The Dual Lives of Esa-Pekka Salonen

By Brian McCreath


Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen, one of the rare individuals to hold world-class status as both a conductor and composer, visits Boston.

The music world has seen very few musicians who have risen to the top of the field as both composer and conductor since the days of Gustav Mahler. As one of the many superb musicians to emerge from the Sibelius Academy in Finland, he was a conducting student of Jorma Panula and a composition student of Einojuhani Rautavaara. Like many composers, he initially learned to conduct in order to have his pieces performed. But very quickly, that became the focus of his career.

As a conductor, he came to the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Music Director in 1992, transforming an already excellent major orchestra into one of the most exciting artistic vehicles of its kind in the world. He was, along the way, instrumental in spearheading the construction of Walt Disney Hall, the orchestra's spectacular concert hall.

He left that post in 2009, largely motivated by a desire to return to a more balanced existence as both composer and conductor. Now his Violin Concerto, composed as he was preparing to leave Los Angeles, has been chosen as the winner of the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Salonen hasn't conducted the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1988, and his return as a guest conductor with his Violin Concerto serendipitously coincides with Discovery Ensemble's scheduled performance of Mania.

To hear more about Salonen's dual existence as conductor and composer, click on "Listen" above.

Here is a performance of the Violin Concerto by Salonen in two parts:

(image of Esa-Pekka Salonen by Stefan Bremer, courtesy of the artist; photo of Walt Disney Concert Hall by Jon Sullivan, via Wikimedia Commons and


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