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

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

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.

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. 

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Barbara Gilbertson on 10/07/2013 - 11:24 am.

    Au revoir

    So very sad. This magnificent orchestra being played by buffoons. Seriously.

  2. Submitted by Rod Loper on 10/07/2013 - 12:38 pm.


    You will never hear this played with such precision and feeling. The
    Devil is at work here.

  3. Submitted by Arthur Horowitz on 10/07/2013 - 04:40 pm.

    This won’t be the last time you conduct this orchestra!

    “..This might be the last time I have the chance to conduct this great orchestra.” No Osmo, the Orchestra will be back (one way or another), and you will hopefully consent to conduct when you are invited to guest conduct. But rest assured, there will be a different Board leadership and direction, namely the current and former Board CEOs and their hired president. There are enough board members that should have known better, and faced with the community’s response, will wake up and realize what they have accomplished and take corrective action. The situation seems “…almost hopeless..” now, but if the Musicians hold together, certainly not an easy task, music will triumph!

  4. Submitted by Michael Wunsch on 10/07/2013 - 04:59 pm.

    Poignant, and deeply sorrowful night

    This concert was like no other I have ever attended. I broke into almost uncontrollable tears as the Valse Triste began, and the two people seated adjacent to me were audibly crying. As I got up to depart my seat after the performance, the sense of grief and loss was so strong that I could not make it out of the auditorium without finding a new seat to collect my emotions. Scattered throughout the auditorium were scores of people crying. Many musicians were visibly in tears as Mr. Vanska spoke, and Mr. Vanska himself appeared to struggle to control his emotions as he addressed the audience. After nearly a year of attempting to achieve a different outcome, it was a devastating moment.

    It is time to rebuild anew. My wife and I are donating to the musicians to help them put on programming this season, and I hope many, many others will join in that effort. Let us help facilitate a rise from the ashes, as represented so eloquently over the weekend as the musicians and Mr. Vanska performed Stravinsky’s Firebird suite.

  5. Submitted by Dana Edstrom on 10/07/2013 - 11:58 pm.

    Thank you, Pamela Espeland, for this poignant footnote

    I had hoped to hear Vanska continue his mastery and magic with the MN Orch for many more years here. I especially remember the partnership with Sudbin on Beethoven concertos. I’ll add some Sibelius to my favorites as well.

    I could not attend any of the final concerts, but the Youtube link you provided gave me a hope for a final, fond, tearful farewell. Instead, I receive this message:

    “This video contains content from AmericanPublicMedia, who has blocked it on copyright grounds.”

    Give me a break, please.

    • Submitted by Pamela Espeland on 10/08/2013 - 09:30 am.


      Dana, can you try again? It was working for me this morning.

    • Submitted by Fletcher Warren on 10/08/2013 - 10:43 am.

      MPR/American Public Media blocked the video last night (I uploaded up). I am disputing their claim under fair use, which is why it’s back up on youtube currently. This is a video all Minnesotans need to hear, and I’m committed to making it available, on a variety of websites, regardless of MPR/APM’s supposed claim.

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