Osmo Vänskä resigns as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra

Charlotte Smith2nd Oct 2013
Osmo Vänskä resigns as music director of the Minnesota OrchestraOsmo Vänskä has resigned as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra (photo: Greg Helgeson)

Osmo Vänskä has resigned as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra following more than a year of contract disputes between the musicians and management.

The conductor had set a deadline of September 30 for the restart of rehearsals for a November Sibelius residency in New York’s Carnegie Hall, declaring he would have no choice but to resign if the orchestra were not prepared for the Carnegie concerts. However, on Monday the orchestra was forced to withdraw from the residency when an agreement between the musicians’ union and the orchestra’s governing body could not be reached.

As a result, Vänskä yesterday issued the following statement:

‘Today I have given notice of my resignation as music director and conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra Association, effective October 1, 2013. It is a very sad day for me. Over ten years ago I was honoured to be invited to take up this position. I moved from Finland to the Twin Cities. At that time I made clear my belief that the Minnesota Orchestra could become one of the very greatest international ensembles. During the intervening years I have had the privilege of seeing that belief vindicated through the skill, hard work and commitment of this wonderful group of players and with the valued support of the Board of Directors, management and administration team, volunteers, as well as our exceptional community. I send my deepest thanks to everyone involved for what we have achieved together and I wish the Minnesota Orchestra all the very best for its future.’

Just hours after Vänskä's resignation, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Aaron Jay Kernis, director of the Minnesota Orchestra's Composer Institute, also resigned from his post, citing his 'total bafflement and dismay at what has been done to allow the dismemberment of this superb orchestra at the height of its powers'. 

'I have personally never seen two sides that show such unwillingness to sit down together and attempt to tackle the major challenges that confront the orchestra,' Kernis wrote. 'The collaborative spirit that is the essence of music-making has been completely absent this past year, and little can be forged without a modicum of trust and good will. In all of this the audience of music lovers who most appreciate the orchestra’s extraordinary gifts have been forgotten and their voices disregarded.'

The Minnesota musicians have been locked out by the orchestra’s governing body, the Minnesota Orchestral Association, since October 1, 2012, after failing to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. As a result the entire 2012-13 concert season was cancelled. Due to a number of financial challenges the board initially proposed cutting the average annual musician salary from $135,000 to $89,000. Its most recent offer of an annual salary of $104,500 over the life of a three-year contract, a revenue sharing opportunity and a $20,000 signing bonus was rejected by the musicians over the weekend.

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