Esa-Pekka Salonen

© Andrew Eccles

Esa-Pekka Salonen is known as both a composer and conductor. Since 2020 he is the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, where he works alongside eight Collaborative Partners from a variety of disciplines, ranging from composers to roboticists. He is the Conductor Laureate for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Salonen co-founded, and from 2003 until 2018 served as the Artistic Director of, the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm.

Highlights from the last season with the the San Francisco Symphony include world premieres of Jesper Nordin’s violin concerto »Convergences«, with Collaborative Partner Pekka Kuusisto, and Anders Hillborg’s Piano Concerto, with Emanuel Ax. Salonen also conducted the inaugural California Festival, San Francisco programming included the world premiere of Jens Ibsen’s »Drowned in Light« and the San Francisco premieres of Gabriella Smith’s »Breathing Forest«.

© Clive Barda

Salonen also conducted many of his own compositions around the world. Among them were »Tiu«, a new work commemorating the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall, premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic; »Karawane«, also with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Salonen’s »Sinfonia Concertante« for Organ and Orchestra with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra and »kínēma« with the San Francisco Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra.

Salonen has an extensive and varied recording career. Releases with the San Francisco Symphony include recordings of Bartók’s piano concertos, as well as spatial audio recordings of several Ligeti compositions. Other recent recordings include Strauss’s »Four Last Songs«, Bartók’s »Miraculous Mandarin«.

»Musical America« named him its Musician of the Year in 2006, and he was elected an »honorary member« of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2010. His Violin Concerto won the 2012 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Salonen was awarded the Litteris et Artibus medal, one of Sweden's highest honors, by the King of Sweden in 1996. In 1998 the French government awarded him the rank of Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In addition to receiving both the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland and the Helsinki Medal, he was named Commander, First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland by the President of Finland. In 2020, he was appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.