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Maestro says Minnesota Orchestra President should step down

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As the Minnesota Orchestra has returned to the stage after the long lockout, crowds have shouted, "We want Osmo!" and "Bring back Osmo!" as they have applauded, calling for the return of the acclaimed former conductor and music director.

Now Osmo Vänskä is stating clearly whom he doesn't think should be back as the orchestra returns: Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson.

MPR News reported that in an interview with Classical Minnesota Public Radio, Vänskä said, “For any healing to begin at the orchestra, Michael Henson must go.” The report noted that Vänskä had publicly held his tongue about the parties involved in the conflict while the dispute was ongoing.

MPR said that "...a request for comment from Michael Henson was declined." He also declined to speak to a reporter from the Star Tribune. The newspaper called Henson "a lightning rod for criticism from musicians and their supporters" during the lockout. At the beginning of the lockout, musicians took a vote of no confidence in Henson.

The newspaper reported that the first direct comments from Vänskä on the state of the orchestra caused the "turmoil that has followed the organization for more than 16 months" to resurface as musicians took the stage at Orchestra Hall on Saturday.

"The public nature of Vänskä’s statement on Saturday is remarkable," wrote the Star Tribune's Graydon Royce, who has closely covered the lockout, adding that Vänskä "...has told friends privately that he would return only if Henson were let go."

A statement from the new board chair of the orchestra expressed dismay at the maestro's comments. “We are surprised Osmo chose to register his comments with the news media when those conversations belong within the Orchestral Association,” said Gordon Sprenger. “This weekend is a time to celebrate that the Minnesota Orchestra is performing onstage in the renovated Orchestra Hall, and we are sorry to pull any focus from that celebratory event.”

Vänskä, who had been music director since 2003, resigned in October to protest the stalemate in the ongoing labor dispute.

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