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Sept. 9 is not necessarily D-Day for Osmo Vanska

Posted by: Graydon Royce under Classical, Behind the scenes, Orchestras, People Updated: August 28, 2013 - 8:47 AM
Osmo Vanska, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra.
 
Osmo fever is getting hot.
 
There’s a new Facebook page that touts itself as pledge campaign urging the Minnesota Orchestral Association to “innovate financially” to preserve the ensemble. There is a graphic on the page that says, “14 Days” until Osmo Vanska resigns. Which would mean he’s walking on Sept. 9.
 
Gov. Mark Dayton, talking about the Minnesota Orchestra situation out at the State Fair the other day, also mentioned Sept. 9 as the big day. Blogs, print, radio, telegraph, Facebook, Weekly Reader – every media outlet you can think of (including ours) has been citing Sept. 9 as the lynchpin of this high-stakes standoff between the orchestra board and its musicians.
 
Here’s the thing: Vanska never said he was quitting on Sept. 9.
 
When the news came down recently that the BIS recording sessions had been canceled for this fall, we went back to Vanska’s original April 30 letter to the board chair (Jon Campbell) and the president/CEO (Michael Henson).  
It was a carefully crafted document in which Vanska said he wanted the orchestra back last May, or at least by early September – “at the latest 9 September 2013.”
 
But that date had more to do with Vanska’s feeling that the orchestra needed to be back by that date in order to get ready for the recording sessions. Now that those sessions have been canceled, whatever leverage there was in the date of Sept. 9 seems irrelevant.
 
The more explicit trigger for Vanska will be the two Carnegie Hall concerts scheduled for Nov. 2-3. The letter does state this:
 
“The Carnegie Hall project represents for me one of the most significant goals of my entire Minnesota Orchestra tenure. I wish to do everything possible to ensure those concerts go ahead. But at this time I must make it clear, that in the case Carnegie Hall chooses to cancel the Minnesota Orchestra’s concerts this November, i.e. if they lose confidence in our ability to perform those concerts as a result of the extended lockout, then I will be forced to resign my position as Music Director.”
 
Vanska mentions no date – only that if Carnegie cancels, then he would pack up and go. Carnegie, however, has let interested parties know that it does not want to be seen as forcing a decision by Vanska that could have him leaving Minnesota.
 
At one point, it seemed the opening of the newly renovated hall would be the leverage point in the labor dispute. Then, it was assumed the opening of the new season would be the key date. Then the recording sessions were canceled and there still was no settlement, and no departure of the music director.
 
A cancellation at Carnegie would have longer-lasting consequences than any of these previous dates. But who will make that decision and when will it be made? At some point, Carnegie needs to let ticket buyers know, and has to figure out what to do with two key nights in the hall – if there is no Minnesota Orchestra to be had.
 
Perhaps the systems at Carnegie are pretty nimble and they can push the decision off longer than we think.  Perhaps Vanska’s internal deadline – when he feels he needs the orchestra back to rehearse – would render Carnegie’s decision moot (Carnegie: “We could wait until XX”; Vanska: “Oh, I’ll need to decide much earlier than XX”).
 
But we don’t know what those dates are. Only Carnegie and Vanska do, and they aren’t saying. It is not inconceivable and at some point soon, those parties (and perhaps the warring board and musicians) will all have a little stare-down session at which they mull the importance of Carnegie, Vanska and to some measure the direction of the orchestra.
 
Mind you, this does not presage the end of the labor dispute or the lockout. The board and musicians will be forced to ask themselves whether Vanska’s continued tenure in Minnesota is so important that they just have to make a deal to keep him here.
 
The simple fact is, both sides might not consider Vanska’s line-in-the-sand regarding Carnegie a drop-dead deadline for the contract dispute. That date might pass and Vanska might leave. Then the two sides will lament this tragic collateral damage and quickly return to the public relations battle armaments to lob blame at each other.
 
Whatever happens, Osmo is not necessarily leaving the building on Sept. 9.
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