Esa-Pekka Salonen has a restless innovation that marks him as one of the most important artists in classical music. Salonen is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra and Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. This season will find him as the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, a three-year position. He is Artistic Director and cofounder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.
Salonen takes the Philharmonia Orchestra to the Edinburgh International Festival, the BBC Proms, on tour in Switzerland and France, and will lead the Myths and Rituals festival, an exploration of Stravinsky's work that continues into next season. He will make guest appearances with the North German and Bavarian radio symphony orchestras; the New York, Vienna, and Los Angeles philharmonics; the Orchestre de Paris; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the joint forces of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, united for the first time, in addition to conducting Strauss's Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera and Bartók's Le Château de Barbe-Bleue and Poulenc's La Voix Humaine at the Paris Opera.
Salonen's work combines intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. His pieces for symphony orchestra include LA Variations (1996), Foreign Bodies (2001), Insomnia (2002), Wing on Wing (2004), and Nyx (2011), as well as two concertos: for pianist Yefim Bronfman and for violinist Leila Josefowicz. The latter was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award and was featured in a 2014 international Apple ad campaign for iPad. In 2014 the Tonhalle Zurich Orchestra, where he was the first-ever Creative Chair, premiered Karawane for orchestra and chorus, to great acclaim. Karawane will be performed this season by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the New York Philharmonic.
Salonen and the Philharmonia have curated landmark multi-disciplinary projects, such as the award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, which allow the public to conduct, play, and step inside the Philharmonia with Salonen through audio and video projections. Salonen also drove the development of an app for iPad, The Orchestra, which allows the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works.
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,...Salonen'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.