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Esa-Pekka Salonen receiving honorary degree at USC

May 14, 2010 | 10:57 am

Salonen Esa-Pekka Salonen has returned to Los Angeles -- but just for a few days.

The Finnish conductor and former music director of the L.A. Philharmonic is receiving an honorary doctorate at Friday's commencement ceremony at the University of Southern California.

In its citation, the university described Salonen as a "preeminent composer, conductor and advocate of contemporary music."

Salonen is one of five people receiving honorary doctorates this year at USC. The others include William J. Bratton, the former L.A. Police Department chief; John Hood, former vice chancellor of the University of Auckland and of the University of Oxford; Ting-Kai Li, a physician and scientist; and Festus G. Mogae, the former president of Botswana.

Salonen is receiving his honorary degree from the university and then speaking at the satellite ceremony for the Thornton School of Music on the south lawn at Ramo Hall at 10:30 a.m.  A spokesman at the USC Thornton School of Music said that Salonen participated in an informal master class at the school earlier this week during which he reviewed students' scores.

The meeting was organized by Don Crockett, chair of the composition department.  Salonen reviewed student compositions, listened to recordings and offered comments.

In 2009, Salonen stepped down as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic after a tenure of 17 years. During his time in L.A., he championed the programming of new music and helped to oversee the orchestra's move to Walt Disney Concert Hall. He is currently the principal conductor of London’s Philharmonia.

USC is broadcasting the ceremony online and you can watch it here.

-- David Ng

Photo: Esa-Pekka Salonen. Credit: Agnethe Schnittkrull / For The Times

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Comments () | Archives (5)

"preeminent composer, conductor and advocate of contemporary music" who with the help of a few other good souls wrecked new music in LA. Seventeen years of Finish music was more than I can take in one lifetime. How many composers resident in LA were performed during his term? how many commissions to LA composers? how many commissions for Finish composers? I have a hard time understanding why LAPO keeps a non-profit status. There's more cultural relevancy in a show in Vegas than in a season of LAPO.

Esa-Pekka conducting Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" at Disney Hall ranks among the most amazing musical experiences of my life. Second only to Motorhead's performance at the Hollywood Palladium on their "Iron Fist" tour.

Patrick should be grateful to Stravinsky. Without notes on paper, there's no genius baton, and no sacred orchestra: get the hierarchy? from top to bottom, notes, baton, fiddle. Notes come first, then the remaining are variables, slots to be filled with whomever. The conductor is sick? A replacement comes faster than lightening. Need to replace the flutist? Not a problem, as easy as changing a light bulb. BUT, no composer, no music to your ears. Performers don't create. They perform instructions. And the music stands are there to hold their set of individual instructions, not personal invitations to unleash their musical convictions - if any, always of no significance.

Wow, what Vincent is saying of course, is that we need to shut down the LA Phil, and send 'the dude' home immediately. After all, we could just listen to stravinsky conducting 'the rite of spring' on CD. Why should we pollute our minds with worthless thoughts of those mere 'fiddlers' that have spent their lives working to give the public live performances. We obviously should all stay at home and listen to recordings only! Or even better, get rid of those too, and limit the enjoyment of 'music' to those few who can read a full score.
I'll think i'll join Patrick for a night at Disney instead.

Actually, Vincent, the correct hierarchical order should be - notes, fiddle, baton. Musicians can perform without conductors and do that all the time. There are conductorless orchestras all over the world that function quite successfully. The only piece that can be performed by conductors alone is John Cage's 4'33". That's it.
Instrumentalists, on the other hand, can relatively easily perform practically anything written before 1800, and some of the later music as well, without a conductor. One of my most unforgettable listening experience was a concert by the Leningrad Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra in early 1970s when they performed Dmitry Shostakovich's wonderful Fourteenth Symphony - with two vocal soloists - without a conductor. It was marvellous!


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