The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: More bad news. The Minnesota Orchestra cancels its fall season and two Carnegie Hall concerts over labor strife that causes its acclaimed Finnish conductor Osmo Vanska to resign. | October 6, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

It has been a week of really bad news for classical music.

Yesterday I posted a blog about the closing of the New York City Opera – the “People’s Opera” — after 70 years because of a failed attempt to raise the millions of dollars money that it needed to continue.

Here is a link:

But last week also brought word that the long ongoing labor strife and lock-out at the Minnesota Orchestra (below are the musicians protesting), based in Minneapolis, has not been resolved. To the contrary, the administration and the players still remain so far apart that the fall season has now been canceled.


Moreover, the acclaimed Finnish conductor Osma Vanska (below)  who led the Minnesota Orchestra has quit.

Vanska brought much critical praise to the orchestra with their recordings of a Beethoven symphony and concerto cycle as well as a Grammy-nominated recording (at bottom in a YouTube video) of Sibelius symphonies (all on BIS records). But he has kept his promise of resigning if the two Carnegie Hall concerts by the orchestra were canceled.

Canceled they were, and resign he did – with a dignified and diplomatic message, as follows:

1 October 2013

Press statement from Osmo Vänskä

Today I have given notice of my resignation as Music Director and Conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra Association, effective 1 October 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.

Osmo Vänskä

Osmo Vanska BIG

And here are links to stories about the Carnegie Hall cancellations and the fallout with Vanska, who conducted two concerts with the Minnesota Orchestra musicians – plus pianist Emanuel Ax (below)  in piano concertos by Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for the first concert — in an unofficial capacity at a concert hall on the University of Minnesota campus:

Emanuel Ax Philharmonia

What is one to do?

Here is the press release from The Minnesota Orchestra:

Well, we in Madison can be very happy that we don’t seem to have similar problems with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra – at least not right now.

But maybe some fundamental structural reforms need to be made. Maybe the ways of doing business and administering art need to be changed.

Perhaps one way out of the awful dilemmas is to make the musicians a more integral part of the administration, similar to the way that principal oboist James Roe (below, in a photo by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times) was made the president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in June.

James Roe, principal oboist, became president and CEO of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra cr Fred R. Conrad, NYTIMES

Here is a story from The New York Times reporter and critic Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim about doing just that, which seems like a smart move to The Ear:


  1. Thanks for the update on the MN Orchestra. Sadly, my ex-soul-mate had a season pass for this season which is pretty much gone. Considering your comment that the NYC Opera has closed and the loss of the MN Symphony, it’s clear that such serious ensembles are facing critical fiscal issues. My guess is that unless/until America values these cultural assets as much as they value the NBA/NFL/NHL, etc. similar sad occurrences are going to continue unabated.


    Comment by Larry Retzack — November 25, 2013 @ 11:35 am

  2. As bad as it is, the management press release you site canceling all concerts through Nov 25 is actually a year old. That was Nov 25, 2012, not 2013.


    Comment by Michael — October 9, 2013 @ 11:55 am

    • Michael,
      Opps, sorry.
      I apologize.
      It was the most recent one I could find at the orchestra’s website.
      I thought the whole season had been cancelled, but I couldn’t find an official reaction.
      Thank you for the correction to an already sad tale.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 9, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

  3. Vanska’s final concert with the musicians of the orchestra this evening was wonderful. The Valse Triste of Sibelius made a fitting encore, and the audience left in silence, contemplating the demise of such a fine institution killed by its management.


    Comment by Mikko Utevsky — October 6, 2013 @ 12:04 am

    • Hi Mikko,
      Thank you for the update-review.
      The encore sounds so poignantly appropriate.
      How lucky of you to have heard it.


      Comment by welltemperedear — October 6, 2013 @ 5:42 am

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