Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor
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 this season is the last in his remarkable 13-season term as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor. Throughout his tenure he has worked relentlessly to redefine what classical music can be in the 21st century.
He has collaborated with the Philharmonia on groundbreaking ways to present orchestral music, including large-scale interactive installations The Virtual Orchestra, Universe 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 has programmed outstanding, critically acclaimed series examining social and cultural history through the prism of music – among the most memorable are Vienna: City of Dreams, Paris: City of Light, Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals, and Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis. And he has led the Philharmonia on tours to Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, the USA, and all over Europe.
Alongside his position with the Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka is also 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 recently joined the faculty of LA’s Colburn School, where he leads the Negaunee Conducting Program (in partnership with the Philharmonia). 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.