The Well-Tempered Ear

Motorcycle maestro gets 5 more years at Minnesota Orchestra | September 30, 2009

By Jacob Stockinger

The Finnish-born conductor (and composer)  Osmo Vanska (below right), 56, will lead the Minnesota Orchestra at least through the end of the 2015 season, according to news reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the New York Times. He took over the Minnesota ensemble in 2003.Vanska

Vanska, who is known for riding his motorcycle around downtown Minneapolis, has led the Minnesota ensemble through some great times that some observers are describing as a golden age or a rebirth.

His achievements include three European tours and concerts in Carnegie Hall plus a 5-CDs of Beethoven nine symphonies that have garnered critical raves and even a Grammy nomination (for the Ninth Symphony.) A specially priced CD-SACD boxed set is scheduled to be released by BIS records on Oct. 27.

I like not only the playing, but also the coupling of early and late symphonies (No. 7 with No. 2, No. 6 and with No. 1).

For BIS, Vanska is also recording all five of the Beethoven piano concertos with the acclaimed young Russian pianist Evgeny Sudbin Sudbin (below right) and will release  the complete Tchaikovsky piano concertos in live performance with British pianist Stephen Hough (who will perform the Tchaikovsky First this season with the Madison Symphony Orchestra in late February) on the Hyperion label this spring.

Vanska is working through a cycle of Bruckner’s symphonies with the Minnesota Orchestra and it looks like that will be his next major recorded cycle. (The fourth symphony by Bruckner — “Romantic” — is due to be released this year.) I’d also like to hear him do all the Brahms symphonies, overtures and concertos. It’s along his lines and affinities. (He also recorded a well regarded set of all the Sibelius symphonies with the Finnish Lahti Symphony, which he used to direct.)

I’d also really like to hear him guest conduct the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Here is a link to his official website:

I like the fact that Vanska is letting the U.S. and the world know that there are more great orchestras in the Midwest than the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There is the Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The Detroit Symphony used to be world-class, too, but I haven’t heard much about or from them lately. And I suspect we may be hearing more from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, which plays here Oct. 9 at the Wisconsin Union Theater, under its new conductor Edo de Waart.

What do you think of  Vanska’s performances and recordings?

Are there other Midwest orchestras the music world should know about?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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