salonen on the conductor and the community

Esa-Pekka Salonen | Photo: Nicho Sodling

From an article from the Chicago arts blog Newcity Music [emphasis mine]:

“Coming out of Europe, from very Boulezian circles—with all due respect, of course—and coming to LA with this somewhat arrogant Eurocentric idea that, ‘Okay, I’m from Europe, I’m going to show you guys what culture is and what we should be thinking.’ To my credit, I got quite quickly this is not the way to deal with this situation. Better to actually try to learn the identity of the local culture and how a symphony orchestra as an institution could have this unique identity of a Southern California arts organization as opposed to trying to plug in the Vienna Philharmonic clone somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. I luckily saw the light quite quickly.”

The change for Salonen came from the fact that he made the decision to actually live in Los Angeles and assimilate the local culture. “My first daughter was very little, so we started a new family life in a new country and on a new continent. She went to school there, and you get to know people in a completely different way as opposed to being a conductor who jets in and stays in a swanky hotel like this and flies out after the last show.

“Somewhere in this whole process I started to realize that we were very far from Europe and the European polemics about the supremacy of serial music in postwar avant-garde music. All that started to seem like fairly useless huffing and puffing when I was sitting out in Santa Monica.”


7 Replies to “salonen on the conductor and the community”

  1. thanx for posting this excellent article, charles.

    salonen has been one of my musical heroes for 20 years. he is the complete package.

    and, what he says about wagner is spot-on.

    i hope to program more of his music in the future – his woodwind quintet (“memoria”) is particularly absorbing.

    AND, his solo cello piece (“yta III”) is a take-no-prisoners sorta thang that pinned me to the wall when i first saw/heard anssi kartunnen run it down in victoria, b.c.

    ok, ok,
    esa-pekka, esa-pekka, esa-pekka . . .

  2. The orchestra must reflect the community ethic. The orchestra board, musicians, and management must determine and measure that ethic, agree upon it and codify it. Then they hire a conductor who can execute it, and if the conductor doesn’t like it, they should change conductors. And THAT is how American orchestras must be run.

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