In the May 4 New Yorker, Alex Ross reflects on Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music directorship at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. “During a seventeen-year tenure, Salonen gave his orchestra a high international profile, refined its sound, added more than two hundred works to its repertory, introduced a cluster of masterpieces (including several major scores of his own), and presided over the opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall, maintaining all the while a self-effacing sense of humor. … Along the way, Salonen had much help from Frank Gehry, whose gleaming design for Disney Hall demanded a more up-to-date repertory, and from two exceptionally canny executives, Ernest Fleischmann and Deborah Borda. Ultimately, though, the metamorphosis of the Philharmonic was Salonen’s doing, and he thereby gained a place among the visionary conductors of American musical history—the likes of Leopold Stokowski, Serge Koussevitzky, and Leonard Bernstein. Salonen’s valedictory programs, imaginatively conceived and immaculately executed, captured the essence of his achievement.” Ross reviews an April 7 “Green Umbrella” concert featuring the works of five composers all under the age of 40, and the April 19 program of Stravinsky’s Psalms and Oedipus Rex, at which Salonen received a rare outpouring of emotion from orchestra musicians. “This was the story of a man who took on a complex job, made all the right moves, and departed in an uncommonly elegant way. You don’t read that story often.”

Posted April 28, 2009