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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor

Esa-Pekka Salonen sitting on a chair

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century.

He is known as both a composer and conductor, and is currently the Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

He is the Music Director Designate of the San Francisco Symphony; the 2020/21 season will be his first as Music Director. 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 is Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009.

Salonen co-founded the annual Baltic Sea festival, serving as Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018. In 2019/20 Salonen takes the Philharmonia Orchestra on tour across Europe and Asia, and completed Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis, a series celebrating Weimar-era German composers including Weill, Berg and Hindemith.

He began his first Ring cycle with the Finnish National Opera, conducting Das Rheingold in August, and continues with Die Walküre in the spring. In February, he conducts two weeks of programming with the San Francisco Symphony.


Salonen conducts the Philharmonia

Mahler’s Third Symphony | I. Kräftig. Entschieden

With the Philharmonia, recent years have seen Salonen experiment with groundbreaking ways to present music, with the first major virtual-reality production from a UK symphony orchestra; the award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, and the much-hailed iPad app, The Orchestra. His Violin Concerto, which won the Grawemeyer Award, was featured in a 2014 international Apple ad campaign for iPad.

This season, 11 of Salonen’s works are programmed around the world. He conducts his own Cello Concerto on tour with the Philharmonia, with Truls Mørk as soloist, as well as his Violin Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony, with original soloist Leila Josefowicz. Last October, he conducted his new piece Castor in its world premiere with the LA Philharmonic, alongside its 2018 companion piece Pollux, with further performances with the New York Philharmonic the following month.

As Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years, Salonen was instrumental in helping the orchestra open Walt Disney Concert Hall; presided over countless premieres of contemporary work; began the Esa-Pekka Salonen Commissions Fund, and made the orchestra one of the best-attended and funded in the USA. This season, Salonen brings his Weimar programming to the LA Phil.

Salonen has an extensive and varied recording career. A Deutsche Grammophon album of Henri Dutilleux’s Correspondances, recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in the presence of the composer, was released in 2013 on the composer’s 97th birthday. Also that year, Sony completed a project begun with the LA Phil nearly 30 years before: a two-disc set of the orchestral works of Witold Lutosławski, released in the composer’s 100th year. Salonen’s most recent recordings include his Cello Concerto (Sony) and a 61-disc box set of all his Sony recordings.


Powerful connections

Salonen on the art of conducting