Esa-Pekka Salonen will be the San Francisco Symphony's next Music Director, beginning in September 2020.
Assuming his role as Music Director Designate immediately, Salonen will lead the SFS January 18-20, 2019 in a program featuring the San Francisco premiere of METACOSMOS by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, R. Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Sibelius’ Four Legends from the Kalevala. He will return as Music Director Designate in the 2019-20 season to conduct at least two weeks of programs. In September 2020, Salonen begins his tenure as the San Francisco Symphony’s Music Director, with an initial 5-year contract, conducting the Orchestra in six subscription weeks and a tour of Asia. Beginning in the 2021–22 season, Salonen will conduct 12 to 14 weeks each season.
'From the very first approach, the San Francisco Symphony leaders and musicians and I were buzzing with possibilities,” said Salonen. “The ‘what-ifs' of the orchestra world were suddenly on the table in a real way. Here is a top symphony orchestra in the place in America where things start; where the ways things have always been done are interrogated, and where problems are first identified and then solved. In San Francisco itself and in the San Francisco Symphony, I see both the big ideas being thought and the actual work being done, and that, to me, is irresistible.'
'I wasn’t looking for another Music Directorship. I am so proud of the work we did together at the Swedish Radio Orchestra, at the LA Philharmonic, and at the Philharmonia Orchestra, and that those organizations where I’ve held music director titles thrive without me gives me great joy. But there was a ‘no brainer’ aspect to this that I’ve been fortunate to have experienced a few times before in my career, so I know it when I see it. The San Francisco Symphony is an ensemble and an organization at the top of their game, renowned for their interpretations of masterpieces and unafraid to treat new works the same way. They have had the powerhouse combination of Michael Tilson Thomas' exacting musicality and freedom of spirit for 25 years: a legacy I’m privileged to inherit.'
As part of the appointment, Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony also look to evolve the orchestra from the inside out by introducing a new artistic leadership model anchored by a group of eight collaborative partners from a variety of cultural disciplines. This group of extraordinary artists, thinkers, and doers will join with Salonen and the SFS to embark on a future of experimentation by collaborating on new ideas, breaking conventional rules, and creating unique and powerful experiences in and around the concert experience. The group assembled comprises eight artists from varied creative realms: pianist, producer, and composer of award-winning film scores Nicholas Britell; classical singer Julia Bullock, who has made social consciousness and activism fundamental to her work; flutist, educator, and advocate for new and experimental music Claire Chase; composer, new music curator, and guitarist of The National Bryce Dessner; violinist and one-of-a-kind musical director Pekka Kuusisto; composer and sought-after artistic collaborator Nico Muhly; artificial intelligence entrepreneur and roboticist Carol Reiley; and jazz bassist, vocalist, and undefinable artist Esperanza Spalding.
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Photo: 2018 © Andrew Eccles