Osmo Vänskä is recognised for his compelling interpretations of repertoire from all ages, passionately conveying the authentic message of the composer’s score.
Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra for over a decade, Vänskä has led the orchestra on five major European tours including festivals and venues such as the BBC Proms, Edinburgh Festival, Barbican Concert Hall, Royal Concertgebouw, Berlin Philharmonie, Tivoli Copenhagen and Vienna’s Musikverein. In May 2015, he took the Minnesota Orchestra on a historic trip to Cuba, the first visit by a major US orchestra since the normalisation of relations between the two governments. With Minnesota he has now recorded the complete Beethoven and Sibelius symphony cycles for BIS, garnering rave reviews internationally; while 2016 has also seen Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra returning on tour to Europe, taking in the Edinburgh International Festival, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Tivoli Copenhagen and the Sibelius Hall Lahti.
During 2016/17 with the Minnesota Orchestra Vänskä will record Mahler’s Sixth and Second Symphonies, continuing the cycle begun in June 2016 with the Fifth Symphony. As a guest he will make his debut with Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and return to the Israel and Helsinki philharmonics and New World and Finnish Radio symphony orchestras. In October 2016 he will conduct the complete Sibelius Cycle with the London Phiharmonic Orchestra.
Much in demand as a guest conductor, in North America he has appeared with the New York and Los Angeles philharmonics, The Cleveland and Philadelphia orchestras, the Boston, Chicago, San Francisco symphony orchestras and in Europe with the Berliner Philharmoniker, the BBC Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, Czech and London philharmonics, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Wiener Symphoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
He is Principal Guest Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, having previously held the position of Music Director and was formerly Music Director of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Chief Conductor of BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Vänskä is a distinguished recording artist, primarily for the BIS label. In 2014 his album with the Minnesota Orchestra of Sibelius’ Symphonies Nos.1 and 4 won a Grammy award for Best Orchestral Performance, following the nomination of Symphonies Nos.2 and 5 the year before. Previous albums include a complete Beethoven symphonies cycle; while recordings of Beethoven’s piano concertos with Yevgeny Sudbin, again with the Minnesota Orchestra, have also garnered worldwide praise – including Grammy and Gramophone award nominations.
Vänskä studied conducting at Finland’s Sibelius Academy and was awarded first prize in the 1982 Besançon Competition. He began his career as a clarinetist, occupying, amongst others, the co-principal chair of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and in recent years has enjoyed a return to the clarinet, including on a 2012 recording of Kalevi Aho’s chamber works.
Vänskä is the recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, the Finlandia Foundation’s Arts and Letters award, and the 2010 Ditson Award from Columbia University. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Glasgow and Minnesota and was named Musical America’s 2005 Conductor of the Year. In 2013 he received the Annual Award from the German Record Critics' Award Association for his involvement in BIS’s recordings of the complete works by Sibelius. “Vänskä isn’t only about meticulous preparation. In concert he’s a wiry dynamo: lean, whippy and indefatigably energetic. His interpretations are the same. He never stops probing and pushing.” (The Times)
Vänskä may have been conducting this music all his life, but he has lost nothing of the will to explore further, and still with an urgency and spontaneity that send shivers down one’s back. .... Only Vänskä could deliver a Sibelius symphony cycle that promises to be as exciting as this.” (The Times, October 2016) Photos and text courtesy of Harrison Parrott Photo credit: Kaapo Kamu