About this Artist
Conductor Laureate of the Minnesota Orchestra, where he held the music directorship for 19 years, and Music Director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra from 2020 to 2023, Osmo Vänskä is recognized for his compelling interpretations of repertoire of all ages 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 the 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 a historic trip to Cuba in 2015—the first visit by an American orchestra since the two countries reestablished diplomatic relations. They also made a groundbreaking tour to South Africa in 2018 as part of worldwide celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s centenary—also 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. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra also made an acclaimed return to London’s BBC Proms in summer 2018.
Vänskä led the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra on a major European tour in the fall of 2022, including concerts in Vienna, Salzburg, Amsterdam, and London. He returns to guest conduct the Seoul Philharmonic several times in 2023.
In the 2022/23 season, Vänskä returns to the symphony and philharmonic orchestras of Bamberg, Chicago, Los Angeles, Helsinki, Israel, Houston, Montreal, and Pittsburgh. Past guest-conducting invitations include renowned international ensembles such as the Cleveland, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Symphony 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 with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the China, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, and Taiwan philharmonic orchestras.
Vänskä continues to develop a visiting and touring relationship with the Curtis Institute of Music Symphony Orchestra, leading conducting seminars as well as tours in Europe, the U.S., and Asia. He has also been invited to guest conduct the 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 the Minnesota Orchestra. His recording of Symphony No. 5 received a Grammy nomination in 2017 for Best Classical Orchestral Performance. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra have also recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Sibelius to critical acclaim, winning a Grammy Award for Best Classical Orchestral Performance in 2014 as well as being nominated on several other occasions. In 2021, they 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 the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. He regularly performs chamber music, having been invited to La Jolla Summerfest, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, Naantali Music Festival, Sysmä Summer Sounds, and Music in Ruovesi. He has recorded Bernhard Henrik Crusell’s three Clarinet Quartets and Kalevi Aho’s Clarinet Quintet for the BIS label and is 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 State 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 received the Annual Award from the German Record Critics’ Award Association for his involvement in BIS’ recordings of the complete works of Sibelius.