He is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. This season is his second of three as the Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic, and his first of five years as Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. Additionally, Salonen is Artistic Director and cofounder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, now in its 14th year, which invites celebrated artists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.
Salonen’s works move freely between contemporary idioms, combining intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. His pieces for symphony orchestra include Giro (1982), LA Variations (1996), Foreign Bodies (2001), Insomnia (2002) and Nyx (2011), as well as two concertos: for pianist Yefim Bronfman and for violinist Leila Josefowicz. The latter won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award, is performed on three continents this year and was featured in a 2014 international Apple ad campaign for iPad. Salonen’s most recent composition, Karawane, for orchestra and chorus, premiered during his time as the first-ever Creative Chair at the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, while his upcoming cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma will première with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this spring under Salonen’s own direction, before going to the New York Philharmonic, which also gives the New York premiere of his Wing on Wing.
Earlier this season, Salonen took the Philharmonia Orchestra to the Aix-en-Provence Festival, where they performed Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, directed by Katie Mitchell, and Stravinsky’s Oedipus rex in a new staging by Peter Sellars; the BBC Proms, and on tour in France and the United States. In London, he completed the Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals festival, a return with the Philharmonia to works that Salonen has conducted to great acclaim for much of his career, as well as an exploration of rarely performed pieces. Salonen and the Philharmonia also continued their groundbreaking experimentation with how to present music with a digital takeover of the Southbank Centre, featuring the first major virtual-reality production from a UK symphony orchestra, as well as the Philharmonia’s award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations, which have allowed people all over the world to conduct, play, and step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections. Salonen also drove the development of a much-hailed app for iPad, The Orchestra, which allows the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works.
In 2016/17, Salonen conducts the premières of a piano concerto by Icelandic composer Haukur Tómasson with the NDR Symphony Orchestra during their opening weeks at the new Elbphilharmonie. In addition to the peformances of Tansy Davies’s Concerto for Four Horns with the Philharmonia, he conducts the work at the New York Philharmonic. At Carnegie Hall, Salonen conducts three concerts with New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, whom he led in Strauss’s Elektra, one of the most critically-praised productions of the Met’s 2015/16 season. This season he brings Elektra to his own Baltic Sea Festival and to the Finnish National Opera, where he will conduct his first full Ring Cycle in future seasons.
As the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years, Salonen is widely credited with revitalising the organisation. He was instrumental in helping the orchestra to open the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, presided over countless premières of contemporary work, began the Esa-Pekka Salonen Commissions Fund, and made the orchestra one of the best attended and funded in the country. This season Salonen returns to the LA Phil to curate and conduct a festival of Icelandic music.
Salonen has an extensive and varied recording career. An album of Henri Dutilleux’s Correspondances, recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in the presence of the composer, was released in 2013 by Deutsche Grammophon on the composer’s 97th birthday. Also that year, Sony completed a project that began with Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic nearly 30 years ago: a two-disc set of the orchestral works of Lutosławski, released in what would have been the composer’s 100th year. Deutsche Grammophon has also released a portrait CD of Salonen’s orchestral works performed by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the composer, as well as a CD with Salonen’s Piano Concerto and his works Helix and Dichotomie. A CD of five of his orchestral works is available on Sony. 2012 saw the release of his recording of Shostakovich’s previously undiscovered opera prologue Orango with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In 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, Mahler’s Sixth and Ninth symphonies and, most recently, a disc of works by Bartók. Salonen’s 2008 recording of Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto with Hilary Hahn and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra won a Grammy Award.