Sunday, September 25, 2016

Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra

Thanks to an alert that I never canceled after the Minnesota Orchestra lockout ended and the orchestra carried on, I received a link the other day to an article by Terry Blain in the Minnesota Star Tribute. It's called "Should the Minnesota Orchestra be looking for Osmo Vänskä's successor?"

It's quite good, and more or less says they should, both because his contract runs only through August, 2019, and because orchestras always need to have an eye on who might be next if something unexpected happens to your current music director. When you don't, and when you're timid, you get situations such as the BSO's two years of guest conductors before Andris Nelsons came on board, and the Met's years with James Levine limited by his health problems.

The article also takes note of Vänskä's well-known strengths and areas he has neglected, very sensibly. But it omits one factor that could keep Vänskä in Minnesota for a good long time: the nasty two-body problem that would have to be solved if he were to decamp. He is married to Erin Keefe, the orchestra's concertmaster. If he leaves, either they default to a commuter marriage, or they need to find an orchestra that needs a music director and a concertmaster. I don't think such double openings come up very often. And I'm surprised that such a well-researched article doesn't at least mention this.


CK Dexter Haven said...

There is two more thing worth mentioning to your other excellent observations:
1) He leaves, she stays in the MO. He then flies to his engagements, whether as MD of a new orchestra or as a guest conductor. This doesn't require them to be apart much more than they are already.

2) Even if #1 above (or the commuter example you mentioned) occurs, the new MD could theoretically decide to let Ms. Keefe go anyways. Concertmaster is the one chair MDs have absolute control over, and has frequently happened, new MDs often like to put their own stamp on an orchestra via the Concertmaster chair. MTT let Kobler go despite a decade-plus tenure at the SFS then brought in Sasha B. Sidney Weiss was hired by Giulini and had the respect of the orchestra but he and LA parted ways after Salonen's first year as MD. Ms. Keefe hasn't been in the Minnesota chair anywhere near as long as those two examples, so it's definitely within the realm of possibilities that a new MD could decide to replace her.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You're totally right, either of those could happen.