© Katja Tähjä
Brief Biography: Esa-Pekka Salonen has progressed through a number of stylistic phases during his career as a composer. In the late 1970s when he was studying with Rautavaara at the Sibelius Academy, he wrote in a lyrical, neo-Romantic style; a few years later, after studying in Italy with Donatoni and Castiglioni, he adopted strict serial principals, notably in his Yta series of solo pieces. For a number of years after his conducting career took off in 1983, he had little time for composition, but began to write once again in the mid-1990s, mostly in larger forms, with a new sense of energy, joie de vivre and orchestral brilliance.For a complete biography, click here.
(1982; chamber ensemble)
- LA Variations
(2000; cello, orchestra or ensemble)
- Wing on Wing (2004; two sopranos, orchestra)
- Piano Concerto (2007)
- Homunculus (2007; string quartet)
- Violin Concerto (2009)
- Nyx (2011; orchestra)
- 1981 completes first large-scale work…auf den ersten Blick und ohne zu wissen…
- 1983 co-founds Avanti! Chamber Orchestra in Finland with Jukka-Pekka Saraste
- 1985 appointed chief conductor of Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
- 1992 appointed Music Director of Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
- 1995-6 Artistic Director of Helsinki Festival
- 1997 premiere of LA Variations in Los Angeles
- 2008 appointed principal conductor of Philharmonia Orchestra, London
- 2011 artist-in-residence at Festival Présences, Paris
Critical Acclaim:...there’s a poetic magic and an intense clarity underneath it all that keeps you on the edge of your seat.— Diane Peterson, Press DemocratSalonen’s recent orchestral scores have an assertive, luminous tonal confidence that seems to state ‘problem solved’ – even if it does so in kaleidoscopically rich colours.— Martin Anderson, TempoSalonen is a skillful dramatist who masters the sustained tension in such a way that even his colleagues from the movie industry must be peering in wonder at this Finn.— Manfred Müller, Kölnische Rundschau
Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen has been Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra London since 2008 and Artistic Director of the Baltic Sea Festival since 2003. After seventeen years at its helm as Music Director, he also holds the title of Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 2009.
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.
In his first season as Principal Conductor in 2008, he devised and led the City of Dreams project, a nine-month exploration of the music and culture of Vienna between 1900 and 1935, which travelled to 18 European cities. With the Philharmonia and in other projects, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s work has consistently focused on multi-artform collaboration, artistic excellence and rich learning opportunities, rediscovering and reinvigorating the music of the past for our times.
For the 2011/12 season, he continues his artistic odyssey with the Philharmonia through performances of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard's Castle in collaboration with video collective Yeast Culture as part of the project “Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók”, launched in January 2011. With 20 concerts in 11 European cities, the project will explore the life, influences and music of Béla Bartók.
Also this season at the annual Baltic Sea Festival, which invites celebrated orchestras, conductors and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea, Esa-Pekka Salonen pays homage to his rich artistic legacy in Scandinavia by programming and collaborating with the region’s top artistic institutions. Since its inception, these have included, among others, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (where he made his conducting debut in 1979), the Helsinki Philharmonic, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (of which he was Chief Conductor from 1985-1995) and the Helsinki Festival (of which he was Artistic Director in 1995 and 1996).
At the beginning of the 2010/11 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen began a residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. The project “Expedition Salonen” weaves his life as conductor, composer and creator into the fabric of the Konzerthaus Dortmund’s artistic life over three consecutive seasons. Following successful installations in London, Leicester and Lisbon, the interactive project RE-RITE was resident in Dortmund in October/November 2011. Created with the Philharmonia Orchestra, this award-winning digital installation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring showcases Esa-Pekka’s dedication to technology, digital platforms and outreach.
During Salonen’s tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009, and since he has accepted the position of Conductor Laureate from 2009, his contributions extended far beyond subscription concerts and international tours. The genesis of many unique festivals and collaborations under his leadership included his “Tristan Project” in collaboration with Peter Sellars and visual artist Bill Viola (2007), 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). In November/December 2011 Salonen will return to the LA Philharmonic and conduct the world premiere of the recently discovered Shostakovitch opera “Orango”.
Salonen’s operatic work also extends well beyond the boundaries of conventional repertoire, stretching from Wagner to Saariaho. He has conducted in the world’s greatest houses, including Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and the Metropolitan Opera, among others. His 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) in Europe, as well as the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic in the USA.
As a composer, Salonen’s works are regularly performed and broadcast around the world; Floof and LA Variations have become established as modern classics. 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. In April 2009, his violin concerto written for Leila Josefowicz was premiered in Los Angeles. For this work, Salonen received the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.
A CD of five 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 (who also premiered the Piano Concerto in February 2007 in New York), was nominated for a Grammy in November 2009. Salonen's most recent works were commissioned as part of the Présences Festival in Paris in February 2011 – Dona Nobis Pacem for unaccompanied children's choir and a new work for orchestra, Nyx. Nyx will receive further performances from its co-commissioning partners Carnegie Hall, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Barbican Centre and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra before a recording release in 2012.
In addition to the recordings of his own compositions, Esa-Pekka Salonen has a considerable discography. 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 most recent releases 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.
Salonen is the recipient of many major awards, including the 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.
The music of Esa-Pekka Salonen is published exclusively by Chester Music..