Esa-Pekka Salonen emerged as one of the most exciting major conductors of the late 20th century and has continued his illustrious career into the 21st. While best known for his conducting, Salonen views composition as his main career. Salonen was born June 30, 1958, in Helsinki, Finland. He entered the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki in 1973, studying horn with Holgar Fransman. Having graduated in 1977, Salonen remained to study composition with Einojuhani Rautavaara and conducting with Jorma Panula. He later continued his composition studies with Franco Donatoni and Niccolò Castiglioni, and also attended the summer course at Darmstadt. Salonen's first large-scale orchestral work was the Concerto for alto saxophone & orchestra "...Auf den esten Blick und ohne zu wissen" (1980-1981), based on Kafka's novel The Trial. His second orchestral work, Giro, dates from 1981. The following year, he composed Floof (revised in 1990), a bright work for soprano and ensemble based on texts by science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem. This work won the UNESCO Rostrum Prize in 1992. During the 1980s, Salonen composed tape music, as well as music with electronics and instruments combined. Works composed during this period include Baalal, a radiophonic piece, and Yta (Surface), a series of experimental compositions. His 1996 orchestral piece, LA Variations, received its triumphant premiere by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1997. The following year, he wrote Gambit, an orchestral work dedicated to Magnus Lindberg. In 1999, he completed Five Images after Sappho, a song cycle for soprano and small ensemble. Other significant works include Wing on Wing for orchestra and two sopranos (2004), a Piano Concerto (2007) written for Yefim Bronfman, and a Cello Concerto (2017), which was premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Salonen's music employs up-to-date compositional techniques within a central tonality. Salonen started appearing as a horn soloist and guest conductor in 1982. His conducting career took off in 1983, following his sensational London debut with the Philharmonia. He made his American debut conducting the LA Philharmonic in 1984. Following these successful debuts, he received a record contract with CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical), as well as the position of principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia (1985-1994). One of his early projects with CBS was a recording of Messiaen's Turangalîla and Lutoslawski's Symphony No. 3, the latter a world-premiere recording that won a Gramophone Award for Best Contemporary Record in 1985. He won a second award in 1989 for a recording of Sibelius and Nielsen violin concertos, featuring Cho-Liang Lin. He won further awards with the complete Stravinsky works for piano and orchestra, with Paul Crossley. As a result of his highly successful performances with the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 1989, Salonen was invited to become the orchestra's music director. He assumed that post in 1992, becoming, at that time, the orchestra's youngest music director (since supplanted by Gustavo Dudamel), and a successor to such luminaries as Zubin Mehta and Carlo Maria Giulini. Salonen led the LA Philharmonic on major tours and made a series of highly acclaimed recordings. He remained with the LA Philharmonic until 2009. In 2006, he was named principal conductor, and in 2008 the artistic director, of the Philharmonia. He served in these positions through the 2020-2021 season. Salonen became the music director of the San Francisco Symphony in 2020. Salonen is known especially for his 20th century music performances, though he is also praised for his interpretations of Haydn, Mahler, and Beethoven. In addition to established modern composers such as Bartók, Messiaen, and Stravinsky, he also frequently performs more recent masters such as Lutoslawski, Ligeti, and Corigliano, whose concerto from the film The Red Violin he recorded with violinist Joshua Bell.
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Classical - Released January 18, 2013 | Sony Classical
This complete set of Witold Lutoslawski's symphonies is a mixture of old and new. The second, third, and fourth symphonies are reissues of recordings made in the 1980s and 1990s during Esa-Pekka Salonen's tenure with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; all were acclaimed readings, and the 1985 version of the sizzlingly orchestrated Symphony No. 3, by now Lutoslawski's most commonly programmed and recorded work, has held up well against newer recordings. What's new is the Symphony No. 1, recorded in the new Walt Disney Hall to round out the set in commemoration of the composer's 100th birthday. (The entire recording of the symphony is new, although the bizarre numbering of the tracks makes this difficult to figure out.) This work is not often played. Lutoslawski wrote it in occupied Warsaw and managed to physically carry the score out of the city during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and hide with it in an attic for eight months. Later he expressed a negative attitude toward the piece, but it's well worth hearing. It might be described as overgrown neo-classicism, with short sonata-form movements and strong traces of Prokofiev and Albert Roussel, but with harmonic density, Lutoslawski's complex orchestration, and his characteristic bristly counterpoint breaking out everywhere. Salonen still ranks as Lutoslawski's foremost champion, and these four symphonies, evenly distributed over 50 years of the composer's career, form an arresting portrait of the figure in whose work modernism and the traditional symphonic medium seem most closely reconciled. If there's a complaint here, it's that the remastering, although quite good, cannot compensate for the sonic differences between Walt Disney Hall and the earlier recordings in a studio and in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The set makes you want to hear all four symphonies conducted by Salonen in the new hall, which seems tailor-made for Lutoslawski. © TiVo
Classical - Released May 4, 2018 | Sony Classical
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