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Differing Sources: Minnesota Orchestra Board Supports President Michael Henson, Wants Osmo Vänskä as Guest Conductor

By Louise Burton l.burton@classicalite.com on Mar 14, 2014 10:12 PM EDT

Nearly two weeks ago, the Minnesota Orchestra's board of directors met to decide some of the ensemble's lingering leadership issues, including the status of the orchestra's controversial president, Michael Henson, and whether Osmo Vänskä will be asked back as music director.

After the meeting, board chairman Gordon Sprenger said, "...the board came to very strong agreement on leadership and a positive direction for the organization," but he declined to give any specifics.

On Monday, several board members gave an inkling to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune as to what that positive direction might be. They said that Vänskä might be asked to take on a more limited role with the orchestra, such as principal guest conductor. In such a role, he would lead 8 to 10 concerts a season--with no administrative duties.

The paper noted that it is unclear if Vänskä would accept such a role. Sprenger is reportedly seeking to meet with Vänskä to discuss the matter with him.

However, another board source said that the possibility of Vänskä returning as music director is, quote, "still not off the table."

Sources also said that the board voted strongly in favor of keeping Henson as president of the Minnesota Orchestral Association. But still another source said he did not consider that decision to be final.

Henson has been the focus of much criticism from the press, musicians and people in the community over his handling of the bitter contract dispute between the MOA and the orchestra's musicians that dragged on for 15 months.

Vänskä has said publicly that Henson must go, if there is to be any healing at the Minnesota Orchestra. He indicated that he would not return as music director while Henson was president.

At least for now, it seems that the board is siding with Henson. So, it looks like the situation in Minnesota will stay much the same: Henson will maintain his grip as president, and Vänskä will remain at best an occasional guest conductor.

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TagsMinnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestral Association, Osmo Vänskä, Michael Henson, Gordon Sprenger, Star-Tribune

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