MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Orchestra on Monday canceled upcoming performances at Carnegie Hall due to its contract impasse with musicians — a move that could lead to the departure of its Finnish conductor, Osmo Vanska.
Vanska had threatened to resign if the orchestra and musicians didn't reach agreement in time to save the early November performances at Carnegie Hall. Vanska's London-based talent agent did not immediately respond to several emails Monday seeking comment.
The musicians on Saturday rejected the latest contract offer from the orchestra's management, which locked-out the musicians about a year ago as it pushed them for pay concessions. The sides have made little progress since.
"We have done our very best to try to reach a compromise agreement by September 30," Richard Davis, chairman of the board's negotiating committee, said in a press release. He said he hoped it would not mean Vanska's departure, but acknowledged his previous ultimatum.
"We understand that our music director considers these New York performances vital to his Minnesota tenure and we share his disappointment at having to withdraw from the concerts, but we could no longer commit to the dates given the decision by the musicians to reject our proposals," Davis said. Vanska's contact with the Orchestra runs through September 2015.
The musicians union said it made two counterproposals Monday, but management rejected both. The orchestra's management dismissed the union counteroffers as "eleventh-hour proposals."
"If the other side decides they would like to meet, we're prepared to meet," union spokesman Blois Olson said late Monday afternoon.
Prior to the labor dispute, the Minnesota Orchestra had seen its reputation grow under Vanska, who took the helm in 2003. After an earlier Carnegie Hall performance in 2003, the classical music critic for the New Yorker wrote that "they sounded, to my ears, like the greatest orchestra in the world."
Management says even as the orchestra's reputation grew, attendance at its performances was flat, corporate and individual support declined and it received poor results from its investments. Musician salaries rose 3 to 4 percent per year under the previous contract.
Musicians contend that the salaries reflected the skill involved in reaching the top ranks of U.S. orchestras, and that big salary cuts would result in a decline in its quality.
If Vanska does leave the Minnesota Orchestra, its entire future could be in doubt.