The Minnesota Orchestra’s foray into the national spotlight during the Grammy Awards on Sunday represented an ironic moment of celebration for Ken Freed.
Freed, who is of course the director of the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, is also a violist with the Minnesota Orchestra. And if you’ve been following fine arts news from the Twin Cities, then you also know that the Minnesota Orchestra is in the midst of a bitter contract dispute that has led to the cancellation of all concerts through April 7.
That, however, didn’t stop members of the Recording Academy from recognizing the Minnesota Orchestra’s recording of Sibelius’ Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5 as one of the year’s most exceptional in the category of best orchestra performance.
Though fate held that the bigger and more well-known San Francisco Symphony would win its 15th Grammy — rather than the Minnesota Orchestra winning its first — Freed said “it was an honor to be in that group” which also included performances from the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Oregon Symphony and London Symphony Orchestra.
I had an opportunity to speak with Freed as he was preparing to lead the San Juan Symphony in Colorado through Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 and Beethoven’s Concerto No. 2. Just a day after the Grammys were announced, Freed was his usual gracious, eloquent self.
As anyone who has listened to Freed talk about music knows, the man has a gift for talking about music. And after hearing Freed speak about the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sibelius performance, I needed no more convincing that it was the year’s best, regardless of what the Grammys say:
“Sometimes you can feel the atmosphere in music, almost like connective tissue. When we were in the middle of recording, there was something special in the air. So special, so visceral. ... As we were playing, the ground was lifting up. It was incredible. You only get those feelings a couple times in a lifetime. It was astounding just to be there.”