Yes, Osmo is back. But is he happy?

by Brian Newhouse, Minnesota Public Radio
May 2, 2014

St. Paul, Minn. — Let's address the elephant in the room here at the top: I intentionally chose not to ask Osmo Vänskä, reappointed as the Minnesota Orchestra's music director, about his newly public relationship with concertmaster Erin Keefe. In interviewing him for our May 2 broadcast, I wanted to focus on how he'll re-build this battered ensemble, the fraught board negotiations that led to his re-instatement, why in the world he wanted to step back into the angst when other orchestras around the world wanted him, and the anything-but-certain road ahead.

But about the Keefe revelation, I did ask him if he had any regrets over how he carried himself over the past two years.

"Absolutely not," he replied without a second's hesitation.

"Anything you'd do differently at any step of the way?" I pressed.

"All the actions that I've done … I have been thinking about quite seriously and I can say that I don't regret anything about my own behavior."

With that out of that way, you might wonder, is he happy to be back? Was it worth it? Listen and hear for yourself: he fought, and fought hard to return. There's a deep satisfaction in reclaiming his old post. This ensemble is his instrument, as dear to him as family.

But listen to his voice. He does not sound, nor in our interview did he look like, a happy man. Osmo Vänskä has an enormous triage list ahead of him: The CEO with whom he'd had such profound disagreement is still officially in office with no successor in sight; there is no announced 2014-15 season, and that puts desperately needed ticket revenue at risk; many of the Orchestra's support staff have fled elsewhere; and the Board is reportedly sharply divided as to how Vänskä handled himself over the past two years. Would you want that job?

Still, when Vänskä takes the Northrop stage on Friday night, he will be stepping in front of an ensemble that is more than ever his. After such a slog, at least for a few hours, all can focus their attention on something they love. Music.

Listen to the complete interview by clicking the play button above. The live broadcast of the Minnesota Orchestra's concert from Northrop Auditorium airs Friday, May 2, at 8 p.m., on Classical MPR.

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