State of the Arts Blog

Minnesota Orchestra pulls out of Carnegie concerts

Management of the Minnesota Orchestra today cancelled two upcoming concerts at Carnegie Hall after contract talks with musicians collapsed.

Music Director Osmo Vanska said in May the cancellation of the Carnegie shows would lead to his resignation.  So far, he has not commented.

Orchestra President and CEO Michael Henson said after waiting for a year for a contract counterproposal from musicians, what they came up with did not come close to solving the organization's financial problems.

"We cannot negotiate with ourselves and we needed the other party to negotiate with us. For the first time today we saw a counterproposal, so we welcomed that. That counterproposal was too little too late," Henson said.

Musicians said they made two contract proposals, one lasting one year, the other lasting three. They said the three year proposal would return musician costs back to the levels of the 2007 contract.   Management dismissed that, saying it calculated that proposal would have cut salaries 4.7 percent.  And management said that amount did not go far enough to close a $6 million deficit.

Musicians representative Blois Olson blamed the collapse of talks, and the cancellations on management.

"They have chosen to drive the car that is the Minnesota Orchestra over the cliff," Olson said.

Musicians say they continue to stand ready to talk at any time.


From the live blog, earlier in the day:

6:50 p.m.

A management representative said the board did not expect a statement from Osmo Vanska until Tuesday at the earliest.

5:35 p.m.

Finnish journalist Vesa Sirén reports that Vanska intends to resign at midnight in Minneapolis if lockout isn't resolved.

5:15 p.m.

The acrimony between musicians and management continues to flow.

4:40 p.m.

The Minnesota Orchestra a few minutes ago put Vanska's future with the group into serious question. Orchestra officials, citing continued contract problems, say they've withdrawn from key concerts in November planned for Carnegie Hall.

Vanska has threatened to leave the orchestra if a contract deal wasn't in place to ensure those concerts happened. No word yet from Vanska or the musicians. But orchestra management made it clear the musicians' counter offer today was inadequate. Below is a fragment from the orchestra's press release. More coming.

Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä outlined to Carnegie Hall management that musicians needed to be in rehearsals the week of September 30 in order to allow appropriate preparation time for the Orchestra’s performances at the New York venue on November 2 and 3. In a letter last spring, Vänskä said that he would resign from the Orchestra if the ensemble did not perform these concerts.

“We have done our very best to try to reach a compromise agreement by September 30,” said Board Negotiating Chair Richard Davis. “We have worked with the mediator, consulted with the Governor, collaborated with community leaders, issued two new proposals in the last two weeks and held a last minute meeting with musician negotiators. In our last proposal, a coalition of funding partners from our community rose to the occasion to offer an improved package so that we might reach an agreement in time to allow these Carnegie Hall concerts to proceed.

We regret that the musicians have rejected our efforts. For this reason, we are left with no choice but to withdraw from the Carnegie Hall performances in November.”

4:20 p.m.

Musicians have called a press conference, expected in 20 to 30 minutes.

3:20 p.m.

Musicians' spokesman Blois Olson: Musicians have presented two "counter offers" and are waiting for management's response.

2:45 p.m. 

Management and musicians are talking, following a musicians' request this morning. Even though the lockout began a year ago, this is one of the few times the two sides have met face to face.

Both say they want to find a deal that will let the musicians return to work this week.

This would satisfy conductor Osmo Vanska's requirement to rehearse this week to prepare for upcoming concerts at Carnegie Hall. Vanska has said he will resign if those events are cancelled.

The two sides seem far apart, arguing over finances, salaries, and artistic control. However both continue to say they believe a deal is still possible today.

2:30 p.m. 

1:40 p.m.

The two sides in the bitter Minnesota Orchestra dispute are trying to find a time to meet today to possibly avert the departure of music director Osmo Vanska.

Both sides hold the other responsible for the fact there were no negotiations over the weekend. Both sides say they want a deal, and that it is still possible to reach one today.

Management wants to meet and the management team was available all weekend and did not hear from the musicians, orchestra chief executive Michael Henson said.

Musicians say they tried to engage the board but were rebuffed. They stand ready to negotiate, musicians representative Blois Olson said.

"We have copied the mediator on our request to meet,” Olson said. “He has told us he is available by phone all day, and we hope the other side will come to the table."

The orchestra's management has set a deadline of today for a deal which they hope will prevent the departure of music director Osmo Vanska.