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The Twin Cities may have one of North America's most vibrant classical music scenes, but there's something that other such capitals have that we don't: a long-running destination, out-in-the-country classical music festival a few hours from town. Something akin to what Tanglewood is to Boston or Ravinia to Chicago.

But we're making inroads with Brainerd's ambitiously grand Lakes Area Music Festival and Winona's collection of first-rate recitals and chamber music, the Minnesota Beethoven Festival. Throw in some of the fine festivals within the metro, including the Minnesota Orchestra's summer programming, and it all adds up to a spectacular summer for classical music within our borders.

Here are six festivals we recommend on a summer night.

Bach Roots Festival

The fifth edition of this celebration of the music of J.S. Bach opens with pub-ready fare and has a great outdoor family concert. The main event features conductor Matthew Olson and local musicians tackling Bach's magnum opus, the "B Minor Mass," which some scholars will tell you is the best piece of music ever written. (Sunday-June 22; venues in St. Paul, Northfield, St. Louis Park and Excelsior. Up to $25;

Minnesota Beethoven Festival

When this festival in the riverside city of Winona was founded 17 years ago, the first invitees were the Minnesota Orchestra. This summer, the orchestra returns twice — on July 13 and 21. Superstar violinist Joshua Bell, who had come that first year, has been a relative regular ever since and will perform with pianist Jeremy Denk on July 16. Among the other visiting virtuosi are master cellist Steven Isserlis (June 30), fun genre blenders Time for Three (July 9) and pianist Awadagin Pratt (July 11). (June 30-July 21; various venues in Winona. $25;

GALA Choruses Festival

Every four years, many of North America's most renowned LGBTQ choirs assemble for five chock-full days of concerts, workshops and celebrations of song and being one's own self. COVID-19 canceled it in 2020, so a lot of enthusiasm is building up for this festival. And you're invited. (July 10-14; Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran Church, Mpls. $30-$35; 612-371-5656 or

The Minnesota Orchestra will perform the score for "An American in Paris" on Aug. 9 and 10 while the movie with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron plays on screen in Orchestra Hall.
The Minnesota Orchestra will perform the score for "An American in Paris" on Aug. 9 and 10 while the movie with Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron plays on screen in Orchestra Hall.

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Summer at Orchestra Hall

The Minnesota Orchestra's summer programming features a host who's a rare combination of instrumental brilliance and life of the party — pianist Jon Kimura Parker. If you've never made it to the inspiringly eclectic International Day of Music (July 27), you should. But also consider catching Parker soloing on concertos by Maurice Ravel (July 26) and George Gershwin (Aug. 2) and participating in the four-piano, eight-handed Grand Piano Spectacular (Aug. 1). Speaking of Gershwin, you may never encounter a more sublime cinema-orchestral combo than the festival-closing presentations of "An American in Paris" (Aug. 9 and 10). (July 19-Aug. 10; Orchestra Hall. Up to $110; 612-371-5656 or

Lakes Area Music Festival

The buzz about Brainerd's annual confluence of classical talent grows more enthusiastic by the year. It helps to have an increasingly renowned music director like Germany's Christian Reif, who won a Grammy this year for a collaborative album with his wife, soprano Julia Bullock (who performs an Aug. 9 recital). The orchestra features members of many of North America's top orchestras, and the repertoire spans the centuries. There's an opera, too (Aug. 10-11): Igor Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress." (July 26-Aug. 18; Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts, Brainerd. Up to $50; 612-371-5656 or

Source Song Festival

This five-day celebration of song is all about bringing together singers, pianists and composers to sharpen their skills with workshops, lectures, master classes and performance opportunities. And audiences benefit greatly from the gathering, which this year will feature a plethora of singers for recitals of Minnesota-made music, and an all-Spanish-language program featuring soprano Ana Maria Martinez and pianist Myra Huang. (Aug. 5-9; Westminster Hall, Mpls. $25;

Rob Hubbard is a Twin Cities classical music writer. Reach him at