Praised for his intense and dynamic performances, OSMO VÄNSKÄ is recognized for compelling interpretations of the standard, contemporary, and Nordic repertoires, as well as the close rapport he establishes with the musicians he leads.
In 2003, Vänskä became Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra and has since drawn extraordinary reviews for concerts both at home and abroad. Together they have an annual series at New York’s Carnegie Hall and tour regularly both in the U.S. and Europe – including an exceptional pair of concerts at the 2010 BBC Proms. His contract with the Minnesota Orchestra has been extended until 2015.
Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra’s recordings of the complete Beethoven Symphonies on the BIS label have amassed rave reviews, whilst their recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 received a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best Orchestral Performance. Their most recent release is the first disc in a complete cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos with pianist Yevgeny Sudbin. Future projects include the complete Sibelius Symphonies. For the Hyperion label they have recently recorded Tchaikovsky’s Complete Piano Concertos with pianist Stephen Hough.
Vänskä was Music Director of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra from 1988 and now holds the position of Conductor Laureate. During two decades at the helm, Vänskä transformed the regional ensemble into one of Finland’s flagship orchestras. Their partnership received widespread attention through its complete collection of multi-award-winning Sibelius recordings and its international performances.
Vänskä is internationally in demand as a guest conductor and has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. In Europe he has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestre, and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition he has developed very regular relationships with several of the most important international ensembles, including the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Mostly Mozart Festival in the U.S. and the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris. Future engagements include concerts with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra.
Vänskä began his music career as a clarinetist. He held the co-principal chair of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (1977-82) and the principal chair of the Turku Philharmonic (1971-76). Following conducting studies at Finland’s Sibelius Academy, Vänskä was awarded first prize in the 1982 Besançon International Young Conductor’s Competition. Three years later he began his tenure with the Lahti Symphony as Principal Guest Conductor, while also serving as Music Director of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the Tapiola Sinfonietta. In addition, Vänskä served as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (1997-2002).
In recent years, Vänskä has enjoyed a return to performing on the clarinet. He made his Twin Cities clarinet performance debut at the Sommerfest in 2005 and has played chamber music with members of the Minnesota Orchestra, the Mostly Mozart festivals and in Finland.
The many honors and distinctions awarded to Vänskä include an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow, and a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Minnesota’s School of Music in 2008. He was also honored with a Royal Philharmonic Society Award for his outstanding contribution to classical music. Vänskä was named Musical America’s Conductor of the Year in 2005 and was honored by Columbia University with the 2010 Ditson Conductor’s Award for the advancement of American music.