regularly to conduct a broad repertoire, ranging from contemporary to mainstream, including The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville, La Bohème, The Cunning Little Vixen, Il viaggio a Reims and Die Walküre. His Stockholm productions of Tosca and Turandot (both with Nina Stemme) led to his Bayerische Staatsoper debut, conducting main season and Opera Festival performances of Turandot with Stemme; he most recently returned for the Opera’s Akademiekonzert series. He made his Deutsche Oper Berlin debut with the world premiere of Scartazzini’s Edward II and has since returned for Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet.
Søndergård’s discography covers a broad range of contemporary and mainstream repertoire, including Sibelius symphonies and tone poems with BBC NOW and Prokofiev and Strauss with RSNO for Linn Records; Vilde Frang’s celebrated debut recording of violin concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne (on EMI); works by Poul Ruders with the Aarhus Symphony, Norwegian Radio and Royal Danish Opera (Kafka’s Trial) for Dacapo and Bridge Records; and Lutosławski and Dutilleux concertos with cellist Johannes Moser and Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin (Pentatone).
In January 2022, Søndergård was decorated with a Royal Order of Chivalry – the Order of Dannebrog (Ridder af Dannebrogordenen) by Her Majesty Margrethe II, Queen of Denmark. And in 2023, Søndergård receives the prestigious honorary award from the Carl Nielsen and Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen Foundation to support his continued development as a conductor.
As only the 11th music director in the Minnesota Orchestra’s 120-year history, Søndergård succeeds Emil Oberhoffer, Henri Verbrugghen, Eugene Ormandy, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Antal Dorati, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Sir Neville Marriner, Edo de Waart, Eiji Oue and, most recently, Osmo Vänskä, who led the Orchestra from 2003 to 2022.
More information: thomassondergard.com