Citing 'unfinished business,' Osmo Vänskä says he would like to 'do great music' with Minnesota Orchestra

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2014 - 10:03 PM

Osmo Vänskä has unfinished business with the Minnesota Orchestra, and he has been negotiating his possible return to the ensemble he led for nine years.

Vänskä is conducting two Sibelius symphonies this week to celebrate the orchestra’s recent Grammy Award.

He resigned as music director last October in the midst of one of the longest and most rancorous labor disputes in the history of U.S. orchestras.

“I don’t think this is the right way to leave here,” Vänskä said during an interview Wednesday at Orchestra Hall. “I would like to do great music with these players.”

He also said that he believes the orchestra will need a year, “maybe two” to rebuild itself to the level it was playing at before the lockout.

“A bad orchestra is almost as expensive as a good orchestra,” he said. He praised the players for their “marvelous attitude” during rehearsals but said that “every other corner of the organization” needs to be cleaned.

“[Musicians] are only part of the organization, but there are other parts,” Vänskä said. “It is like a big house and every room should be cleaned before the house is OK.”

Negotiations continue

Vänskä, who still lives in a Minneapolis condo, said he has been busier than ever as a guest conductor since the players were locked out in a labor dispute on Oct. 1, 2012. He would not say whether he has entertained overtures from other orchestras.

As for his future with the Minnesota Orchestra, he said he has been approached by members of the board of directors.

He declined to say what the parameters of any position would be. Board sources have indicated that Vänskä could be asked back as full music director, or possibly as a principal conductor.

“We are negotiating,” he said, indicating that he has no deadline. “The orchestra needs a conductor as soon as possible.”

Board chairman Gordon Sprenger confirmed in a statement that conversations are occurring.

No regrets

Vänskä inserted himself into the labor dispute between the orchestra board and its union musicians when he threatened to resign if an agreement did not return players to the stage last October. He made good on that promise and announced his resignation Oct. 1.

He said Wednesday he has no regrets about that decision.

The former music director has remained popular with audiences, who have loudly demanded his return to the orchestra.

He largely has remained silent on the subject until now. He said would like to be back, if he feels he can make great music.

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  • Osmo Vanska in his office in Orchestra Hall on the eve of his concert with the Minnesota Orchestra that will feature the music that received a Grammy Award in February. ] GLEN STUBBE * Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

  • A clean start: Osmo Vänskä, shown in his office in Orchestra Hall, says of the organization, “It is like a big house and every room should be cleaned before the house is OK.” He will conduct this weekend’s concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra. Watch a video of an interview with Vänskä at


    What: Osmo Vänskä returns to Orchestra Hall to conduct Sibelius symphonies Nos. 1 and 4.

    When: 11 a.m. Thu., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

    Where: Orchestra Hall, 11th St. and Nicollet Mall, Mpls.

    Tickets: $22-$84, 612-371-5656,

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