Osmo Vanska rehearses with Stephen Hough on Tuesday.

David Joles, Star Tribune

Vänskä to lead Minnesota Orchestra through 2015

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE
  • Star Tribune
  • September 24, 2009 - 8:50 PM

Osmo Vänskä has signed a contract extension to remain music director at the Minnesota Orchestra through the 2014-15 season.

"When I joined the orchestra in 2003, I was impressed by the musicians' desire to work hard every day," Vänskä said in a prepared statement. "I still appreciate this quality very much, but now we also know and trust each other more."

Vänskä was music director of the Lahti Symphony in his native Finland when he joined the orchestra in 2003-04 as its 10th music director. He signed a second four-year contract in 2007. Under terms of the extension, Vänskä will conduct the orchestra an average of 13 weeks across each of the four seasons.

During his six years, Vänskä has restored much of the orchestra's luster throughout the music world. The group's three European tours -- which in 2006 included a debut at the BBC Proms in London -- have been praised critically. Last winter, Vänskä took the organization to three of the essential musical capitals -- London, Berlin and Vienna.

He also has taken the orchestra on an ambitious recording program, including a five-CD cycle on the BIS label of all the Beethoven symphonies. The recording of the Ninth Symphony was nominated for a Grammy Award, while the disc including the Second and Seventh received a 2009 Classic FM Gramophone Award nomination. The orchestra is in the midst of completing live recordings for the Hyperion label of the Tchaikovsky piano concertos, with pianist Steven Hough. Vänskä has also targeted recordings of Bruckner's Fourth and Beethoven's piano concertos with Yevgeny Sudbin.

Vänskä, who was named 2005 Conductor of the Year by Musical America, has drawn particular notice for his work with Beethoven and Sibelius, the Finnish composer. His three statewide tours included an all-Finnish program in Duluth -- the orchestra's first performance there since 1979. In addition, he has frequently taken up his clarinet and played chamber pieces with orchestra members.

Terms of the contract extension were not released. Vänskä's salary, based on 2007 tax returns, has been reported previously as $786,000. Last March, however, he took a 10 percent reduction as the orchestra cut expenses in a down economy.

The organization recently announced a $40 million remodeling project on its landmark building in downtown Minneapolis.

"We are very pleased to have Osmo on board to conduct the inaugural concert of a renovated and expanded Orchestra Hall in 2012," said President and CEO Michael Henson. "This is very good news."

Acting Associate Principal David Williamson, who is outgoing chair of the Orchestra's Members Committee, said musicians are happy with the news.

"Osmo has brought the orchestra significant exposure at the highest ranks of the symphonic world," he said.

Vänskä, an avid motorcyclist and Minnesota Wild hockey fan, lives near the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis.

"I'm happy to put down deeper roots in the Twin Cities, which is a very good place to live and to play music," he said.

Should Vänskä remain in Minnesota through the end of the extension, he would tie Dimitri Mitropoulous as the third-longest tenured music director since the organization was founded in 1903. Stanislaw Skrowaczewski and Emil Oberhoffer each served 19 years.

Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299

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