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Maestro to Minnesota: ‘If the orch doesn’t play, it will lose quality’

Osmo Vänskä has given an unambiguous warning to the city where he is music director, and where the players have been locked out by hard-hat management since October.

“The orchestra is like a sport team,” he said. “If it doesn’t play together, if it doesn’t practice together, it is going to lose its quality.”

Read full interview here, ahead of a one-off Grammy week performance.


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  1. Marko Velikonja says:

    I can’t believe this is still going on, or that it even started. People say that the “Big Five” concept is dead in America, but I beg to differ: This would never happen at a “Big Five” orchestra, not even in Cleveland, a dying city where the orchestra has faced serious financial problems, nor in Philadelphia, where the orchestra went into bankruptcy. Chicago’s strike last fall was resolved in days and was penny-ante stuff compared to what the board and management are trying to do in Minnesota. I can appreciate the financial challenges they are facing in Minnesota, but cannot for the life of me understand how the organization thinks it can ever “win.”

    • harold braun says:

      Well,it almost did happen in Philadelphia…

    • Terry Carlson says:

      Sadly, the “financial challenges” they are facing are mostly imaginary! $100 million was just raised, including $50 million for a new lobby. How dire can the situation be? It’s a power grab by management to break the musicians’ union in the Twin Cities (the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is also locked-out this season). It is beyond scandalous.

  2. Daniel Farber says:

    The Minnesota Orchestra is booked for three concerts in Carnegie Hall for the 2013-14 season: all-Sibelius. Does this give the players more leverage? Less? Makes no difference? When I heard them at Carnegie two years ago (Beethoven Violin Conerto, Sibelius 6 and 7) under Maestro Vanska, they sounded just like Alex Ross said they sounded the year before that: like the greatest Orchestra in the world. Obviously management is OK with something below that level, so long as the administrative salaries are high and the new lobby looks nice.

  3. Are the financial books and records still off limits, or have the players had a chance to audit the organization? One may wonder, for example, about cost controls and cost overruns with the major construction project, and also about the salaries of the executives and bureaucrats. One also wonders how creative management has been in bringing in revenue and seeking new revenue sources, especially where the community has shown such strong support.

  4. Paul D. Sullivan, Boston US says:


    Thanks for keeping us all informed about the goings on with the Minnesota Orchestra. It prompted me to send them a donation. I have seen little or no coverage of this nationally here in the U.S. considering the problems the orchestra members face nation wide here against poor management, which seems to always have the upper hand.

    Please keep us informed.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Paul, the blog “Song of the Lark” (written by Emily Hogstad), is an excellent source for coverage of this lockout. I encourage you to visit it if you haven’t already. The lockout of these Grammy-nominated artists is a travesty.

    • Terry Carlson says:

      Thank you, Paul — I hope you donated to the musicians directly (they have their own website), rather than to the orchestral association which deserves zero support at the moment.

      On Friday evening, 2,500 concert-goers gave four standing ovations to the musicians, conductor, and their most generous benefactor Judy Dayton before the concert even began. But still, management doesn’t seem to get the message. They have angered and alienated three generations of donors and ticket-buyers simultaneously; what a legacy.

  5. This was a wonderful yet bittersweet event. I had prepared myself to hate the acoustics, as the auditorium is better suited to speeches than concerts, but was far more disappointed than I had anticipated, as the contrast between the quality of sound of the concert and the cd was dramatic. The dramatic crescendos were sucked into the cinderblock walls, while each and every attack could be heard clearly, exaggerating any imperfection in tonguing or intonation. If one didn’t listen carefully, it might have seemed that this was a well-rehearsed university orchestra.

    But then there was Maestro Vanska, dipping and twirling around the podium, jabbing at the air with such ferocity one might wonder if he was in the process of keeling over with a heart attack. I don’t know how he gets such sound from the players with the erratic direction he seems to give, but the effect was pure magic. In the midst of this odd setting, in the midst of drama and tension probably unequaled in the history of this orchestra, they played their hearts out, and the drab venue came alive and almost vibrated with glorious sound.

    • Amy Adams says:

      Well, I suppose that what looks like “erratic direction” to you is something that only really good musicians like these can see. Thank heaven, Osmo is concerned more with the music of Sibelius than with making an elegant picture on the podium.
      (Seriously, though…”well-rehearsed university orchestra”…? Your “Drew80″ voice is showing.)

      • When did I exclude the possibility that Maestro Vanska was also using his face to communicate with ‘the really good musicians’?

        Has @Amy decided that those who post their own opinions don’t have the credentials to view the MO objectively? Perhaps we should be listening with our head instead of our ears?

        A number of those attending were discussing the acoustics. My statements are in reference to the contrast between the Convention Center and OH, not to the MO per se, even though they haven’t been able to play together for four months.

        And if @Amy were to note the point of the post, it was that in spite of what to most people might seem like significant obstacles, the MO came through in fine fashion.

      • Let me add one note to my mini-review of the pre-Grammy concert — with the repeated callbacks and standing ovations, not to mention the tumult of sound following the S5, everyone knew there would be an encore. We might even have anticipated that it would be — Sibelius! The really astute might have realized that “Finlandia” would work perfectly — an ideal length and a lot of punch.

        So when the chords of “Finlandia” were briskly sounded, my first reaction was, “Oh good! I haven’t heard this live in a while.” My second reaction was, ‘Oh no, this piece can really be murdered through overplaying! EEK”. So I slumped down a bit in my seat and waited with nervous anticipation. I need not have worried, for Maestro Vanska sped through the piece, pulling out its very heart and essence, without an insincere or trite beat. It was, in fact, the finest reading of the piece I have heard.

  6. Amy Adams says:

    There are indications that certain board members are afraid to disrupt the status quo…too unwilling to speak up on behalf of those whom they morally side with (musicians). If they only knew that management works for THEM…that they have the “keys to the lockout” in their own hands, this could be over now.

    I think it would be an act of heroism: to wake oneself up, to wake up others and say NO…. This is WRONG. GO BACK.

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