Esa-Pekka Salonen

Conductor Laureate

Esa-Pekka Salonen sitting on a chair

Back in 1983, an unknown young Finnish conductor made his Philharmonia debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London, stepping in at a few days’ notice to conduct Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 3.

Esa-Pekka Salonen has been part of the life of the Philharmonia ever since, and the 2019/20 season was the last in his remarkable 13-season term as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor. Throughout his tenure he worked to redefine what classical music can be in the 21st century.

He collaborated with the Philharmonia on groundbreaking ways to present orchestral music, including large-scale interactive installations The Virtual OrchestraUniverse of Sound and Re:Rite, an acclaimed iPad app, The Orchestra; and a virtual reality experience featuring the piece that first brought him to us, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.

He programmed outstanding, critically acclaimed series examining social and cultural history through the prism of music – among the most memorable are Vienna: City of DreamsParis: City of LightStravinsky: Myths and Rituals, and Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis. And he led the Philharmonia on tours to Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, the USA, and all over Europe.


Salonen conducts the Philharmonia

Mahler’s Third Symphony | I. Kräftig. Entschieden

Esa-Pekka is Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, and Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. He is the Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. He is on the faculty of LA’s Colburn School, where he leads the Negaunee Conducting Program. He co-founded the annual Baltic Sea festival, serving as Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018.

He is renowned as a composer as well as a conductor  – he spends part of each year composing, deep in the Finnish countryside. His music has been praised for its ‘tremendous technique, intellect, charm and musicality’ (The Times), and his Violin Concerto won a Grawemeyer Award.


Powerful connections

Salonen on the art of conducting