Born: Feb. 28, 1953 in Saaminki, Finland.
Education: Sibelius Academy.
Background: A clarinetist, Vänskä became principal conductor of the Lahti Symphony in Finland. He also has been chief conductor with the Iceland and BBC Scottish Symphonies. He was chosen by the Minnesota Orchestra as its 10th music director in 2003. His contract runs through 2015.
Tenure at Minnesota Orchestra: With 10 years here, Vänskä ranks 5th in longevity among the orchestra’s 10 music directors, with the first one, Emil Oberhoffer, serving 19 years (1903-22), the same tenure as Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (1960-79).
Recordings: The Minnesota Orchestra earned Grammy nominations in 2008 and 2012 for its recordings with Vänskä of symphonies of Beethoven (No. 9) and Sibelius (Nos. 2 & 5). Also recorded Beethoven piano concertos with Yevgeny Sudbin, Tchaikovsky piano concertos with Stephen Hough, and a much-praised 2010 CD of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4.
Tours: Led four Minnesota Orchestra tours in Europe, including two visits to the Proms in London.
Praise: In March, 2010, Vänskä brought the Minnesota Orchestra and a Finnish male chorus to a Carnegie Hall festival. Alex Ross, music critic of the New Yorker, sized up the Minnesota performance of Sibelius’ “Kullervo” and declaimed that “for the duration of the evening of March 1st, the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world.” Nine months later, Ross chose the “Kullervo” as his best live performance of the year. “Even the memory of it brings tears to my eyes,” Ross wrote in his year-end review. “What secret of musical emotion does Vänskä possess?”
Honors: Musical America Conductor of the Year, 2005; Star Tribune Artist of the Year, 2010.
Other interests: Motorcycling, cross-country skiing, running.