Category: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen to carry Olympic torch for London Games

March 20, 2012 |  7:27 am

Esa-Pekka Salonen is scheduled to carry the Olympic torch for one mile on July 26, the next-to-last day of the flame's journey to its destination in London

Esa-Pekka Salonen is pretty good at wielding a conductor's baton, but how will he fare wielding an Olympic torch?

The conductor (and former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) is scheduled to carry the torch for a mile on July 26, the next-to-last day of the flame's journey from Greece to London for this year's Summer Games. He will be one of the 8,000 official torch-bearers, some of whose names were announced this week by London's Olympics committee.

The torch is scheduled to begin the British leg of its journey on May 19 at Land's End in Cornwall, England, and travel to multiple cities and villages -- including the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey. The flame is expected to arrive in London on July 27.

Salonen currently serves as music director of London's Philharmonia Orchestra. Other notable torch-bearers for the Summer Games include billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and Dinah Gould, a Londoner who will be 100 by the time the flame reaches her. Salonen, by comparison, will be a relatively youthful 54 when he bears the torch.

Salonen, who remains conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is scheduled to return to Walt Disney Concert Hall in December to conduct his former orchestra.


Music review: Premiere of Shostakovich's long-lost "Orango"

Dudamel, Salonen to appear in Philharmonic Society's new season

L.A. Phil 2012-13: John Adams, "Wild Things,"' "Angels in America"

-- David Ng

Photo: Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting at Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2010. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

L.A. Phil 2012-13: John Adams, 'Wild Things,' 'Angels in America'

February 6, 2012 |  3:00 pm

This post has been updated. See below.

After sating itself with super-sized helpings of Gustav Mahler this winter, the Los Angeles Philharmonic won't be curbing its appetite for large-scale undertakings next year.

The Phil's 2012-13 season, which will be officially announced later Monday, is a combination of large- and medium-size projects (some new, some evolving from its current season), along with the return of several familiar faces (Esa-Pekka Salonen, Zubin Mehta).

And although there'll be nothing like this season's nine-course banquet of Mahler symphonies, the composer's Symphony No. 5 will be performed in October under guest conductor Daniel Harding. 

The season also will have a distinctly operatic flavor, featuring several staged or semi-staged works. They include the second of a planned trilogy of Mozart/Da Ponte operas, "The Marriage of Figaro," conducted by the Phil's music director, Gustavo Dudamel, with sets designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel and costumes by couturier Azzedine Alaïa.

Deborah Borda, the Phil's president, said in an interview that the Mozart project, which the Phil conceived with architect Frank Gehry, grew out of Dudamel's belief that "an orchestra needs to play Mozart, for purity of sound, and they also need to play opera once in a while, to be nimble."

The project is allowing the Phil to continue to explore the spatial and staging possibilities of Gehry's iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall. Rather than opera sets, Borda described the planned Mozart designs as "installations."

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Dudamel, Salonen to appear in Philharmonic Society's new season

January 28, 2012 |  8:00 am


The current and former music directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic will be among the prominent classical personalities to appear in the next season of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Gustavo Dudamel will lead the L.A. Philharmonic for one concert, while Esa-Pekka Salonen will separately conduct London's Philharmonia Orchestra.

Other notable names of the 2012-13 season include Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. The season will continue the Philharmonic Society's ongoing focus on the works of Beethoven. Concerts will take place at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Recitals will take place at different venues around Orange County, including for the first time the new Soka Performing Arts Center in Aliso Viejo.

Salonen will open the season with a Nov. 14 concert with the Philharmonia Orchestra performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 and Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique." It will be Salonen's first appearance in Orange County since stepping down as music director of the L.A. Philharmonic in 2009.

The Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, along with the Monteverdi Choir, will perform two concerts (Nov. 19 and 20) conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner. The concerts will feature performances of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis and Symphony No. 9.

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Betty Freeman's memorable portraits of classical music artists

December 24, 2011 |  9:00 am

Alfred Brendel
Betty Freeman, a great patron of the city's arts, is best remembered as an influential benefactor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. A lesser-known part of her legacy is her photographs of composers and musicians.

It was while producing a 1973 documentary on the cantankerous composer Harry Partch that she unintentionally took on the additional duty of still photographer. A camera was thrust into her hands when none of the crew was available, and thus began a decades-long labor of love.

Some 71 of Freeman's intimate portraits and documents are on view at "Music People: The Photography of Betty Freeman," at the Walt Disney Concert Hall's Ernest Fleischmann Gallery. "There is no esteemed composer that isn't in her collection; she knew them all," said L.A. Philharmonic President Deborah Borda. The images, on display for the first time since Freeman's death in 2009, are drawn from her personal collection, which she willed to the orchestra.

Each musician had a direct relationship with the Philharmonic and a personal connection to Freeman. Many attended the private musical salons she hosted at her home in Beverly Hills, along with her second husband, painter and sculptor, Franco Assetto. There, guests would gather to listen to new works from various composers.

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Music review: Premiere of Shostakovich's long-lost 'Orango'

December 3, 2011 |  2:41 pm


The fragment of Shostakovich’s 1932 satiric opera, “Orango,” given its world premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Friday night in Walt Disney Concert Hall, came like a bolt out of the blue.

But that is only in the sense that the work, which had been intended as a celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Soviet revolution, was so little known. Even the composer’s widow, Irina Shostakovich, who attended the Disney premiere, only learned of “Orango” when a musicologist discovered a sketch of its prologue in a Russian archive in 2004.

As conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, staged by Peter Sellars and orchestrated by Gerard McBurney, the premiere, in fact, was no bolt out of the blue at all. Shostakovich, who feverishly wrote a half-hour of music (probably in only a couple of days before breaking off the project), began it with the overture from another satiric theater work, his ballet “The Bolt.” After intermission, Salonen and the L.A. Phil gave a gripping performance of what is perhaps Shostakovich’s most unsettling major work, his Fourth Symphony, which was written shortly after “Orango,” to help explain where this massively convulsive symphony comes from.

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Esa-Pekka Salonen wins the 2012 Grawemeyer Award

November 27, 2011 |  7:00 pm

Salonen and Josefowicz
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto has won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The award is generally considered the most prestigious international honor for a new score; past winners have been several such masters of modern music as Witold Lutoslawski, György Ligeti and Pierre Boulez.

A farewell to Los Angeles, the concerto was completed and premiered in 2009 during Salonen’s emotional final weeks as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It has since been played  around the world.

“My publisher called one morning recently and asked if I was sitting down,” Salonen said last week following a rehearsal for guest conducting appearances with the L.A. Phil in Walt Disney Concert Hall. “‘No,’ I said, but I very soon was.”

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Music review: Esa-Pekka Salonen in L.A. with Anders Hillborg

November 26, 2011 |  4:34 pm

Esa-Pekka Salonen
He now holds the title of conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But Esa-Pekka Salonen, back Friday night in Walt Disney Concert Hall for the first of two programs with his old orchestra, seemed to take up right where he left off. He began the program with a startlingly spiked, Stravinskian downbeat, and within a single second the distinctive Salonen sound was back too.

It wasn’t Stravinsky, though, but Beethoven’s “Leonore” Overture No. 2 that was given an exhiliratingly theatrical performance, as was Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto with Emanuel Ax as soloist.

Five years ago Salonen led a "Beethoven Unbound" festival with the L.A. Phil in which he freshened Beethoven's symphonies by pairing them with new or recent music. A highlight of that festival was the premiere of Swedish composer Anders Hillborg’s “Eleven Gates.” And Hillborg returned as well Friday, this time with another ravishing new piece, “Sirens,” for soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra. Like Hillborg and Ax, the “Sirens” soloists -- Hila Plitmann and Anne Sofie von Otter –- are such longtime Salonen friends that they are considered part of the L.A. Phil extended family.

But if this felt like old home week, an old home for Salonen is always a fixer-upper, to be made new and modern. The big addition, appropriately, was the enormous sonic sauna that is “Sirens.” Played as the second half of the concert, it consists of 37 minutes of enveloping sounds so seductive the piece could leave a listener a little light-headed.

The shock of the new, however, was Beethoven modernized.

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L.A. Phil, Salonen to premiere 'lost' Shostakovich opera 'Orango'

November 26, 2011 |  8:00 am

The story of how the Los Angeles Philharmonic and its emeritus conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen, landed next week's world premiere of "Orango," a long-lost opera by Dmitri Shostakovich is -- to quote Winston Churchill's famous line about Russia -- a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

It's a detective story, in which the Russian musicologist Olga Digonskaya discovered a fragment of the 1930s opera buried in a Moscow archive, in 2004, and brought it to the attention of the late composer's widow.

It's also a political cautionary tale. "Orango," a brutal satire of bourgeois manners centered on a grotesque half-man, half-ape newspaper magnate, was written by Shostakovich during the heady, experimental days of the early Bolshevik state. Irreverent in tone, "Orango" is a mash-up of Modernist stylings that express the exuberant spirit of early 1930s Soviet culture.

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Culture Watch: Salonen conducts Janacek at Salzburg Festival

August 10, 2011 |  6:00 am

Janácek: "The Makropulos Case"

(Salzburg Festival)

When leaving the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen said that he figured he would agree to perhaps one major opera production a year somewhere in the world.  This season it is Janácek’s “Makropulos Case” at the Salzburg Festival in a new production by the quirky Swiss director Christoph Marthaler and starring Angela Denoke as a 300-year-old life-weary opera singer. The great Vienna Philharmonic is in the pit.

The production opens Aug. 10, and the Aug. 13 performance will be broadcast live. You can catch it over the Internet on ORF 1 (a channel of Austrian Radio) by clicking here or on Radio France here at 10:30 a.m. Los Angeles time. The production also will be filmed for eventual release on DVD.


More Culture Watch picks from Times writers

-- Mark Swed

Photo: Angela Denoke (center) in Chrisoph Marthalers' new Salzburg production of "The Makropulos Case." Credit: Walter Mair / Salzburg Festival:

Music review: A tribute to Ernest Fleischmann to remember at Walt Disney Concert Hall

March 30, 2011 |  2:12 pm

Cities do not put up monuments for arts administrators, Los Angeles Philharmonic President Deborah Borda noted Tuesday afternoon in her remarks before the unveiling of a monument to an arts administrator. The clouds broke. The hot sun blazed. Brass players blared a fanfare. With perfect timing, a tour bus drove by, offering waves and cheers.

Musical luminaries from around the world –- Pierre Boulez (in very cool mirrored aviator sunglasses), Esa-Pekka Salonen, James Conlon, John Williams, John Mauceri, many others -– sat on folding chairs in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall for the ceremony naming the corner of 1st Street and Grand Avenue  Ernest Fleischmann Square.

No one may have thought to provide umbrellas for shade as the sun reflected off the Disney steel. But  inside the hall that evening there was a special Green Umbrella concert, "A Tribute to Ernest." True to the man it honored, it was a night to remember.

Fleischmann, who was managing director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1969 to 1998, died in June at 85. He gave us Disney Hall. He gave us generations of great conductors whom he mentored and monitored. He broke boundaries between old and new, popular and classical, music and other arts, music and education, music and food and, maybe most important of all, music and civic life.

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