First of farewell concerts: A tearful tribute to conductor and musicians

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Conductor Osmo Vänskä led musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra in a gut-wrenching concert Friday night that made some audience members cry, according to The New York Times. The musicians and their conductor received many standing ovations. For an encore, Finland-born Vänskä chose "Valse Triste" by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Vanska described the waltz as a "dance of death" and asked listeners to leave the concert hall without applause.

The Star Tribune reports the audience for the first of three farewell concerts was keenly attuned to its importance. The conductor and the musicians -- who used to rehearse together all the time -- had not had that opportunity in recent months because of the year-long lockout. "“I’m going to miss it here very much, and I’m going to miss this fabulous orchestra,” Vänskä said.

While some audience members said the self-produced concerts were a sign the musicians would stay together, others said the concert felt like a goodbye. "I feel like the orchestra is no more," said Mary Ellen Niedenfuer of St. Paul.

Two more shows at the Ted Mann Concert Hall at the University of Minnesota are scheduled for Saturday. All three shows sold out quickly, but the public can hear the final performance live on KSJN, Classical MPR.

The Minnesota Orchestra and its musicians have been deadlocked over a new contract for more than a year. Management says it must reduce salaries by 25 percent; musicians say that offer is "artistically unsustainable." Artistic director Vänskä resigned Tuesday after much-anticipated November concerts at Carnegie Hall were cancelled.

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