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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Conductor Laureate

About this Artist

Esa-Pekka Salonen is known as both a composer and conductor. He is the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, where he works alongside eight Collaborative Partners from a variety of disciplines, ranging from composers to roboticists. He is Conductor Laureate of the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. As a faculty member of the Colburn School, he develops, leads, and directs the pre-professional Negaunee Conducting Program. Salonen co-founded, and from 2003 until 2018 served as the Artistic Director of, the annual Baltic Sea Festival.

Since joining the San Francisco Symphony in 2020, Salonen has defined his tenure with an impulse to expand and embrace the possibilities of the orchestra. In addition to an unprecedented leadership model in which he is joined by eight Collaborative Partners—whose diversity of expertise reflects the scope of experience he envisions as the future of classical music and its audience—Salonen has launched a residency-based touring model with an eye to a future of climate-conscious community building; established the California Festival, a two-week, inter-institutional statewide celebration which he conceived alongside Gustavo Dudamel and Rafael Payare; and led a series of collaborations across disciplines and practices which unite the Symphony’s musicians, administrative staff, and hands-on facility workers into a singular engine dedicated to engaging classical music in novel ways.

Beginning with the Opening Night Gala, Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in 12 weeks of programming. Highlights include world premieres of Jesper Nordin’s violin concerto Convergences, with Collaborative Partner Pekka Kuusisto, and Anders Hillborg’s Piano Concerto, with Emanuel Ax. November sees the launch of the inaugural California Festival; San Francisco programming includes the world premiere of Jens Ibsen’s Drowned in Light and the San Francisco premieres of Gabriella Smith’s Breathing Forest and Salonen’s own kínēma.

In the spring, Salonen will lead an all-Sibelius program both in San Francisco and on tour in Southern California. Salonen closes the season with four weeks of concerts in June, including a program of Ravel’s Ma mère l’Oye, with choreography by Alonzo King, and Schoenberg’s Erwartung, in a new production staged by Peter Sellars.

Salonen also conducts many of his own works this season. In October, he leads the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the world premiere of Tiu, a new work honoring architect Frank Gehry and commemorating the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall; he returns to Los Angeles in December to conduct his sprawling, Dada-infused Karawane. With Olivier Latry as soloist, Salonen leads his 2023 Sinfonia Concertante for Organ and Orchestra with the Finnish Radio Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra. Other conducting highlights include the Philadelphia Orchestra premiere of his recent piece kínēma; an all-Hillborg program with the Swedish Radio Symphony; performances in London and Germany with the Philharmonia Orchestra; an extended three-week engagement with the Orchestre de Paris; and concerts with the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Salonen has an extensive and varied recording career. Releases with the San Francisco Symphony include recordings of Bartok’s piano concertos, as well as spatial audio recordings of several Ligeti compositions. Other recent releases include Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs, Bartok’s The Miraculous Mandarin and Dance Suite, Stravinsky’s Perséphone, and a 2018 box set of his complete Sony recordings. His compositions appear on releases from Sony, Deutsche Grammophon, and Decca; his Piano Concerto, Violin Concerto, and Cello Concerto all appear on recordings he conducted himself.