Osmo Vänskä (born 28 February 1953 Sääminki, Finland) is a Finnish orchestra conductor. He started his musical career as an orchestral clarinettist with the Turku Philharmonic (1971-1976). He then became the principal clarinet of the Helsinki Philharmonic from 1977 to 1982. During this time, he started to study conducting with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy, where his classmates included Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka-Pekka Saraste. In 1982 he won the Besançon Young Conductor's Competition.
He became principal guest conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in 1985, and chief conductor in 1988. He concluded his tenure with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in 2008 and is now the orchestra's Conductor Laureate. His complete set of Sibelius symphonies with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, also on the BIS label, has gathered widespread acclaim. He has recorded extensively with his Lahti orchestra for the BIS label, including music of Kalevi Aho, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Bernhard Henrik Crusell, Uuno Klami, Tauno Marttinen, Robert Kajanus, Sofia Gubaidulina, Joonas Kokkonen, Jan Sandström, and Fredrik Pacius.
Vänskä was chief conductor of the Iceland Symphony Orchestra from 1993-1996. In 1996, he was appointed chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBCSSO), and served in that capacity until 2002. With the BBCSSO, he made recordings of the complete Carl Nielsen symphonies for the BIS label.
In 2003, he became the music director of the Minnesota Orchestra. Vänskä and the orchestra have received critical praise, and he is generally regarded as having enhanced the quality of the orchestra. In 2004, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra began a five-year project to record the complete Beethoven symphonies on the BIS label. In 2005, Vänskä signed a contract extension with the Minnesota Orchestra through at least 2011. In November 2006, Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra began a 10-year project of performing all of the symphonies of Anton Bruckner in performances both at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall and the Cathedral of Saint Paul.
Vänskä and his wife Pirkko, a freelance drama critic, have a home in Minneapolis. They have three grown children. One of Vänskä's hobbies is motorcycles. His son Olli plays violin in the Finnish folk metal band Turisas.
In May 2008 an orchestral piece composed by Vänskä titled "The Bridge" was premiered by the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, led by William Schrickel, assistant-principal bassist of the Minnesota Orchestra. Vänskä himself attended the world premiere.
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