Philharmonia 2017/18 Season and New Esa-Pekka Salonen contract announcement

26 January 2017




  • Esa-Pekka Salonen celebrates his 10th season as Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia, with seven programmes culminating in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder


  • Salonen re-affirms his commitment to the Philharmonia, signing a contract extension


  • Vladimir Ashkenazy to explore the music of Soviet Russia on the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, in Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917


  • Artists performing in 2017/18 include Honorary Conductor for Life Christoph von Dohnányi, Daniele Gatti, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Jakub Hrůša, Edward Gardner, Paavo Järvi and Karl-Heinz Steffens; violinists Pekka Kuusisto, Hilary Hahn and James Ehnes; and pianists Piotr Anderszewski and Khatia Buniatishvili


  • Philharmonia and Southbank Centre announce return of free virtual reality experience as part of Nordic Matters; audience figures released for September 2016 digital partnership, The Virtual Orchestra, which engaged over 10,000 people



In 2017/18, the Philharmonia Orchestra marks the 10th anniversary of Esa-Pekka Salonen as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, and delves into the history and culture of the Soviet Revolution with Vladimir Ashkenazy. The Philharmonia presents nearly 50 performances in total at London’s Southbank Centre, including Music of Today, curated by composer Unsuk Chin, and the popular Philharmonia Chamber Players series, programmed and performed by members of the Orchestra.


Esa-Pekka Salonen celebrates 10 years at the helm of the Philharmonia with seven programmes that bear all the hallmarks of his partnership with the Orchestra. Salonen has just re-affirmed his commitment to the Philharmonia, signing a rolling (evergreen) contract that continues his position Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor.


Salonen conducts large-scale works including Mahler’s Third and Ninth Symphonies (1 October and 30 November 2017), and Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder (28 June 2018), of which he and the Philharmonia recorded a definitive version for Signum Classics. New music is another theme for Salonen, with the European premiere of a major commission for orchestra and chorus by Unsuk Chin, Le Chant des Enfants des Étoiles (15 April 2018), and a new violin concerto by the Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason (28 September 2017). The latter work is performed by Pekka Kuusisto in the first of two concerts presented in association with Southbank Centre’s year‑long Nordic Matters festival. In the second, on 7 December 2017, Salonen conducts a Sibelius programme to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Finnish Independence.


The Season will close with a special gala concert – details of which are to be announced – on Salonen’s 60th birthday, Saturday 30 June 2018, in the newly refurbished Queen Elizabeth Hall.


Esa-Pekka Salonen said: This is my tenth season as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, but it’s also something like the 34th year for me appearing with them as a conductor. In 1983, I took over a programme from Michael Tilson Thomas on short notice. I flew to London from Helsinki stepped onto the podium in front of the Philharmonia and was astonished by the warmth and flexibility I received from the players; I’ll never forget that.


“It’s fun to look back, but better to look forward: this is a remarkable orchestra, and I’m honoured and excited to be part of it as we push into the 21st century together.” 


Philharmonia Orchestra Interim Managing Director Alistair Mackie said: “The partnership between Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia is both longstanding and enduring, and we are delighted that Esa-Pekka will continue as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor. There is no better indicator of the strength of this artistic relationship than our programmes together this season: our audiences can look forward to memorable performances right across the season, from Sibelius and Mahler in September to Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder in June.”



In the Orchestra’s second key programming strand in 2017/18, Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Philharmonia’s Conductor Laureate, conducts four concerts that explore the impact of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution – 100 years after the event – on Russian composers and music. Voices of Revolution: Russia 1917 features a live screening of Eisenstein’s iconic film Battleship Potemkin (12 October); music by Soviet composers Mosolov and Gliere alongside scores by Shostakovich and Prokofiev, concluding with Prokofiev’s massive Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the Revolution (20 May 2018).


The series will also feature a concert – also conducted by Ashkenazy – from the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra on 26 October 2017, with music by Shebalin, Rachmaninov, Kabalevsky and Shostakovich; and pre-concert insights talks and accompanying digital content.


Vladimir Ashkenazy said: “1917 was the year when Russia experienced one of the greatest cataclysms in the existence of mankind: the revolution which led to the establishment of a society ruled by communism. Every aspect of its existence was to be ruled from the top. And music was no exception. In these concerts I have tried to programme works that I consider relevant to the history of my country as I and many of my compatriots understand it.”



Further 2017/18 London Season highlights include:


  • Two concerto performances – with Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 on 20 May 2018 as well as the Bjarnason premiere – and a post-concert performance of music inspired by Finnish traditional music (28 September 2017), by Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto.
  • Daniele Gatti returns to conduct Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony (24 May 2018).
  • Jakub Hrůša conducts the complete version of Smetana’s Má Vlast (8 October 2017).
  • Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, to be performed by Denis Kozhukhin (5 October 2017).
  • Karl-Heinz Steffens’ exploration of the symphonic works of Brahms culminates in performances of the Fourth Symphony (2 November 2017) and the German Requiem (25 March 2018).
  • Paavo Järvi conducts an all-Dvořák programme (15 February 2018) and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (3 June 2018), following his critically acclaimed Nielsen Cycle with the Orchestra.
  • The Philharmonia celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Philharmonia Chorus with Edward Gardner (5 November 2017), who conducts Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast.
  • The Orchestra performs the closing concert of the 2017/18 Korea-UK Year of Culture (14 June 2018) with conductor Han-Na Chang and pianist Sunwook Kim.



Outside the concert hall, the Philharmonia and Southbank Centre are delighted to announce the return of free virtual reality presentation, 360 Experience, as part of the Nordic Matters programme. During the Nordic Music Days weekend in September 2017 (28 September - 1 October), the Philharmonia’s VR experience featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting Sibelius Symphony No. 5 will be open to the public for free in the foyers of Royal Festival Hall.


The return of 360 Experience is announced alongside newly released audience figures and research for the Philharmonia and Southbank Centre’s The Virtual Orchestra project, which brought immersive digital experiences to the foyer spaces of Royal Festival Hall in September and October 2016.


Walk-through audio-visual exhibition Universe of Sound, based on Holst’s The Planets, and Virtual Reality presentation 360 Experience (the first from a UK symphony orchestra), which features Sibelius Symphony No. 5, were open to the general public for free, with visits and workshops hosted for schools and community groups.


The project culminated with a special live concert, presented by Marcus du Sautoy and conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Saturday 1 October 2016.


A successor to the Philharmonia’s iOrchestra audience development project, The Virtual Orchestra aimed to engage people of all ages with classical music outside the concert hall. Recently released figures from the project, which engaged 10,000 visitors at Southbank Centre, demonstrate the ability of the Philharmonia’s technology-led audience development projects to reach new audiences:

  • 62% of The Virtual Orchestra visitors were aged 16 - 44, compared to 36% for London arts audiences and 21% for Southbank Centre classical audiences
  • 18% of visitors were from a black, Asian or ethnic minority (BAME) background, which is more than double average London arts audiences (7%)
  • 38% of under-16s visitors through the schools programme were from a BAME background, which is higher than the London population at 33%
  • Of those who had never been to a classical music concert before, 91% of adult respondents said that they would consider going to one after their experience at The Virtual Orchestra










For comment, interview and image requests, please contact:


Tim Woodall, Marketing Director, Philharmonia Orchestra

[email protected]

07500 006 335










The Virtual Orchestra was produced by the Philharmonia Orchestra and presented in partnership with Southbank Centre. 360 Experience was presented through a partnership of Philharmonia Orchestra, Inition and Southbank Centre. The Philharmonia’s virtual-reality project was conceived by the Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Universe of Sound was conceived and created by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Esa-Pekka Salonen, and was presented in partnership with Southbank Centre.





Philharmonia Orchestra

The Philharmonia Orchestra is one of the world’s great orchestras. Widely acknowledged for its pioneering approach to the role of an orchestra in the 21st century, the Philharmonia leads the field for the quality of its playing and its innovative work with residencies, music education, audience development and the use of new technology to reach a global audience. Together with its relationships with the world’s most sought-after artists, most importantly its Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonia is at the heart of British musical life.


The Philharmonia performs more than 160 concerts a year, as well as recording music for films, video games and commercial audio releases. The Orchestra’s home is Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in the heart of London, where the Philharmonia has been resident since 1995 and performs 40 concerts a year. Under Esa-Pekka Salonen a series of flagship, visionary projects at Royal Festival Hall – distinctive for both their artistic scope and supporting live and digital content – have been critically acclaimed. Projects including City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 (2015), City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-1935 (2009), Bill Viola’s Tristan und Isolde (2010) and Infernal Dance: Inside the World of Béla Bartók (2011) were followed in 2016 by the major, five-concert series Stravinsky: Myths & Rituals.


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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. 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 premiere 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.


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