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New York Times critic makes plea for Minnesota Orchestra lockout to end

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The seven-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra has not only been felt locally, but apparently in New York City.

New York Times critic James R. Oestreich made an impassioned plea in an editorial over the weekend for the dispute to be resolved.

The lockout began Oct. 1, resulting in several notices of cancellations of concert dates as the lockout wore on. Last week, orchestra management canceled the remaining two weeks of the season.

Praising the musicians, Oestreich wrote, "In Minneapolis, a city that has spawned and supported important cultural institutions over many decades and appears to be in robust financial health, there is an ensemble poised on the cusp of certifiable greatness ... But the ensemble now seems in danger of coming apart. Players have dispersed to freelance gigs elsewhere, and one has left permanently."

Oestreich also noted the potential resignation of music director Osmo Vänskä, who wrote in a letter earlier this month that he would leave his post if the orchestra loses a prestigious Nov. 3 engagement at New York’s Carnegie Hall because of the lockout.

At the heart of the dispute is a management's proposal to cut base salaries of the musicians by 32 percent.

The Times critic also quoted orchestra board chair Jon R. Campbell's response to Vänskä's letter.

Campbell said in an interview with the Star Tribune that the musicians "are the ones who are holding up the progress right now" and that management has responded to Vänskä by saying "he could help the process by encouraging the musicians to return to negotiations -- to have real dialogue.”

Upon the cancellation of the rest of the season, orchestra management had issued a proposal that negotiation meetings with a federal mediator take place on May 20, 21 and 22, but the musicians have yet to respond.

In the meantime, Oestreich wrote that "noting is being accomplished by parties not speaking to each other," and suggested outside parties get involved to resolve the dispute.

"It is long past time for reasonable adults to sit down in a room and talk: if need be, in company with some friend of the orchestra, like the mayor or the chief executive of one of the city’s flagship corporations," the critic wrote.

Oestreich concluded his editorial by saying, "Surely the great cultural mecca of Minneapolis must want this resolved quickly. We in New York do. And whatever happens, the world will be watching. Mr. Vanska and his formidable troops have seen to that."

According to the Star Tribune, the Minnesota Orchestra is only third orchestra behind Oklahoma in 1988 and in Louisville in 2011-12 to miss all of their seasons’ scheduled dates.

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