Esa‐Pekka Salonen (born June 30, 1958 in Helsinki) is a prominent Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. He is currently chief conductor and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the orchestra with which he made his US debut in 1984.
Salonen studied horn, conducting and composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. His first experience with conducting came in 1979 with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, though he still thought of himself principally as a composer. In 1983, however, he undertook a performance of Mahler's third symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London at short notice, and it launched his career as a conductor. He was subsequently principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia from 1985 to 1994.
Principal conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 1985 and music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra since 1991, Salonen is renowned for his dedication to performing and recording contemporary music. His 1985 world premiere recording of Witold Lutosławski's Symphony No. 3 won the 1985 Gramophone Award for Best Contemporary Recording.
As is apparent with his interpretations of such avant‐garde works as Jan Sandström's Motorbike Concerto, Esa‐Pekka Salonen voices a distaste for ideological and dogmatic approaches to composition and sees music creation as deeply physical. In the liner notes for Deutsche Grammophon's release of Wing On Wing, he is quoted saying, 'Musical expression is bodily expression, there is no abstract cerebral expression in my opinion. It all comes out of the body.' A recurring theme in his music is the fusion of our relationship between the mechanical and the organic.