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Esa-Pekka Salonen Starts New Season as Composer-in-Residence with Circle Map

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the New York Philharmonic

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s second season as The Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence got off to a thrilling start last night when he conducted the Orchestra in Circle Map, a program of immersive spatial works by Finnish compatriot Kaija Saariaho presented by Park Avenue Armory. 

Salonen has expanded the role of Composer-in-Residence to fuse performance and curating with composition. He returns later this season as composer when the Orchestra performs the New York Premieres of his Wing on Wing and Cello Concerto, with Yo-Yo Ma as soloist, and to conduct a U.S. Premiere by Tansy Davies with Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra.

Mr. Salonen’s frequent collaborator, Saariaho is known for her mastery of spectralism, which uses computers to analyze and explore the nature of sound and for its full realization requires a massive open space allowing sound to surround the audience. The Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall (remember Philharmonic 360?) was more than adequate!

The program includes the New York Premieres of Lumière et Pesanteur; D’OM LE VRAI SENS, for Clarinet and Orchestra, with Kari Kriikku as soloist; and Circle Map, as well as Lonh, for soprano and electronics, featuring soprano Jennifer Zetlan. Director Pierre Audi has created an immersive presentation that continually shifts the relationship between performers and audience. The staging places the Philharmonic at the center of the hall, with audience members in a half-round seating arrangement and performances taking place throughout. Longtime Kaija Saariaho collaborator Jean-Baptiste Barrière translates the composer’s soundscapes into projections that include interpretations of literary and visual artworks that inspired specific compositions.

(Photos: Chris Lee)

Just Announced: 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL

An homage to NYC's downtown music scene with Brooklyn Rider at the hot new new-music venue National Sawdust? Laptop music? World Premieres of 30+ short works for violin by Philip Glass, Bryce Dessner, and more? A brand-new piece by Esa-Pekka Salonen? A work titled The Alchemist, a true and faithful chronicling of the esoteric spiritual conferences and concomitant hermetic actions conducted by Her Majesty’s Alchemist Dr. John Dee and one Edward Kelley invoking the Nine Hierarchies of Angelic Orders to visible appearance, circa 1587?


Today we announced details for the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL: 3 weeks of new music by 74 composers, almost 60 of them American, presented by the New York Philharmonic and 12 partners in 8 venues.

“The idea is to create a kind of whirlwind and maelstrom of enthusiasm and energy, and we literally could not do it alone,” Music Director (and biennial co-curator along with Composer-in-Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen) Alan Gilbert told The New York Times. Check out for details.

PHOTOS: Inaugural Michigan Performance Residency

This weekend the New York Philharmonic went back to school — to teach, perform, and even take to the gridiron. The Orchestra trekked to Ann Arbor for the kick-off of its five-year partnership with the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan, in conjunction with the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, which will bring the Philharmonic to this buzzing college town for performance residencies and immersive education activities. It was homecoming weekend, so in addition to playing three concerts, Philharmonic musicians performed in The Big House, the largest stadium in the United States, with the Michigan Marching Band, chorus, and alumni, led by Music Director Alan Gilbert. Go Blue!

SLIDESHOW: 174th Season Opening Gala Concert

Last night not only marked the New York Philharmonic’s 174th season opening — it also unveiled David Geffen Hall, the new name of the Orchestra’s Lincoln Center home; marked the inaugural appearance of Frank Huang as Philharmonic Concertmaster; and celebrated a historic gift from Philharmonic Chairman Oscar S. Schafer and his wife, Didi. Oprah Winfrey, Steve Martin, Barbara Walters, Woody Allen, George Lucas, Patricia Clarkson, Diane Sawyer, and Alec Baldwin were among the friends and supporters who gathered for the unveiling ceremony plus the Opening Gala cocktail reception, glamorous dinner, and the concert itself — featuring Music Director Alan Gilbert leading the Orchestra in Beethoven and Grieg with pianist Lang Lang as soloist. The Empire State Building shone Philharmonic red in celebration of the new season. Relive the star-studded night!

Salonen Residency Kicks Off with LA Variations Sept. 25–26

Esa-Pekka Salonen New York Philharmonic

“I’m very lucky to work with the Philharmonic during a period that I’m sure will become known as one of its golden periods,” Esa-Pekka Salonen has said of his appointment as our Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-in-Residence

We’re kicking off the three-year tenure September 25–26 with our performance of Salonen’s LA Variations. The great composer-conductor recalls the state of mind that inspired the piece: 

I quite often think of a particular morning in Santa Monica in the mid-’90s. I woke up early and went down to the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee. Then I sat there and wondered, why do I feel so strange? And then I realized I was happy, which for a Finnish person is not a normal state of mind. But I also felt profoundly free. I realized that I had been in L.A. long enough to feel free of the European modernist tradition I was brought up in, where everything was forbidden. More or less that day I made the first sketches for LA Variations, which, for me, is a seminal piece. Even today when I hear this piece performed, it takes me back to that very happy morning.

Alan Gilbert will bring great enthusiasm to conducting the September performances: 

I love LA Variations. I feel very close to its explosion of energy that is as appropriate to New York as it is to Los Angeles. Of course there will be pressure when I conduct it, with Esa-Pekka sitting in the audience, but turning over a piece to other interpreters is a crucial stage in the life of a great work like this.

And there's much more to come! Learn more about Salonen and his multifaceted residency, and watch a video with his thoughts about it, here.