Esa-Pekka Salonen

*appeared with touring orchestra only

  • Conductor
Esa-Pekka Salonen

©Katja Tähjä

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In 2012/2013 Composer/Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen commences his fifth season as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra London. After seventeen years at its helm as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he also holds the title of Conductor Laureate (since 2009).

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s artistic collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra has been dominated by landmark multi-disciplinary festivals, exploring the music of key 20th-century composers and musical movements in their widest possible cultural, social and historical context. In 2013 the Philharmonia Orchestra will mark the centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski with Woven Words: “Music begins where words end”, a pan-European portrait of Salonen’s teacher and mentor, Witold Lutosławski. 2013 also marks another important centenary, that of the first performance of Stravinsky’s iconic ballet The Rite of Spring. Esa-Pekka Salonen will be celebrating the work, leading the Philharmonia in performances at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris (where it was premiered in 1913) as well as at the Royal Festival Hall in London almost one hundred years to the day it was first performed. Autumn 2012 will also see Salonen embark on an expansive tour with the Philharmonia through the United States including a residency at University of California, Berkeley.

Salonen’s appointment with the Philharmonia cements a relationship that dates back over 25 years. He made his London conducting début at the age of 25 with the Philharmonia Orchestra in September 1983, stepping in at the last minute to lead a now-legendary performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. He accepted the position of Principal Guest Conductor, which he held from 1985-1994, and has returned to conduct the Orchestra on a regular basis ever since. Some of the Philharmonia’s most ambitious and important projects during this time, from Clocks and Clouds (Ligeti, 1996) to Related Rocks (Magnus Lindberg, 2001-2), took place under his artistic leadership.

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s operatic work extends well beyond the boundaries of conventional repertoire, stretching from Wagner to Saariaho. In 2013, he will lead an anticipated new production of Strauss’ Elektra directed by Patrice Chéreau at Aix-en-Provence Festival. A previous Chéreau / Salonen collaboration led to performances of the production of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead described after it opened at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 2009 as “the operatic event of the year”. Elektra in 2013 is a co-production with La Scala, Milano and The Metropolitan Opera in New York where it will appear in forthcoming seasons under his baton.

Salonen holds the position of Artistic Director and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival, an event that annually invites celebrated orchestras, conductors and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea. In summer 2012, he will take his unique and widely acclaimed production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde to the festival, performing it with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The production, first performed in Los Angeles in 2004, was created in close collaboration with Director Peter Sellars and video artist Bill Viola, and will also travel to the Helsinki Festival in August 2012.

As a composer, Salonen’s works are regularly performed and broadcast around the world; Floof and LA Variations have become established as modern classics. His Violin Concerto is the winner of the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and was premiered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2009 by Leila Josefowicz. It has since been played widely in Europe and the USA. Three major retrospectives of his work (most recent at Festival Présences Paris, in February 2011, at the Stockholm International Composer Festival in October 2004 and at Musica Nova, Helsinki, in March 2003) were presented to capacity audiences and were critically acclaimed. He has completed several works for symphony orchestra: Foreign Bodies (2001), commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Insomnia (2002), co-commissioned by Suntory Hall, Tokyo and Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Wing on Wing (2004), which received its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall in June 2004 and was a gift from the composer to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in honour of their new home. In February 2007, Salonen conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance of his piano concerto, dedicated to Yefim Bronfman, who also premiered it. This concerto was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, the BBC, Radio France, and NDR Hamburg. The music of Esa-Pekka Salonen is published exclusively by Chester Music.

New recordings involving Salonen’s compositions in 2012 include a Deutsche Grammophon release of his Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz and his 2011 Orchestral work Nyx with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. A CD of five of his orchestral works is available on Sony. Deutsche Grammophon released a portrait CD of his orchestral works performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer, as well as a CD with Salonen’s Piano Concerto and his works Helix and Dichotomie. The second disc, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Yefim Bronfman was nominated for a Grammy in November 2009.

In addition to the recordings of his own compositions, Esa-Pekka Salonen has a considerable discography. During 2012, new releases on Deutsche Gramophon will include the first ever recording of Shostakovich’s previously undiscovered opera prologue Orango with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as a release of some of Henri Dutilleux’s most important works recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in the presence of the composer. In September 2009, a new collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra’s partner label Signum was launched with the release of a live recording of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder; other recent and forthcoming recordings with the Philharmonia on Signum include Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Mahler’s 6th and 9th symphonies. On Deutsche Grammophon, Salonen’s recordings include a DVD of Kaija Saariaho’s opera, L’Amour de loin (with the Finnish National Opera) as well as two CDs with Hélène Grimaud featuring works by Pärt and Schumann. His first recording with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon (Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – the first CD recording ever at Walt Disney Concert Hall) was released in October 2006 and nominated for a Grammy in December 2007. Sony Classical has recorded a wide repertoire, ranging from Mahler and Revueltas to Magnus Lindberg and his own works.

At the beginning of the 2010/11 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen began a residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. The project “Expedition Salonen” has woven his life as conductor, composer and creator into the fabric of the Konzerthaus Dortmund’s artistic life over three consecutive seasons. He has appeared in Dortmund with the Philharmonia Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and as part of the hugely successful interactive Digital Installation with the Philharmonia, Re-Rite (taken to Dortmund in Autumn 2011).

Salonen’s dedication to technology, digital platforms and outreach has been realised through his work with the Philharmonia Orchestra on a number of innovative projects. Together in 2012, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Digital Department have created Universe of Sound an interactive hi-definition major installation at the Science Museum in London. In recent seasons, the award winning Re-Rite, first exhibited in London in 2009 has gone on to appear in Portugal, China and Turkey as well as Germany, returning to London as part of the Rite of Spring Centenary in Spring 2013.

During Salonen’s tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009, his contributions extended far beyond subscription concerts and international tours. The genesis of many unique festivals and collaborations under his leadership included a production of Saint François d’Assise at the Salzburg Festival (1992), and a “Stravinsky Festival” together with Pierre Boulez at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (1996). Salonen’s orchestral guest appearances are also diverse and include regular appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony (BRSO) and North German Radio Symphony (NDR), as well as the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic.

Salonen is the recipient of many major awards, including the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, UNESCO Rostrum Prize for his composition Floof in 1992 and the Siena Prize, given by the Accademia Chigiana in 1993; he is the first conductor ever to receive the prize. In 1995 he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Opera Award, and he received the Society’s Conductor Award in 1997. In 1998, the French government awarded him the rank of Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In May 2003, he was given an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Finland. He won the Helsinki Medal in 2005. Musical America named Salonen as its “Musician of the Year” in 2006. In June 2009 Salonen received an honorary doctorate from the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. He was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in April 2010, and granted further honorary doctorates by the University of Southern California in May 2010 and the Royal College of Music London in May 2011.