Osmo Vänskä is on his way back

The Finn has been telling friends in Minneapolis that he’s negotiating a return as music director, now the orch president Michael Henson, is on his way out.

‘We started negotiations last Saturday, and I think that the purpose of those negotiations is to try to find out if there is a way for me to come back,’ he told local NPR.

We, and others closer to the scene, have raised a quizzical eyebrow as to whether this return to the status quo ante is in the best interests of either party. But maybe what is needed is a short-term deal, two seasons at most, for the org and its maestro to get over the trauma and get a chance to test some new sticks for the future.

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  • I appreciate your objectivity, Mr. Lebrecht, on Mr. Vanska’s returning to the MO. It seems that there are some things yet to be worked out and it is in everyone’s best interest that this happen.

  • I can understand why it would not be Osmo’s best interest to return to a somewhat shattered remains, but why do you keep insisting that it would not be in the orchestra’s best interest? It’s not in an orchestra’s best interest to have as its music director one of the world’s best and certainly most interesting conductors?? What “new sticks” out there would be BETTER for the orchestra? When I heard the orchestra at Carnegie Hall (Beethoven Violin Concerto, Sibelius 6 and 7), they sounded like a “top five”. The year before Alex Ross had said they sounded like the greatest orchestra in the world.

    • Daniel Farber said, “The year before Alex Ross had said they sounded like the greatest orchestra in the world.”

      Mr. Ross actually said on ‘that one night’ they did.

      • My point was actually that the orchestra’s rehiring a conductor who could so impress both me and Mr. Ross, obviously in separate single performances, could not but be in their best interest! Norman has yet to indicate WHY a “new stick” would be preferable.

        • There’s more to the story than what most of the public talking heads have been crying for. There are some current musicians who don’t get along with Vänskä, and would rather not have him back. There is friction from within.

        • With all due respect, there may be just a bit more to rehiring someone who, in effect, took the opposite side in what MOA considers a ‘revolt’, no matter how good they may be. Mr. Lebrecht has pointed out some of the challenges and I support his doing that, particularly when it seems to be the typical emotional response to blindly demand Mr. Vanska’s return at all costs.

          • Pamela, nearly all of your murky remarks seem to point to a mystery that exists nowhere except in the purported background of your own experience of stepping onto the stage of Orchestra Hall. I guess that must have been a pivotal moment for you, but I don’t think it bears quite the effect on the lockout, and Osmo, and the MOA in general that you seem to. And that’s just from the blogs written under the name of Pamela Brown.

      • The Alex Ross quote so often referred to during the lockout–“the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world,”–appears in the March 22, 2010 issue of the New Yorker Magazine. It occurs in a review of a sequence of Carnegie Hall concerts that occured between January and March of 2010. Thirteen of the best American and European orchestras gave concerts in Carnegie Hall. The New Yorker headlined Ross’s article “the battle of the bands.”

        Roughly the first two thirds of the article consists of describing the event. This is followed by comments, both positive and negative, about a number of the performances, and a mixed summation of the state of the orchestral industry.

        The last one third of the review is given to Sibelius’s seldom played “Kullervo;” an assessment of Osmo Vanska as “a conductor of Genius, one whom Fuertwangler might have recognized as a kindred spirit;” and an assessment of the Minnesota’s playing, in which he especially praises their “unanimity of feeling.”

        Ross ends the review with his personal feelings towards the end of the thirteen orchestra marathon. “For the duration of the evening of March 1,the Minnesota Orchestra sounded, to my ears,like the greatest orchestra in the world.”

        Ross is a serious and highly regarded critic, and his praise of Vanska and the Minnesota cannot be easily blown off by distorting the quote, or by taking it out of context. Further, the carefully measured praise makes it even stronger than when distorted and taken out of context.

        • Amy said:”Pamela, nearly all of your murky remarks seem to point to a mystery that exists nowhere except in the purported background of your own experience of stepping onto the stage of Orchestra Hall. I guess that must have been a pivotal moment for you, but I don’t think it bears quite the effect on the lockout, and Osmo, and the MOA in general that you seem to. And that’s just from the blogs written under the name of Pamela Brown.”

          Really?

          Why spend any time doing anything other than defining your own position on this issue?

          Let’s also not beg the question that it doesn’t make sense to single one person out for criticism when their posts have been in support of another’s, does it?

  • Indeed, I don’t see why there’s any reticence to Osmo returning. The whole Board/Henson debacle seriously damaged the orchestra and surely set them back a bit in every respect. The Osmo is willing to come back and try to rebuild it is encouraging. Nobody lasts forever but Osmo could certainl have expected to have a 15-20 year tenure in Minnesota if he’d wanted (like MTT in San Francisco). He should at least stick around long enough that he can leave on good terms with everyone and with the orchestra looking forward to a most satisfactory replacement. If he leaves now, the orchestra will likely feel shortchanged – and if Osmo wanted to come back and the musicians wanted him back, what conductor worth his/her salt would step into that situation?

  • “But maybe what is needed is a short-term deal, two seasons at most, for the org and its maestro to get over the trauma and get a chance to test some new sticks for the future.”

    All I can say, Norman, is why? Vanska raised the level of the MO (probably) beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. I can’t see anyone else stepping into this situation and succeeding. Vanska knows the players (well, whoever is left), the community, and–for better or worse–the MOA minus Henson. At this moment in time, Vanska’s return IS in the best interests of all.

    • There is much more to this situation that what appears on the surface. Mr. Vanska may, in the minds of MOA, always be connected with the ‘revolt’. Some that mentored Mr. Henson are still there. Even in a best-case-scenario there are serious challenges to be met.

  • While I can easily see the argument that Osmo returning might not be the best choice for his personal career (he could easily get a job somewhere that wasn’t crippled by a lockout), I fail to see how it’s detrimental to the Orchestra’s performance. The musicians I’m in contact with seem to be overjoyed to work with him again, and it seems that he has not lowered his standards or rigor of rehearsal.

    • There is no question that Mr. Vanska accomplished something musically that no other director was able to do — namely, to flush out the bad habits of the MO players, who could always play well but frequently fell into musical potholes. Just the same, whomever leads the MO needs to, in effect, start over, as much has changed.

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