A romantic relationship between conductor Osmo Vänskä and Minnesota Orchestra concertmaster Erin Keefe was discussed during negotiations leading up to last week's announcement that Vänskä would return as the orchestra's music director.
In an interview with the New York Times on Saturday, Vänskä called the relationship a private matter, and said that he would refrain from taking part in decisions about Keefe's status with the orchestra.
Violinist Keefe has been concertmaster at the orchestra since 2011. She has auditioned for the same position at the New York Philharmonic.
Keefe and her husband, Andrey Tchekmazov, divorced in 2013. Vänskä, 61, was divorced in 2009.
The concertmaster, along with the conductor, is the face of the orchestra to the public. The concertmaster serves as a liaison between musicians and conductor — the first person to see the score and gauge what the conductor wants. As first violinist, she makes decisions that determine how the music should be phrased, and she is first choice for solos.
Vänskä had no comment Sunday evening, but he told the Times that his relationship with Keefe, 33, might have bothered some orchestra directors. "There may be board members who take it as my being on the players' side," Vänskä said.
"Osmo was open with the board regarding his relationship with Erin Keefe," said Gordon Sprenger, orchestra board chair, in a statement Sunday. "The association and Osmo have addressed the issue in a manner that takes into account the interests of all involved. While we won't comment publicly with regards to the specific details of any negotiation, we are very pleased to have come to terms that reunite Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra."
Decisions about hiring and advancement of players at the Minnesota Orchestra are made by the music director and committees of musicians, the orchestra said in a statement. "If a conflict of interest exists with regard to any of these issues, the individual with the conflict steps aside, as Osmo Vänskä has indicated he will do in any decisions relating to the concertmaster's status," the statement said. "Instead, these decisions will be made collectively between the musicians and Minnesota Orchestra Association."
Doug Wright, principal trombonist and a member of the musicians' negotiating committee during the lockout, said, "my feelings about Osmo and Erin have not changed today. Their personal lives are none of my business, or anyone else's … The thing that worries me more is rebuilding this orchestra."
Vänskä takes up his music director duties this week, meeting about future programming and rehearsing for concerts May 2 and 4 at the newly renovated Northrop Auditorium.