Artist: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and the Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. He is widely credited with revitalizing the organization and bringing the idea of the symphony orchestra into the 21st century. During his tenure, he was instrumental in helping the orchestra to open their famed Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.

Trained in the austere world of European modernism and enjoying a close relationship with the sunny city of Los Angeles, Salonen’s work as a composer moves freely between contemporary idioms, combining intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. His Floof and LA Variations have become established modern classics, and new compositions continue to be performed around the globe. He has written many works for symphony orchestra, including Foreign Bodies (2001), commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Insomnia (2002), co-commissioned by Suntory Hall, Tokyo, and Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, and Wing on Wing, which received its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2004 and was a gift from the composer to the Los Angeles Philharmonic in honor of their new home. In 2007 Salonen conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance of his Piano Concerto, dedicated to Yefim Bronfman, who also premiered it.

Salonen’s Violin Concerto, which premiered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Leila Josefowicz in 2009, won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition and was released along with Salonen’s Nyx on Deutsche Grammophon in 2012. In spring 2014, the Violin Concerto was the inspiration for an international ad campaign for iPad, which featured Salonen as composer and conductor, Leila Josefowicz, and the Philharmonia. The campaign ran for several months and included a new recording of the Violin Concerto, mastered at Abbey Road.

The artist’s extensive recording career includes a new album of one of Henri Dutilleux’s most important works, recorded with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in the presence of the composer, was released in 2013 on Deutsche Grammophon on the composer’s 97th birthday. Also that month, Sony completed a recording project that began with Salonen and the Los Angeles nearly 30 years ago: a 2-disc set of the orchestral works of Lutoslawski, released in what would have been the composer’s 100th year.

Salonen is the recipient of many major awards, including the UNESCO Rostrum Prize for his composition Floof in 1992, and the Siena Prize, given by the Accademia Chigiana in 1993; he is the first conductor ever to receive it. In 1998 the French government awarded him the rank of Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Salonen was also honored with the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland. In 2003 the Sibelius Academy in Finland gave him an honorary doctorate, and two years later Salonen won the Helsinki Medal. To date, Salonen has received seven honorary doctorates in four different countries. 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. He is Artistic Director and cofounder of the Baltic Sea Festival, an event that annually invites celebrated orchestras, conductors, and soloists to promote unity and ecological awareness among the countries around the Baltic Sea.

Esa-Pekka Salonen by Nicho Sodling
Helsinki, Finland

London / LA

Salonen: Violin Concerto, NyxShostakovich: Prologue to ‘Orang’; Symphony No. 4Schoenberg & Sibelius: Violin ConcertosSalonenStravinsky: Le Sacre Du PrintempsLa Passion de SimoneDutilleux: CorrespondancesHerrmann: The Film Scores, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Los Angeles PhilharmonicaLutoslawski: The Symphonies


Philharmonia Orchestra

LA Phil

Baltic Sea Festival


UNESCO Rostrum Prize

Siena Prize

Royal Philharmonic Society's Opera Award and Conductor Award

Litteris et Artibus medal

Officier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland

honorary doctorate from the Sibelius Academy in Finland

Helsinki Medal

Nemmers Composition Prize

seven honorary doctorates in four different countries

named Musician of the Year in 2006 by Musical America

honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences


Sibelius Academy




The Composer’s Way

21CM Q&A with Composers 2

Iconic composers Derek Bermel, Gabriel Kahane, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Steven Stucky, and Augusta Read Thomas talked with 21CM about their creative process, the glorious advantages and limitations of technology, and how being a composer has changed with the times, and remarkably stayed the same.