Esa-Pekka Salonen to step down as Philharmonia conductor

Award-winning orchestra will begin search for a sixth principal conductor ahead of Finn’s departure in 2021

The Philharmonia Orchestra has announced that Esa-Pekka Salonen is to step down from his role as principal conductor and artistic advisor at the end of the 2020-2021 season. The 60-year-old Finland-born conductor and composer has been with the London orchestra since 2008, when he took over from Christoph von Dohnányi. His successor – who has not yet been announced – will be only the sixth principal conductor in the orchestra’s 75-year history.

“The Philharmonia is a group that juxtaposes world-class talent and star-power with an ease of musical communication, personal warmth, risk-taking and always good humour,” said Salonen. “I do not say lightly that they are family, and I am honoured to be a part of what will be their fantastic future.”

Under his leadership, the orchestra has raised its profile and broadened its repertoire, excelling in early 20th-century music. It has also been at the forefront of imaginative and inclusive digital projects – its award-winning immersive installations, Re-Rite and Universe of Sound, gave audiences the opportunity to explore an orchestra section by section and experience music from a player’s point of view. More recently, virtual reality projects allowed those donning the goggles to get to the very heart of the orchestra and encounter symphonic music as if sitting under Salonen’s nose.

The Guardian’s classical critic Andrew Clements picked the Philharmonia’s Stravinsky series as one of his top musical events of 2016: “It stood out for its freshness and originality. Some of Stravinsky’s greatest and most neglected masterpieces were included, often in ingenious concert stagings, and if some of those did not work quite as convincingly as they might have done, the musical performances under Salonen were always of the highest quality.”

“Salonen set very high standards for the orchestra,” said the Guardian’s Martin Kettle. “He’s a terrific orchestral trainer and a brilliantly clear conductor in the Boulez tradition.”

The 2021 departure of Salonen means that two of London’s major orchestras, both based at the Southbank Centre, will be losing their chief conductors simultaneously: Vladimir Jurowski will also be stepping down from his position as the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic advisor at the end of the 2020/21 season. The Philharmonia’s two principal guest conductors are currently the 33-year-old Finn Santtu-Matias Rouvali and the Czech-born Jakub Hrůša.

Contributor

Imogen Tilden

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Philharmonia/Esa-Pekka Salonen – review
Esa-Pekka Salonen began this series celebrating Bartók with a rarely heard and curious early work, which the Philharmonia tackled superbly, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

28, Jan, 2011 @6:38 PM

Article image
Esa-Pekka Salonen: 'Start again. That was disgusting'
Esa-Pekka Salonen has extended his tenure with the Philharmonia – but is his Bartók season ill advised? Martin Kettle catches a rehearsal

Martin Kettle

02, Nov, 2010 @10:01 PM

Philharmonia/Salonen | Classical review
This riveting performance is further evidence that there is no better orchestra or musician working in Britain today than Salonen and the Philharmonia, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

10, Feb, 2010 @11:00 PM

Classical review: Philharmonia/Salonen, Town Hall, Leeds

Town Hall, Leeds
Though Salonen's performance had its moments, it sounded overall like a sequence of five overtures for a main event that never arrived, says Alfred Hickling

Alfred Hickling

30, Sep, 2008 @11:01 PM

Classical review: Philharmonia/Salonen, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London
Delivered with the crisp authority that is the hallmark of Salonen's performances, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

24, Sep, 2008 @11:57 PM

Philharmonia/Salonen | Classical review
Royal Festival Hall, London
The 25-year-old Armenian powerhouse Sergey Khachatryan was the soloist, and the performance was epic in every sense of the word, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

14, Jun, 2010 @10:01 PM

Philharmonia/Salonen – review
Esa-Pekka Salonen didn't exactly wear his passion on his sleeve in this evening of Bartók and Stravinsky, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

11, Feb, 2011 @6:04 PM

Classical review: Philharmonia Orchestra/Salonen, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London
City of Dreams is becoming one of the must-follow musical events of the year, says Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

17, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Classical review: Philharmonia/Salonen, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London
This is powerful stuff, says Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

31, May, 2009 @11:01 PM

Classical review: Philharmonia/Salonen, Royal Festival Hall, London

Royal Festival Hall, London: This was a performance of fiery vigour and consummate understanding

Andrew Clements

24, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM