Minnesota gets another Nordic music director

Minnesota gets another Nordic music director


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2022

The Minnesota Orchestra has just confirmed the Dane Thomas Søndergård as its next music director, succeeding the Finn Osmo Vänskä.

The Dane, 52, guest conducted in Minnesota last winter and spring.

He has been music director since 2018 of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, a job he intends to continue.

Minnesota’s search did not range far, or wide.

It is, with Philadelphia, the only leading US orchestra never to appoint an American-born conductor.

See also: Minnesota maketh man


  • Stephen says:

    Such a boring appointment. They deserve better.

    • Jobim75 says:

      A good conductor, but not so inspired and inspiring, he makes me think about Sakari Oramo, a real talent, but not enough to get you out of your seat…. Actually Vanska was a bet too, the way he polished the orchestra is interesting, but this orchestral perfection was achieved at the cost of losing some character and personality, at least in the CDs….

  • phf655 says:

    Canadians would dispute your statement that the Philadelphia Orchestra has never had an American-born conductor. Yannick Nezet-Seguin was born in Montreal. As for the Cleveland Orchestra, Lorin Maazel was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, to parents who appear to have been naturalized United States citizens. And, of course, which orchestras belong to the designation of ‘major US orchestras’ is open to dispute.

    • MWnyc says:

      Most Canadians would dispute the idea that someone born in Canada was “American-born.” They might even be a bit offended at the suggestion.

  • Singeril says:

    It’s a good orchestra…but, I’m not sure I’d call it a “leading” US Orchestra. It might be somewhere between 10-15.

    • MWnyc says:

      I’d say Osmo brought the Minnesota Orchestra into the top 10, though it may not have been there before.

    • MakeArtsGreatAgain says:

      Agreed! 10 – 15 is generous.

    • Evan Tucker says:

      The Minnesota Orchestra, during the first twenty years of the century, is perhaps the great American orchestra. Which save Cleveland among the Big Five did not underdeliver?

  • Lloyd B. says:

    I guess Chicago isn’t a “leading” US orchestra…

  • Rich C. says:

    Yannick is (at least) NORTH American.

  • Barry says:

    Philadelphia was open to hiring one, but Levine turned them down and went to Boston instead.

  • Max Raimi says:

    I’ve played under him and was quite impressed. An excellent decision by Minnesota.

  • Michael says:

    This is just wrong. Chicago and Cleveland have never had a US born chief conductor.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Chicago: see above
      Cleveland had Lorin Maazel, who was born in Paris to American parents and came as an infant to Pittsburgh, where he grew up. He was always recognised as an American conductor, nothing else.

    • phf655 says:

      Irwin Hoffman, born in New York City, was Acting Music Director in Chicago for one season. I am not sure if this should count. Many of the orchestras who had US-born music directors, had them early in their histories, as part of their founding, and are now forgotten. Since then they have relied on foreign-born musicians.

  • Michael says:

    Unless you count Irwin Hoffman for Chicago. But Cleveland never!

  • MacroV says:

    “It is, with Philadelphia, the only leading US orchestra never to appoint an American-born conductor.”

    What? A lot to clarify here:

    – What do you mean by “appoint?” As Music Director?
    – What do you mean by “leading?”

    What American-born conductor has been appointed MD by these orchestras?

    – Chicago
    – Philly
    – Houston
    – LA

    It’s actually a smaller list of “holdouts” than I was expecting. But Minnesota isn’t the “only” leading orchestra not to appoint an American-born music director.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      Chicago: Theodore Thomas came to the US aged 10; later they had Irwin Hoffman (acting).
      Houston had Julien Blitz and Lawrence Foster
      LA Phil had Andre Previn, who came to America aged 9.

    • phf655 says:

      Los Angeles had Alfred Wallenstein from 1943 to 1956. He was born in New York City.

  • music lover says:

    Yay!Great choice!!!

  • guest says:

    Minnesota has a large population of people of Scandinavian origin, so why not a Finn and a Dane? And do we actually know how wide-ranging the search was?
    But in any case, why this obsession with country and nationality? Does music know narrow boundaries?

  • Mark says:

    How long must we endure the scourge of Nordic musicians? I, for one, have had enough, and call for an immediate end to the importation of Jarlsberg cheese.

    • Tamino says:

      It‘s a free market, and Americans SUCK at making good cheese. (pretty much any food actually, thank God for immigrants and their cuisines)

  • Larry W says:

    A great choice for the American Concertgebouw.

  • Piston1 says:

    The same old story over here: yet another white European actually gets the job, under a heavy veneer of BLM, DEI and MeToo. It might as well be 1955.

  • perturbo says:

    Thomas Schippers, American-born, was music director in Cincinnati from 1970 until his death in 1977. Fine conductor of a MIDWEST orchestra.

  • Eye Roll says:

    Oh, goodie. Another middle-aged white guy.