Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen is a Finnish composer and conductor of classical music. He was the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years, during which time he was responsible for the building of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. He is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of London's Philharmonia Orchestra.

Cello Concerto

Some of the ideas for my Cello Concerto can be traced back by at least three decades, but the actual material for the piece was mostly developed in the summer of 2015 when I decided to spend a few months researching for new kinds of textures without a concrete plan how to use them. I decided to use some phrases from my 2010 solo cello work ...knock, breathe, shine… in the second and third movements as I always felt that the music of the solo piece was almost orchestral in its scope and character, and would function well within an orchestral environment. 

I have never - not even during the quite dogmatic and rigid modernist days of my youth - felt that the very idea of writing a solo concerto would in itself be burdened with some kind of dusty bourgeois tradition. A concerto is simply an orchestral work where one or several instruments have a more prominent role than the others. A concerto does not suggest a formal design the same way a symphony does. I also happen to like the concept of a virtuoso operating at the very limits of what is physically (and sometimes mentally) possible. In Nietzsche’s words: "You have made danger your vocation; there is nothing contemptible in that.” (No programme note feels complete without a quotation from Thus Spake Zarathustra.) 

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Pierre Boulez

I met Pierre Boulez for the first time sometime in the early 80's when I conducted my first concert with his Ensemble Intercontemporain, a specialist, elite new music ensemble that was part of his grand vision for the future alongside with IRCAM, the research centre where the latest computer technology would be harnessed for creation of previously unheard sounds. I was unbelievably nervous about meeting this man whom I had been admiring from afar since my early teens. I had heard and read stories of his fierce intellect, totally uncompromising nature and of course that legendary x-ray ear that missed nothing. The smallish, delicately built man with a shy smile who came to greet me after the concert was not the scary, icy intellectual I was expecting. The maître turned out to be unassuming and warm with a great sense of humour. He was very precise in his conversation and certainly not wasting words, but somehow one always understood that he had set his sights on something truly important and visionary, and therefore didn't have time or interest for empty words or self-aggrandising.

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Immortality Guaranteed

Reflections upon creating masterpieces:

The history of Western thinking is full of fanatical and heroic searches for the ultimate truth, a single concentrated formula that would forever solve the fundamental riddle of our existence: the whys and wherefores. I’m tempted to believe that this need to distill the overwhelming complexity of what we call the world into simple rules is indeed one of the very basic human instincts.

This yearning for clarity and predictability manifests itself in all levels of human activities. Alchemists wanted to find the formula for creating gold from non-precious metals; countless hopefuls have over centuries tried to create a magic potion for eternal life; the greatest trophy in today’s quantum physics would undeniably belong to the discoverer of the theory-of-all. The list is endless. Yet there is something that unites all these pursuits: the urge to control the frightening, the uncontrollable, by the power of beauty. The beauty of clarity, simplicity, and transparency. To fight chaos with aesthetics.

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