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Friday, May 3, 2013

Minnesota Orchestra Lockout Goes "Fargo"

Music Director Ösmo Vänskä threatens to walk.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
"Whaddya mean we're not going to New York?" Steve Buscemi as Carl Showalter in Fargo.
Image © 1996 MGM.
The overwhelming silence that has settled over the Minnesota Orchestra, locked out since September, broke earlier this week, as music director Ösmo Vänskä threatened to resign.

According to a story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the resignation threat comes after a long five-month silence between the two sides: the musicians of the Orchestra and the Board. The specific issue is a set of scheduled Carnegie Hall concert next November, featuring a compete cycle of Sibelius symphonies.

Mr. Vänska wrote:

“I must make it clear, that in the case Carnegie Hall chooses to cancel the Minnesota Orchestra’s concerts this November, i.e. if they lose confidence in our ability to perform … then I will be forced to resign."

He continued that it was his belief that rehearsals for the New York concerts should ideally start on May 27.

Mr. Vänska is considered one of the world's authorities on Sibelius, and has recorded two complete cycles of the seven symphonies. Carnegie Hall has underlined the two-part Sibelius cycle (scheduled to start Nov. 2)  as one of the major events of its 2013-2014 season.

The Minnesota lockout has been accompanied with very little in the way of progress. The major issue is management's demand for a 32% pay cut from the musicians, with accompanying reductions in benefits.

In a statement last Friday, the musicians said that they will retur to the bargaining table--only if the lockout is lifted. Musicians including principal clarinetist Burt Hara have already left, with Mr. Hara accepting an associate position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The orchestra claims that it needs to slash $5 million in labor costs. The lockout also threatens to jeopardize a planned recording session in September, the month that marks the traditional start of business for most orchestras.

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