The isolated president of the Minnesota Orchestra will leave in August, it was announced last night. His picture in the Star Tribune shows a man worn and weary by two years of incessant conflict in a situation that was not of his making. It is hard not to feel a twitch of sympathy.
Henson after. photo: Jerry Holt, Star-Tribune
Henson, then manager of the Bournemouth Orchestra in England, was signed in 2007 on a mission to renovate the hall and rationalise the finances after excessive spending by his predecessor. He raised $50 million for the first cause and fell heavily to that conflict. He managed to alienate not only the musicians but the media, the community and the wider industry in which he served. At times he seemed barely in control of the musician-free organisation he supposedly ran. He was accused of lying to the State Congress. His handling of the conflict will be taught for years in college as a negative object lesson in arts management.
His departure, however, is not the end of Minnesota’s woes, not even the beginning of the end. The local newspaper believes it could pave the way for the return of Osmo Vänskä as music director, but that is far from a foregone conclusion. Whether Vänskä’s return is in the orchestra’s best interests, or his own, is now a matter for more thoughtful reflection.