Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen has been Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra since 2008 and Artistic Director of the Baltic Sea Festival since 2003. After 17 years at its helm as Music Director, since 2009 he has also held the title of Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Salonen’s appointment with the Philharmonia cements a relationship that dates back well over 25 years. He made his London conducting début at the age of 25 with the Philharmonia Orchestra in September 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 returned to conduct the Orchestra on a regular basis 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, 2001-2002), took place under his artistic leadership.
In his first season as the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor in 2008/09, Salonen devised and led the City of Dreams project, a nine-month exploration of the music and culture of Vienna between 1900 and 1935, which travelled to 18 European cities. With the Philharmonia and in other projects, Salonen’s work has consistently focused on multi-artform collaboration, artistic excellence and rich learning opportunities, rediscovering and reinvigorating the music of the past for our times. For the 2011/12 season, he continues his artistic odyssey with the Philharmonia through performances of Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle in collaboration with video collective Yeast Culture as part of the project Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók, launched in January 2011. With 20 concerts in 11 European cities, the project explores the life, influences and music of Béla Bartók.
Also this season at the annual Baltic Sea Festival, which invites celebrated orchestras, conductors and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea, Esa-Pekka Salonen pays homage to his rich artistic legacy in Scandinavia by programming and collaborating with the region’s top artistic institutions. Since its inception, these have included, among others, the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra (where he made his conducting début in 1979), Helsinki Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (of which he was Chief Conductor from 1985-1995) and the Helsinki Festival (of which he was Artistic Director in 1995 and 1996).
At the beginning of the 2010/11 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen began a residency at the Konzerthaus Dortmund. The project Expedition Salonen weaves his life as conductor, composer and creator into the fabric of the Konzerthaus Dortmund’s artistic life over three consecutive seasons. Following successful installations in London, Leicester and Lisbon, the interactive project RE-RITE is resident in Dortmund in October/November 2011. Created with the Philharmonia Orchestra, this award-winning digital installation of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring showcases Esa-Pekka’s dedication to technology, digital platforms and outreach. During Salonen’s tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, his contributions extended far beyond subscription concerts and international tours to the genesis of many unique festivals and collaborations under his leadership. In November/December 2011 Salonen returns to the orchestra for the world première of the recently discovered Shostakovich opera Orango.
Salonen’s operatic work also extends well beyond the boundaries of conventional repertoire, stretching from Wagner to Saariaho in the world’s greatest houses, including the Teatro alla Scala, Milan; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; and the Metropolitan Opera, New York among others. His orchestral guest appearances are also diverse and include regular appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony and NDR Symphony orchestras in Europe, as well as the Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic in the US. As a composer, Salonen’s works are regularly performed and broadcast around the world; Floof and LA Variations have become established as modern classics. Three major retrospectives of his work (most recently 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. The music of Esa-Pekka Salonen is published exclusively by Chester Music. In addition to recordings of his own compositions on Sony and Deutsche Grammophon, Esa-Pekka Salonen has a considerable discography. In September 2009, a new collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra’s partner label Signum was launched with the release of a live recording of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder; other recent recordings with the Philharmonia on Signum include Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 6 and 9.