Conductor laureate of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he held the music directorship for 19 years, and music director of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra from 2020 to 2023, Osmo Vänskä is recognized for his compelling interpretations of repertoire of all eras and an energetic presence on the podium. His democratic and inclusive style of work has been key in forging long-standing relationships with many orchestras worldwide.
Performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 with Minnesota Orchestra in June 2022 provided a fitting culmination for Vänskä’s tenure as music director. Together they undertook five major European tours, as well as an historic trip to Cuba in 2015 — the first visit by an American orchestra since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations. They also made a ground-breaking tour to South Africa in 2018 as part of worldwide celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s centenary — furthermore, the first visit by an American orchestra — drawing together South African and American performers in musical expressions of peace, freedom and reconciliation on a five-city tour. Vanska and Minnesota Orchestra also made an acclaimed return to London’s BBC Proms in summer 2018.
Vänskä will conduct Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra on a major European tour in autumn 2022, including concerts in Vienna, Salzburg, Amsterdam and London. He will return to guest conduct the Seoul Philharmonic several times in spring 2023.
He returns this season to the symphony and philharmonic orchestras of Bamberg, Chicago, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Israel, Houston, Montreal and Pittsburgh, among others, while past guest conducting invitations include renowned international ensembles such as Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Francisco orchestras in North America, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Iceland Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, as well as the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He is regularly invited to guest conduct in Asia, including the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and China, Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Taiwan philharmonics.
Vänskä continues to develop a visiting and touring relationship with Curtis Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra, leading conducting seminars as well as tours in Europe, the United States and Asia. He has also been invited to guest conduct New World Symphony in Miami, where he additionally coaches its conducting fellows.
A distinguished recording artist for the BIS label, Vänskä is currently recording all of Mahler’s symphonies with Minnesota Orchestra. The Fifth Symphony received a Grammy nomination in 2017 for best orchestral performance. Vänskä and Minnesota have also recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Sibelius to critical acclaim, winning a Grammy Award for best orchestral performance in 2014, as well as being nominated on several occasions. In 2021, Vänskä and Minnesota were voted Gramophone’s Orchestra of the Year.
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 the co-principal chair of Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly performs chamber music at La Jolla Summerfest, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Naantali Summer Festival, Sysmä Summer Sounds and Music in Ruovesi, to name a few. He has recorded Bernhard Henrik Crusell’s three clarinet quartets and Kalevi Aho’s Clarinet Quintet for the BIS label. He is in the process of recording several duos for clarinet and violin which he has commissioned with his wife, violinist Erin Keefe.
Vänskä is the recipient of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award, the Finlandia Foundation’s Arts and Letters Award, the 2010 Ditson Award from Columbia University and the Pro Finlandia medal awarded to him by the nation of Finland. 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 was honored by the German Record Critics’ Award Association for his involvement in BIS’ recordings of the complete works by Sibelius.