Former Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä says he's negotiating with orchestra management about a possible return to his old job. In separate interviews with MPR News and the Star Tribune Wednesday, he said he's been talking with the orchestra since Saturday.
"I think that the purpose of those negotiations is to try to find out if there's a way for me to come back," he said to MPR. He did not provide details about the substance of the talks or a timetable for his possible return. But he added that "the orchestra needs a conductor, desperately, as soon as possible."
Minnesota Orchestra Board Chair Gordon Sprenger confirmed to MPR that the talks are taking place.
Vänskä resigned last fall during the 16-month lockout of the orchestra's musicians in an acrimonious dispute over a new contract. The lockout ended in January when musicians agreed to pay cuts in a new three-year contract.
But the bitterness lingers, and last month Vänskä said Orchestra President Michael Henson would have to step downin order for the orchestra to heal. He also signaled that he would not return unless Henson left.
Henson resigned late last week, and will leave his post at the end of August.
Vänskä remains very popular with orchestra audiences, and patrons have demanded that the board rehire him.
"It's very touching," Vänskä said to MPR of the community's support. "I'm really, really, glad that there are so many people who would like me to come back. And I think the way how I went away from the orchestra, it's not a good way and there are some unfinished jobs to do. So if I can do my job again it will be fine."
Vänskä said he believes the orchestra will need a year or two to return to the level it was playing before the lockout, according to the Star Tribune. He praised the players for their “marvelous attitude” during rehearsals, but said “every other corner of the organization” needs to be cleaned.
“[Musicians] are only part of the organization, but there are other parts,” Vänskä said. “It is like a big house and every room should be cleaned before the house is OK.”
Vänskä will conduct the orchestra in two Sibelius symphonies this weekend at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, to celebrate the orchestra’s Grammy Award, and he told MPR News it's great to be back with the musicians.
"It was a very emotional moment yesterday morning to start the first rehearsal," he said. "I'm happy that finally I am making music on stage with the orchestra."