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Osmo Vänskä’s farewell concerts end in a thank you, and silence

“I’m going to miss these great players so much that I don’t know even yet,” said Vänskä. “Thank you. Thank you, everybody.”

Osmo Vänskä and the musicians after Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite." The crowd is on its feet.
MinnPost photo by John Whiting

Finnish maestro Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra on Tuesday morning, hasn’t spoken with the press since. But he picked up the microphone after each of the three farewell concerts he led this weekend at the Ted Mann Concert Hall with the musicians he brought to international renown over the past decade. 

Here’s what we heard at the final concert Saturday night – after “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the not-on-the-program “Egmont” Overture, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 (both featuring pianist Emanuel Ax), and Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from “The Firebird.” Visibly moved, Vänskä turned to the sold-out crowd and said:

Thank you very much. This might be the last time I have the chance to conduct this great orchestra. I don’t know what to say … except for just that I’m going to miss you all very, very, very much.

I’m going to miss these great players so much that I don’t know even yet. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

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I thought that I would like to leave you with one piece of — of course — Sibelius.  He wrote it to one play, and there’s a story behind the piece.

A young woman is sleeping and is dreaming and is very happy to see that there is a guy who is inviting her to dance. She accepts, they start to dance, and it goes well, and then the tempo is getting faster and even faster, and then the young lady would like to stop. But at the time the guy is just getting faster and faster and doesn’t want her to leave. He’s squeezing more and more and more, and the tempo is getting faster and faster, wilder and wilder.

And then there’s a moment when this lady understands that she’s not dreaming anymore, that it’s reality, and she’s dancing with Death. And at that moment, she understands that it’s her time. She dies. After that, we need only three church bells coming from the violin at the end.

Osmo Vänskä asking the crowd for silence following the encore.
MinnPost photo by John WhitingOsmo Vänskä asking the crowd for silence
following the encore.

So this is Sibelius’ “Valse Triste,” from the play “Death.”

And I would like to add one more thing. You have been a great audience tonight. You have given so many applause. Thank you for all of those.

I ask you to hold your applause after this encore. I have to say that the situation here is terrible, and the orchestra is in so terrible and … and … like almost hopeless situation right now, and that situation doesn’t need any applause.

As the final notes of “Valse Triste” faded, Vänskä and the musicians left the stage in silence, and the crowd left the concert hall in near silence. 

On YouTube, you can hear Vänskä speak,  “Valse Triste” in its entirety, and the sounds of Vänskäs footsteps and those of Concertmaster Erin Keefe as they walk off the stage ahead of the other musicians.