2009 Honorary Doctorate
Esa-Pekka Salonen is an exceptional conductor and composer. Born in Helsinki, Esa-Pekka Salonen studied at the Sibelius Academy and made his conducting début with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1979. In 1985 he was appointed Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, where he remained for 10 years, and 1985 to 1994 he was also Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
The 2008/09 season marked the start of his tenure as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Salonen opened the season with a gala performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex at the Southbank Centre and then the following February launched his nine-month exploration of the music and culture of Vienna, City of Dreams: Vienna 1900-1935; a project presenting the music of Mahler, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and Berg in its social and historical context, with concerts given in major cities throughout Europe, culminating in semi-staged performances of Berg’s Wozzeck in October 2009.
Salonen was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1992 until the summer of 2009. Highlights have included residencies at the Salzburg Festival, Köln Philharmonie and the Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, as well as numerous European tours and guest performances in Japan. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s guest conducting engagements in the current season include appearances with the NDR-Sinfonieorchester, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Salonen is artistic director of the Baltic Sea Festival that he co-initiated in 2003. As an annual event in August in Stockholm and across the Baltic Sea region, it invites celebrated orchestras, conductors and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.
Esa-Pekka Salonen is renowned for his interpretations of contemporary music and has given countless premieres of new works. He has led critically acclaimed festivals of music by Berlioz, Ligeti, Schönberg, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Magnus Lindberg.
Salonen’s compositions cover a wide range of styles and genres, linked however by their atmospheric and emotive intensity. Salonen’s first large scale orchestral work, his Concerto for saxophone and orchestra (‘...auf den ersten blick und ohne zu wissen...’) dates from 1980-1981, when Salonen was studying in Milan with Niccolò Castiglioni. This was followed by Giro and Floof. Works since 1996 include LA Variations, Gambit, Five Images After Sappho, the Concert Etude for solo horn, Dichotomie for solo piano, the cello concerto Mania for Anssi Karttunen and the London Sinfonietta, his first choral work - Two Songs to Poems of Ann Jäderlund for the Swedish Radio Choir, Foreign Bodies, Insomnia, Wing on Wing, and Helix.
In February 2007 Salonen conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance of his first piano concerto, dedicated to Yefim Bronfman who also premiered it. This concerto was cocommissioned by the New York Philharmonic, the BBC, Radio France and NDR Hamburg, the first European performance took place at the BBC Proms in London in July 2007. At the beginning of 2008 the Johannes String Quartet premiered Salonen’s string quartet Homunculus and in April 2009 Leila Josefowicz premiered his violin concerto in Los Angeles.
Esa-Pekka Salonen records for Deutsche Grammophon. Releases include a disc of Salonen works performed with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a DVD of Kaija Saariaho’s opera, L’Amour de Loin with the Finnish National Opera as well as two CDs with Hélène Grimaud with works by Pärt and Schumann. In November 2008 Deutsche Grammophon released a new CD with Salonen’s piano concerto and his works Helix and Dichotomie.
Salonen is the recipient of many major awards including the Siena Prize by the Accademia Chigiana in 1993, the first conductor ever to receive the prize; in 1995 he was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Opera Award and in 1997 received the Society’s Conductor Award. In 1998 he was awarded the rank of Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In May 2003 he received an honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Finland and in 2005 the Helsinki Medal. Musical America named Salonen as its ‘Musician of the Year 2006’.