Multiverse Esa-Pekka Salonen

A true all-round talent and musical visionary: the Elbphilharmonie dedicates a residency to the extraordinary Finnish musician over two whole seasons

Esa-Pekka Salonen
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Mika Ranta

Esa-Pekka Salonen was already conducting at the Elbphilharmonie before it had even opened – in virtual form, at any rate: in 2013, when the glass superstructure was still under construction, the multimedia exhibition »re-rite« was put on in the Kaispeicher below. Salonen and »his« London-based Philharmonia Orchestra had recorded Stravinsky’s masterpiece »Le sacre du printemps« with 29 cameras for the exhibition; the different perspectives were shown simultaneously on screens in different parts of the old brick warehouse, so that every visitor could stroll through the music, even hitting the drums himself and becoming part of the orchestra. Projects like this are typical of Esa-Pekka Salonen. The Finnish conductor, who also enjoys considerable success as a composer, is not only praised by critics as »one of the few real double talents in the music world«: he is also a true musical visionary who always makes use of the latest technical developments to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.

Thus it was only logical that Salonen should take up the position of music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra last year: his new workplace is very close to Silicon Valley. After his highly successful appearances in the past, the Elbphilharmonie is giving Salonen his own »multiverse«, spread over two seasons, in order to explore all the different facets of this versatile musical personality.

In this first season, Salonen takes the rostrum twice to conduct the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. Among the works on the programme is his own »Karawane« for choir and orchestra, whose Dadaist elements prompted the Los Angeles Times to describe the music as »mischievous and crazy«.

Salonen’s compositions are also present in other concerts: to mark the fifth anniversary of the Elbphilharmonie opening on 11 January, Alan Gilbert performs »Wing on Wing«, a piece originally written for the then new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles and dedicated to its acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, whose name is well-known in Hamburg.

Last but not least, the Junge Deutsche Philharmonie plays his Cello Concerto, which was co-commissioned by the Elbphilharmonie and first performed in 2017.

Then, in the 2022/23 season, Salonen returns to Hamburg to conduct the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in several concerts, and further appearances with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra are also in the pipeline. To be continued…

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