Osmo Vänskä: Work comes first

On September 28 and 29, the OSM welcomes Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä. His dynamic approach and unflagging dedication make him an exceptionally sought-after conductor.

From Finland to Korea: a steadily successful career

Osmo Vänskä began his music career as a clarinetist with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra before embarking on studies in orchestral conducting at the Sibelius Academy. After winning the Besançon International Competition for Young Conductors in 1982, he was appointed conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. Then began a career that brought him international renown. Conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra successively, in 2003 he was appointed Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he held for 19 years before going on to conduct the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra in 2020. A guest with various orchestras throughout the world, Osmo Vänskä has received many honorary decorations, while his recordings have garnered frequent awards and wide critical acclaim.

I did not expect to have a huge international career. I only wanted to conduct and do my best. Renown is not one of my key concerns. The most important is my work.

— Osmo Vänskä

Above and beyond, again and again

Vänskä feels that a conductor’s greatest challenge is to avoid repeating old habits, instead always approaching their work with renewed interest. In his view, the method is simple: every concert must be better than the last. For Vänskä, any orchestra has a potential that can be exceeded. While demanding, Osmo Vänskä remains close to his musicians. He does not seek status as an authority figure, nor does he insist on being called “Maestro,” and regards himself simply as one of the orchestra’s musicians. This approach, coupled with 20 years of tireless work at the head of the Minnesota Orchestra have elevated the latter to one of the best orchestras in the United States.

An eclectic musician

A famed conductor and clarinetist, Osmo Vänskä is also a composer. At times, he lays down his baton to pick up his clarinet and perform in chamber formation. Known for being a specialist of Scandinavian composers—he has recorded the complete symphonies of both Nielsen and Sibelius—Vänskä’s broad repertoire spans Mozart and Beethoven to Rachmaninoff and Mahler to contemporary works, especially by Finnish composers.

He will lead the OSM on September 28 and 29 in the program Osmo Vänskä and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5.