Born in Helsinki, the conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen studied at the Sibelius Academy, and made his conducting debut with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1979. He was Chief Conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra for ten years (1985-1995) and Director of the Helsinki Festival in 1995 and 1996. From 1992 until 2009 Salonen was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was named the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate in April 2009.
Since September 2008, Salonen has been Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. In his first season in this role he devised and led City of Dreams, a nine-month exploration of the music and culture of Vienna between 1900 and 1935. The project has travelled to 18 cities across Europe, culminating with semi-staged performances of Berg’s Wozzeck in October 2009. Philharmonia/Signum released a series of recordings from the project. At the beginning of the 2010/11 season Esa-Pekka Salonen started his residency at Konzerthaus Dortmund. During the three year project "Expedition Salonen" he will be conducting several concerts in Dortmund as "Exklusivkünstler". September 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of Salonen’s debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra. His 2013-14 concert season bookends with the Philharmonia: beginning in September with concerts throughout Europe including the Grafenegg, Berlin, and Lucerne Festivals; and ending in June with several engagements at Royal Festival Hall and on their Chinese tour.
Salonen’s appointment with the Philharmonia Orchestra followed directly his relationship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic where he was Music Director for seventeen years. Salonen’s highlights with the LA Philharmonic have included residencies at the Salzburg Festival, Köln Philharmonie and Le Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, as well as numerous European tours and guest performances in Japan. On the occasion of his 17 year-tenure the Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrated him with a series of concerts in April 2009, including the premiere of his own violin concerto.
Esa-Pekka Salonen is renowned for his interpretations of contemporary music and has given countless premieres of new works. He has led critically acclaimed festivals of music by Berlioz, Ligeti, Schönberg, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky and Magnus Lindberg. In April 2006 he returned to Paris Opéra Bastille to conduct the premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s new opera, Adriana Mater, having previously conducted the Finnish premiere of her first opera L’amour de loin in 2004. In August 2007, he conducted Saariaho’s La Passion de Simone in a production by Peter Sellars at the Helsinki Festival (first Finnish performance) before taking the production to the Baltic Sea Festival in Stockholm, that he co-initiated in 2003.
Esa-Pekka Salonen has a considerable discography. In September 2009, a new partnership with the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Signum label was launched with the release of a live recording of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder; other recent and forthcoming recordings with the Philharmonia on Signum include Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique and Mahler’s 6th and 9th symphonies. On Deutsche Grammophon, Salonen’s most recent releases include a disc of Salonen works performed with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and a DVD of Kaija Saariaho’s opera, L’Amour de loin as well as two CDs with Hélène Grimaud with works by Pärt and Schumann. The recording with Salonen’s piano concerto and his works Helix and Dichotomie, was nominated for a Grammy in November 2009. A wide repertoire ranging from Mahler and Revueltas to Magnus Lindberg and his own works has been recorded by Sony Classical.