Minnesota clocks up another loss. This time it’s global.

Minnesota clocks up another loss. This time it’s global.


norman lebrecht

October 14, 2013

Roger Wright, director of the BBC Proms and BBC Radio 3, made the following statement in his RPS lecture at the weekend:

Sadly, however, I can let you know that the first ever residency by an orchestra

from the US will not now be happening at the Proms in 2015. We had planned for

some years a Sibelius symphony cycle by Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra

and had held on to the plan through this last difficult year, only having to accept in the

last fortnight, with Osmo’s tragic but understandable resignation, that it won’t happen.

The loss of international prestige – a concomitant to a healthy economy – is considerable. It will take years for Minnesota to regain it.



  • James Brinton says:

    Henson, Campbell, and Davis are vandals, pure and simple.

    • James B says:

      Ideological vandalism may be a more precise term for senseless destruction of a great cultural institution.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      “Henson, Campbell, and Davis are vandals, pure and simple.”

      Just suppose for a moment that they are (also) dealing with something that happened behind their backs that may have involved one or more of the players that could have a significant effect on the public perception of the orchestra? Would ‘vandal’ still be an appropriate term?

  • I am so beyond angry at the developments here in Minnesota. One cannot begin to understand where these rascals came from or what their end plan is. An orchestra in its ascendancy chopped off at the knees in such an unreasonable manner makes no sense. Our cultural standing and heritage has been violated that calling it “criminal” is not mere hyperbole.

    • Greg from SF says:

      I agree whole-heartedly with everything that walfredswanson has said except for “an orchestra in its ascendancy”.

      This orchestra has had for three-quarters of a century a succession of brilliant music directors such as Ormandy, Mitropoulos, Dorati, Skrowaczewski, de Waart, and Vanska.

      For decades, this orchestra had “made it” musically, and was poised to do even more wonderful things under Vanska.

      “Rascals”? A totally apt description. “Chopped off at the knees”? Again, apt. “Criminal”? You betcha!

      Shame on you, all of you who allowed – and encouraged – this tragedy to occur.

  • That is a GREAT shame.

  • PK Miller says:

    Yet another nail in Minnesota’s coffin–the City as well as the Orchestra. I don’t know the legalities or logistics of the process, but maybe, the members of the MN Orchestra need to resign en mass. Reincorporate under another name and play music. There’s really not been a good faith offer by management. I’ve read about it extensive on Slipped Disc, NY Times & various other sources including NPR. There’s not going to be a happily ever after here. Pull the plug. “Let’s just let the story have an end.” (Lobo).

  • Bill says:

    Henson’s next bonus is in the bag for sure, now! All those pesky per diem and travel expenses won’t have to be paid, and the musicians will be available to play bar mitzvahs and cocktail parties without interruption. Cutting costs and boosting revenue!

  • Steve Foster says:

    I doubt they will ever get back to where they were. Shame. But it was a sound decision on Mr. Wright’s part, nonetheless.

  • Fred T says:

    I had been mostly on management’s side throughout this, but the facts are the facts. The MN Orch is disintegrating and I don’t see a path back to success now. That is Henson’s fault. It’s his job to bridge the gap between board and musicians. He is the one who has failed.

  • Tom Foley says:

    At the moment, the Minnesota doesn’t have to rebuild. I was at the Vanska farewell concert a week ago Saturday, and I have tickets for another concert in early November, and I can tell you, the Minnesota is as great as ever. Oh, it may be that we’ve lost a great conductor, and it may be that we’ve lost some great players, but the Minnesota was never a star system orchestra, and has always had a very deep bench. There isn’t a single slacker in the Minnesota.

    What needs to happen now is for the orchestra to stay together, be open to new ideas and possibilities, and most of all, not allow itself to be pronounced dead. It isn’t. Far from it. The people of Minnesota have the financial where with all to support this orchestra. The lockout isn’t over. The Minnesota is alive and kicking. Stay tuned.

    • Terry says:

      Agree completely! The concert I attended last week (Osmo Farewell Concert) had the orchestra still sounding like “the greatest orchestra in the world” to quote Alex Ross of The New Yorker. It was truly a spectacular sound — every musician was at a peak level, right across the orchestra, including the triangle and tuba players (who are always brilliant, by the way, but rarely get mentioned).

  • Eric Jensen says:

    It is a very sad situation.. speaking as someone who knows people who aren’t musicians.. aren’t management and caught in between like children in a bad divorce.. just wish we could fast forward and get it over with.

    …I am tired of people who say the “support the Orchestra” but don’t GIVE $. All the orchestra members could resign tomorrow and reincorporate… AND THEY STILL WOULDN’T GET WHAT THEY ARE ASKING FOR.. MORE $$. It just isn’t there. …whining and vilifying the organization won’t change that.

    • Amy says:

      Eric, I’m sorry if this sounds like more whining, but apparently Michael Henson was receiving rather hefty bonuses on top of his rather hefty salary…WHILE cutting staff positions.

      This deserves to have the light shone directly on it – if you want to call that “vilification” …go ahead.

      How about that recent Symphony Ball gala? Will the money earned that night go toward Henson’s bodyguards? More bonuses?

      • Eric Jensen says:

        I am not saying that Mr Hensen is a good guy or anything.. But if you added up all his bonuses, fired all the current management, and hired someone willing to work for nothing.. the money the musicians want still wouldn’t be there.

        If the musicians demand is ONLY a change in management and not continuing the original contract made that the organization cannot afford.. let them come out and say that.

        Picketing, telling large donors that they shouldn’t give any money, and otherwise poisioning the well while this messy divorce continues will just make it that much harder to build the orchestra back up.

        The “evil board” is made up of people who gave $ to the orchestra…. they are a non profit organization and their books have been audited..

        Have a fundraiser without them , picket and tell them that no money can go to the hall, treat them like a for profit evil corporation out to get you

        Have a fundraiser.just made of people on blogs like this one.. you will raise how much? How much has LOMOMO raised? hmmm.. not very much..not nearly what the musicians want. Just wondering if anyone is thinking of a future when the 3 evil scrooges are gone.

        • Amy says:

          Eric, EVERYONE is thinking of the future – after a unanimous vote of no confidence in Michael Henson, it’s hard to imagine any scenario with him at the helm.

          Those “audited” books…are you talking about the fairly biased financial review published on their website? The one that makes no mention of Henson receiving bonuses right around the time that administrative staffers were being let go?

    • Karen Sandness says:

      I think people are disinclined to give any money to the Minnesota Orchestra Association as long as they aren’t putting on any concert and have announced that they’re in no hurry to resume negotiations. If I have some spare money, it will go to the LoMoMO (Locked-out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra) so that none of it goes for yet another union-buster’s bonus for Michael Henson.

  • Winston Kaehler says:

    Does any of this fury, right and righteous as it is, get through to the Board and management, where it might have some effect?

  • Malcolm James says:

    Vanska’s resignation is sad and regrettable, but not tragic. No-one has died.

    • Terry says:

      Disagree. In my dictionary, tragic = “suffering extreme distress or sorrow” which certainly applies in this situation, as far as music-loving Minnesotans are concerned. The chemistry between Vanska and the musicians was (and still is) at an extremely high level. To have that destroyed for no good reason is truly tragic in my estimation.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      Not literally — at least not yet. But the Vanska-era MO certainly did.

  • John says:

    The fact that the Orchestra is running fund raising activities right now indicates how completely blind they are to their current standing in the community. I’m not speaking about the musicians, but the organization. Absolutely ridiculous situation. I like Phylis Khan’s idea of making the orchestra a publicly owned property. If the community wants the organization, they should buy stock in it and take it out of the hands of the board which has failed its responsibilities.

  • J. Carr says:

    One can’t equate football teams with orchestras, but I hope someone is looking into the possibility of re-incorporating the musicians from the MnOrch as a public company, similar to the Green Bay Packers.

    Are there any other orchestras in the U.S. set up in this fashion?

  • James Brinton says:

    What might that be? And how would it justify financial fiddling, lack of good faith bargaining, a disinformation campaign, and a one-year lockout of the orchestra?

    • Pamela Brown says:

      This is not attempt to ‘justify’ any of the MOA actions. However, there may be a possibility than an understanding of this issue might further define the complexity of the situation MOA could be facing.

      What if, for example, they are scurrying around trying to figure out how how not to be labeled ‘the band that locked out Mozart’? What if they have done what they can to flush out anyone involved? Now what do they do? :-0

      • Amy says:

        Pamela, do let us know when that novel you’ve been promoting is finished. It sounds like a murky but intriguing mystery. 🙂

        • Pamela Brown says:

          My reply was intended to help anyone who is interested think outside of the box.

          And btw, P2A is finished, except for the epilogue, which happens to be entitled “Revenge of the Mozarts”. 🙂