Musicians returned to playing concerts for the Minnesota Orchestra this weekend, but the turmoil that has followed the organization for more than 16 months resurfaced Saturday.
After a homecoming concert Friday at Orchestra Hall, musicians and board members were met Saturday with the first direct comments from former music director Osmo Vänskä on the state of his old orchestra.
Speaking with classical music host Brian Newhouse of Minnesota Public Radio, Vänskä reportedly said, “For any healing to begin at the orchestra, Michael Henson must go.”
Henson, the organization’s president and CEO, was a lightning rod for criticism from musicians and their supporters during the just-concluded lockout.
“We are surprised Osmo chose to register his comments with the news media when those conversations belong within the Orchestral Association,” Gordon Sprenger, new board chair of the orchestra, said in a statement Saturday night. “This weekend is a time to celebrate that the Minnesota Orchestra is performing onstage in the renovated Orchestra Hall, and we are sorry to pull any focus from that celebratory event.”
Vänskä did not return phone calls Saturday. Henson, through a representative, declined to comment, and a spokesperson for the musicians had no comment but referenced a fall 2012 vote in which the musicians expressed “no confidence” in Henson.
Sprenger and principal trombonist Doug Wright spoke at Saturday concert, as they had Friday. In response to crowd shouts about bringing back Vänskä, Sprenger said, “We are on top of it.” Henson attended both concerts but did not speak publicly.
There was one shout of “Fire Henson” to which Sprenger did not respond.
The public nature of Vänskä’s statement on Saturday is remarkable. He reportedly has told friends privately that he would return only if Henson were let go. If Henson did leave the organization, there is no guarantee the board would swiftly ask Vänskä back.
Sprenger, in interviews and statements, has expressed strong support for Henson.
Vänskä, who became music director in 2003, resigned in October to protest the failure of the board and musicians to reach a new contract.