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Minnesota Orchestra to finish Grammy-winning project stopped by labor lockout

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The Minnesota Orchestra will take to the stage and studio later this year to finish off a series of recordings that were stopped by a 16-month labor lockout.

Music director Osmo Vänskä and the orchestra won one Grammy and were nominated for another after recording four out of seven symphonies by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, only for the project to be shelved following a long-running contract dispute.

The dispute was resolved a year ago, and the New York Times reports the orchestra is now set to finish the final three Sibelius recordings this year.

According to the Pioneer Press, the orchestra will record Sibelius' Third, Sixth and Seventh Symphonies in May and June at Orchestra Hall for Swedish label BIS, as well as perform the works live at the downtown Minneapolis venue.

Dates for the concerts are pending, as is a release date for the CD. The cost of the recordings will be underwritten by an anonymous donor, the Star Tribune reports.

“It will be a happy occasion when we again bring together BIS and our Orchestra,” Vänskä said in a news release. “This is meaningful repertoire to us, and it will be very gratifying for us to complete the circle on this project.”

Orchestra stronger, but still fragile

MPR reports that, 12 months after the labor lockout was resolved, the respected orchestra is on a much firmer footing, though new president Kevin Smith admitted it was still vulnerable as a result of its financial challenges, after posting a $650,000 deficit last year.

In the end, musicians agreed to a contract with an average salary of $114,000, down from $135,000, but one that keeps Minnesota as one of the 10 best paying orchestras in the country.

Smith said the lockout has caused a rethink of the orchestra's direction as it seeks to maintain its core audience while attracting new fans, a challenge that Vänskä is also taking on.

It is hoped the new contract will help them do that, as the radio station notes it gives the orchestra the chance to perform more often, allows them opportunity to do more performances in the community, and gives musicians more involvement in artistic decision-making.

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