Esa-Pekka Salonen is awarded an Honorary Knighthood

Conductor Esa Pekka Salonen on stage during a concert

The Philharmonia Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen has been awarded an Honorary Knighthood (KBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, for services to music and UK-Finland relations.

Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “This is a true personal honour, but more than that, it is meaningful to have artists honoured at a national—at a historical—level. It shows an appreciation of art-making as a necessary part of society. A recognition that culture is who we are, not just what we do. I am grateful for my time in London and throughout the UK with the Philharmonia Orchestra. I share this with them.”

Lord King of Lothbury, Chair of the Philharmonia Orchestra, said: “Everyone at the Philharmonia, and all music-lovers, will be delighted to learn that Esa-Pekka, our Principal Conductor, has been honoured in this way. His contribution to British musical life over many decades has been inspirational.”

Alexander Van Ingen, Chief Executive of the Philharmonia, said: “We are hugely pleased that Esa-Pekka’s exceptional work with the Philharmonia Orchestra has been recognised with an Honorary Knighthood. It is a fitting honour for the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor in his second decade with this great Orchestra; the Philharmonia is very proud to continue creating music with Esa-Pekka – congratulations, E-P!”

The recognition of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s incredible contribution to British cultural life comes in his final season as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia, based at London’s Southbank Centre, a position he has held since 2008. From the 2021/22 Season he will continue his relationship with the Orchestra as Conductor Emeritus.

The shutdown brought by COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the Philharmonia and Salonen’s plans for his final season, but Salonen has led an artistic response to the crisis, most recently conducting an innovative performance of Beethoven’s The Creatures of Prometheus, narrated by Stephen Fry, in the Philharmonia free YouTube series, the Philharmonia Sessions (still available to watch).

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s tenure at the Philharmonia has seen a flowering of innovation both on-stage and off. At the Southbank Centre, he has led the creation of a series of critically acclaimed, visionary projects, distinctive for both their artistic scope and supporting live and digital content. Recent series include City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 (2015) and Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals (2016), which won a South Bank Sky Arts Award. In 2019, Salonen presented Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis, a celebration of the feverish creativity of the Weimar era through the prism of its music, film and cabaret.

Outside of the concert hall, Salonen has led the Philharmonia in a series of technology-led projects that have opened up the world of the symphony orchestra to hundreds of thousands of people across the world. The award-winning app for iPad, The Orchestra (2013), is still on-sale and popular today. Two giant walk-through installations, RE-RITE (2009, based on Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring) and Universe of Sound: The Planets (2012) have toured extensively in the UK and internationally. More recently, VR experiences featuring music by Sibelius, Mahler and Beethoven, placing the viewer at the heart of the orchestra, have been presented at the Southbank Centre, at Ravinia Festival (Chicago) and at the SXSW Conference and Festival in Austin, Texas. The Orchestra’s 2018/19 London Season opened with a new, audio-led VR installation, VR Sound Stage, which was presented for free in the foyer of Royal Festival Hall, and then toured internationally.

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