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In the 2012/13 season, composer/conductor ESA-PEKKA SALONEN commences his fifth season as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, London. Additionally, after 17 years as its Music Director, the Los Angeles Philharmonic appointed him Conductor Laureate in 2009.
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s artistic collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra has been dominated by landmark multi-disciplinary festivals, exploring the music of key 20th-century composers and musical movements in their widest possible cultural, social and historical context. In 2013, the Philharmonia Orchestra marks the centenary of the birth of Witold Lutosławski with Woven Words: “Music begins where words end”, a pan-European portrait of Salonen’s teacher and mentor, Witold Lutosławski. Beyond Lutosławski’s anniversary, 2013 also marks another important centenary, that of the first performance of Stravinsky’s iconic ballet The Rite of Spring. Esa-Pekka Salonen will be celebrating the work, leading the Philharmonia in performances at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris (where it was premiered in 1913) as well as at the Royal Festival Hall in London, almost 100 years to the day after it was first performed. The fall of 2012 will also see Salonen embark on an expansive tour with the Philharmonia through the United States, including a residency at the University of California, Berkeley.
Salonen holds the position of Artistic Director and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival, an event that annually invites celebrated orchestras, conductors and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.
As a composer, Salonen’s works are regularly performed and broadcast around the world; Floof and LA Variations have become established as modern classics. His Violin Concerto won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer prize for Music Composition. Three major retrospectives of his work (the 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.
Salonen’s appointment with the Philharmonia cements a relationship that dates back over 25 years. He made his London conducting debut with the Orchestra in 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 to 1994, and has regularly returned to conduct the Orchestra 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, 2001-02), took place under his artistic leadership.
In addition to the recordings of his own compositions, Esa-Pekka Salonen has a considerable discography on the Signum label (together with the Philharmonia Orchestra), Deutsche Grammophon, and Sony Classical.
Salonen’s dedication to technology, digital platforms, and outreach has been realized through his work with the Philharmonia Orchestra on a number of innovative projects. Together in 2012, Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia’s Digital Department created Universe of Sound, an interactive hi-definition major installation at the Science Museum in London. In recent seasons, the award-winning RE-RITE, first exhibited in London in 2009, has gone on to appear in Portugal, China, and Turkey as well as Germany, returning to London as part of the Rite of Spring Centenary in spring 2013.
At the beginning of the 2010/11 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen began a residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. The project Expedition Salonen has woven his life as conductor, composer, and creator into the fabric of the Konzerthaus Dortmund’s artistic life over three consecutive seasons. He has appeared in Dortmund with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, and as part of RE-RITE in the fall of 2011.
During Salonen’s tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009, his contributions extended far beyond subscription concerts and international tours. The genesis of many unique festivals and collaborations under his leadership included 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). Salonen’s orchestral guest appearances are also diverse, and include regular appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony (BRSO), and the North German Radio Symphony (NDR) orchestras, as well as the Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic.
WING ON WING:
Played with new confidence, Wing on Wing took on a more euphoric character...The performance was pure celebration.
Concert Review / Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times / 12 February 2005
Wing on Wing was wonderful to hear again live, breezing through the same hall and through the musical forces for which it was written... I love its sparkle, its cold, clear wind.
Concert Review / ALAN RICH, LA Weekly / 16 February 2005
This new release confirms Esa-Pekka Salonen's true genius as a composer. With the Finnish Radio Symphony Salonen presents three original, powerful, captivating and - get this - thoroughly enjoyable works...music that's thought-provoking and challenging yet allows you to leave your antidepressants at home...The Finnish Radio Symphony plays with consummate virtuosity in these powerful composer-led performances. DG's recording presents it all with extraordinary clarity, presence, and dynamic impact. If you're looking to be excited about new music again, get this disc.
Record Review / Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com / 01 March 2005
This trio of recent works by Salonen suggests that he's one of the most interesting composers on today's scene. All three share the virtues of his highly individual style, modernistic and accessible... A fascinating disc that should be heard.
Record Review / Dan Davis, Amazon.com / 01 March 2005
The recent works here offer a measure of Mr. Salonen's gift for cinematically picturesque scoring... Wing on Wing is far more than the celebratory fanfare such works tend to be... This imaginative 26-minute work is sometimes downright eerie. The Finnish Radio Symphony plays all the music magnificently.
Record Review / Allan Kozinn, The New York Times / 20 March 2005
As a conductor who works with a wide range of symphonic repertoire, it's no surprise that Salonen the composer uses his great colleagues of the past as a jumping-off point, whether it's mid-period Stravinsky, early-period Adams, or Nielsen's Symphony No. 3. Yet there's nothing really derivative about this music. In all instances, Salonen's personality soon takes over with his characteristically keen sense of orchestral color, witty sleights of hand, and a hectic sense of incident that makes his pieces downright entertaining.
Record Review / Philadelphia Inquirer / 20 March 2005
...the gorgeous or scintillating orchestration is only one of the features that make this music so memorable and instantly appealing...The performances are stunning (no need to doubt Salonen's credentials as his own interpreter), as are the recordings, which manage to capture a welter of detail without unbalancing the overall sound picture. Recommended.
Record Review / Stephen Johnson, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01 June 2005
It's impossible to listen to this brilliant, exciting music and not be dazzled by its energy, its pyrotechnical display, its kaleidoscopic scattering of light and color...Performances (led by the conductor) are splendiferous, and sonics are flat-out stunning.
Record Review / Lehman, American Record Guide / 01 July 2005
He is a real composer, as this release clearly proves... his overall mastery of technique, form, and orchestration is indisputable. Above all, orchestration. Salonen's music is one for which the old descriptor "sonic spectacular" was designed. It's been quite a while since I've heard symphonic music with such an extraordinary range and depth of color, as well as a brilliant sheen and transparency. It's also wildly imaginative in its color combinations, registrations, and textures...This combination of rich contemporary harmony with powerful rhythmic drive makes him a fascinating test case for aesthetic synthesis...
Record Review / Robert Carl, Fanfare (Tenafly, NJ) / 01 September 2005
In this vivid, window-rattling live recording, Esa-Pekka Salonen leads a big-boned but fluid account of Le Sacre, long one of his signature pieces, as well as a magnificently visceral reading of Night on Bald Mountain, in its original scoring, and a rich-hued, earthy performance of Bartók's Miraculous Mandarin. If you want to know why the Los Angeles Philharmonic is so highly regarded, here is the place to begin.
Record Review / ALLAN KOZINN, The New York Times / 08 December 2006
I'm not sure... that I've ever heard so much of the Rite's instrumental detail revealed so intricately: the interweaving woodwind of the introduction are exquisitely, indeed eerily sifted, and even in the biggest climaxes there is unusual clarity of texture.
Record Review / Terry Blain, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01 October 2006
The Mussorgsky and Bartók works are Errol Flynn-dashing, with Salonen exposing subtle degrees of shade between the blacks and whites.
Record Review / Classic FM (London) / 01 November 2006
...there's plenty to catch the ear...I've never heard the final chord of Part One laid bare like this,...the opening of Part Two is incredibly well heard and finessed,...Salomon's speeds can be shockingly exciting...
Record Review / Edward Seckerson, Gramophone Awards Issue (London) / 01 November 2006
Salonen and his orchestra play with astonishing lucidity and care. Rarely have the various pieces of the music's motivic mosaic sounded out quite so clearly as they do here; rarely have the rhythms been etched with such exactitude; rarely have the instrumental timbres been so easy to distinguish, even in the most congested climaxes.
Record Review / Peter J. Rabinowitz, International Record Review (London) / 01 November 2006
...every orchestral explosion leading to the next in ways that never peak too soon... The Disney Hall sound quality is terrifyingly good.
Record Review / David Patrick Stearns, Philadelphia Sunday Inquirer / 06 November 2006
Other selected reviews are also available online.
Foreign Bodies (2001)
Wing on Wing (2004)
Insomnia (2002) Anu Komsi, Piia Komsi, sopranos; Finnish Radio Symphony, Salonen (DG)
LA Variations, Gambit, Giro, Mania, Five Images After Sappho (1996-2001) Anssi Karttunen, cello; Dawn Upshaw, soprano; Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Salonen (Sony Classical)
Salonen Videos Online
A search of YouTube and other internet video sites will discover literally dozens and dozens of clips featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen as conductor, composer, interviewee, and speaker.