MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vanska resigned Tuesday amid a labor impasse that has dragged on for more than a year as management pushed for deep cuts to musicians' salaries.
The renowned Finnish maestro released a statement saying he was giving notice of his immediate resignation from the orchestra he has fostered to world-class status and garnering critics' praise the world over.
In the most recent negotiations, orchestra managers last week asked for musicians to accept pay cuts reaching 25 percent by the final year of a three-year deal, plus a bonus of $20,000 per musician. Musicians unanimously rejected that plan on Saturday.
In his statement, Vanska said it was a "very sad day." "I send my deepest thanks to everyone involved for what we have achieved together and I wish the Minnesota Orchestra all the very best for its future," he said.
The orchestra on Monday canceled performances planned for early November at Carnegie Hall due to the labor dispute. Vanska had threatened to resign if the orchestra and musicians didn't reach agreement with sufficient time to save the New York performances.
After seeing the Minnesota Orchestra play at Carnegie Hall in 2010, The New Yorker's classical music critic Alex Ross wrote that they "sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world." Management has said that even as the orchestra's reputation grew, attendance at its performances has remained flat, corporate and individual support declined and it received poor results from its investments. Musicians' salaries rose 3 percent to 4 percent per year under the previous contract.
Both management and the musicians said they were sorry to see Vanska go. "Through his tenure, he has led the orchestra to remarkable musical heights. We enjoyed a truly rare chemistry with him and are deeply grateful to Osmo for imparting his passionate vision, exacting discipline and the resulting confidence that came from being at the top of our game," the musicians said in a statement.
Orchestra president and CEO Michael Henson said it was too early to talk about finding a replacement for Vanska, who led the Minnesota Orchestra for 10 years. "We want to acknowledge the great work Osmo has done. Our biggest challenge remains getting the musicians back to the negotiating table and getting them to acknowledge the extent of the financial problems we face," Henson told The Associated Press Tuesday.