Standing ovations, tears for Vanska as conductor begins waving his baton goodbye

Emotion floated through the lobby of the Ted Mann Concert Hall Friday night before before Osmo Vanska, who resigned as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra on Tuesday, conducted the first of three farewell concerts in Minneapolis.

  1. Listen Standing ovations, tears for Vanska as conductor begins waving his baton goodbye

Conductor Osmo Vanska receives applause in his the first of three final concerts on at the Ted Mann Concert Hall in Minneapolis on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Vanska resigned last week following a year long lockout of the orchestra by management due to a labor dispute. (Judy Griesedieck for MPR)

There was excitement Vanska would lead the musicians he built into a world-class ensemble and sadness that partnership is ending. There was expectation of standing ovations, and a hunger for the crisp sound of the Minnesota Orchestra under Vanska’s baton.

Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the lights went down and Vanska walked on stage and the crowd exploded in applause.

It was the first of several standing ovations during the evening. Vanska led the orchestra quickly through the national anthem, and then it turned its attention to Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.

Classical Minnesota Public Radio to broadcast Saturday concert live

The orchestra played with beauty and skill, but the eyes of the crowd were on Vanska. Wearing one of his collarless dark suits, his conducting was a performance in itself. At times he moved like a dancer, coaxing the notes into the air with his body. Sometimes he spread his arms as if to scoop the music from the instruments before him, and from soloist Emanuel Ax.

During intermission the crowd quietly buzzed about what it heard — and about orchestral politics. Volunteers collected donations for the locked out musicians, and the anti-management sentiment was clear. College professor Bob Cowgill has been attending the Minnesota orchestra since he was in Junior High. Cowgill blames the orchestra board for Vanska’s departure.

“They have made a miscalculation, and it takes a big community to step back and realize they made a mistake, and I hope they can do that.”

The audience applauded as Vanska returned to the podium. As the clapping died someone shouted from the back: “We love you, Osmo.” The crowd erupted again. Vanska looked out and smiled sadly. He then turned away as if to compose himself for a few moments, then turned back and nodded his thanks.

There was another standing ovation after the Orchestra played Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, and that’s when Vanska took the mike and spoke.

“I am going to miss you very, very much, And I am going to miss this fabulous orchestra,” he said as the audience applauded again.

He said for the encore he wanted to perform some Sibelius. He said the piece he chose is about a girl who dreams she is dancing with a young man. Then she realizes she’s not dreaming, and the man leading her in the dance is Death. Vanska said he wasn’t quite sure what to say on this night.

“But for me, those are the feelings,” he said

He thanked the audience for their generous applause, but asked that they hold their clapping after the orchestra played the “Valse Triste” by Sibelius.

After the final note ended Vanska stepped off the podium, shook hands with concertmaster Erin Keefe and walked off stage in silence, followed by the musicians.

In the lobby, many people, including Karen Paulsen Rivit, were in tears.

“It was a beautiful concert tonight,” she said. “But the ending was pretty tough. Pretty tough.”

Osmo Vanska will lead the musicians if the Minnesota Orchestra Saturday afternoon and evening in his final two concerts. Both events are sold out.

  • patman683

    The encore was a powerful statement. The dream of re-birth and hymn of thanksgiving represented by the story of the Firebird is shattered with the reality of the dance with death that’s been squeezing the life out of the organization for the past year. Osmo needed to say nothing more that “those are the feelings,” as the music said more than enough. What an arduous and beautiful night. I will never forget it!

  • Koelnmusik

    I weep and always will as Osmo made this Orchestra “Sing” as my colleagues in Europe have said for many years! Dancer’s, Musician’s, Maestro’s, Choreographer’s and so many it would take a large article to mention all of them!
    Ballerina (now retired); however still coach, teach, choreograph, and set works as requested.
    I opened the 100 year Season at the request of Kenneth Dayton, ( I was residing out of state) via Sanda Hyslop. I flew in for the event and my family was given the highest honor! Eight of whom once graced this now silent stage beginning in 1909 with my grandfather Karl Scheurer (froim Koeln, Germany) pupil of Josef Joachim at the Royal Hochschule in Berlin, Germany. When Joachim passed away in 1907 my grandfather was “invited” to join the Boston Symphony. He then left Boston in 1909 for Minneapolis and began to build an Orchestra with his friends from Europe. The best in the world! He lived to be 97 years old and is cited in many pubilications worldwide. It was his vision and his desire to make it great and it was for 110 years! He sponsored his colleagues from Europe, paid their passage on ships, and provided them with housing when they arrived Minneapolis.
    When I had the great pleasure to meet Osmo I advised him that he was “dancing” on the Podium. Every gesture he made with his movements; hands, arms, elevating off the Podium in each performance was dance in a very pure form! He felt the music through every part of his body as a dancer would. Electricity! Every one of his gestures there IS a ballet term to match and I can name them. He down played it always a modest man with kindness and compassion for his art!
    His departure music is very telling to me as a dancer. His choice of works performed tell their own story IF one is listens with great care!
    First Beethoven – the foto below I gifted him from my family archives from Koeln. He recorded all nine symphonies and to date they are still and will remain extraordinary.
    His choice of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” is of course another famous ballet difficult on so many levels. I set Balanchine’s “Firebird” and its’ challenges are endless. Yet Osmo made it look easy!
    He chose his beloved “Sibelius” – I gifted him a score from 1903 from the family archives which ironically he had recorded in Lahti. He was in awe at the time that I had an original. Of course it belonged to him and my family would have wished that.
    Osmo – the GREAT MAESTRO! You risked it all for your Orchestra and knew what the outcome would be I am sure of that. (although you have been gracious not to say).
    Your choice of music of your final concerts were well thought out. They are very similar to the famous ballets; “Sprectre de la Rose”, “Giselle” and Baryshnikov dancing the opening in the film “WHITE NIGHTS” choreographed to “Bach”. Once again, death, life, dance! Ghosts!
    I met Dorati when I was three years old and sat captive audience my lifetime at Northrup and at Lake Harriet! Myself, Paul Straka, and Mark Volpe. I was in the Minneapolis Youth Symphony – yes, violin, viola, – did I have a choice? No! It was traditiion. Then I was able to dance and my grandfather, mother, uncles, aunts so proud. Myself, always in tears as to me it was never good enough!
    Below some of the fotos of the family archives (gifted by default).
    The world mourns this loss! Many Orchestra’s, Musician’s, Dancer’s worldwde.
    I weep and tears stream down my face as I write this.
    Konstanze Scheurer
    On behalf of “The Scheurer’s of Koeln, Germany”
    May God Bless YOU ALL – Thank you for the MUSIC OF MY LIFE!
    I danced with this once great Orchestra numerous times in my career. Greatly missed! Shame on the MOA and Minnesota has lost something I never believed was possible!

  • Koelnmusik

    More editing tomorrow, severe winds and communication and links go up and down! Konstanze Scheurer on behalf of The Scheurer’s of Koeln, Germany – fotos from my family archives.