Esa-Pekka Salonen announced his 17th and final season directing the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Thursday, refusing to deliver a goodbye speech and instead focusing on Stravinsky, Arvo Paart, young composers and the seven programs he’ll conduct in 2008-09.
“This is not my final speech — I have 25 more of them,” Salonen joked with media, L.A. Philharmonic board members and personnel Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall. “I’ll step in for Castro and start making four-hour speeches.”
Rather than have the usual parade of speakers address the coming season, the Philharmonic put the spotlight solely on Salonen, whose run in L.A. has seen the play of the Philharmonic and its programming set new standards in the classical music world. Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the L.A. Philharmonic Assn., interviewed Salonen, the two of them seated onstage, and got him to reflect a pinch on his experience. Mostly, though Salonen spoke about the continued trajectory of the L.A. orchestra, his desire to hand the baton directly to his predecessor and how he has no concrete plans to return to the L.A. Phil’s podium once he steps away in spring 2009.
Borda, perhaps hoping to unveil the inner-workings of a composer’s mind, got a laugh after questioning him about the nature of the piece he will premiere as part of the season. He raised his traditionally cool voice to respond: “I have no bloody idea. I’ll start on it next week.”
That title-less piece will receive its premiere April 9-11, 2009, on a Salonen-conducted program with Gyorgi Ligeti’s “Clocks and Clouds” and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.
Salonen, whose 17-year tenure sets a record for anyone holding the music director title at the L.A. Phil, will conduct at Walt Disney Concert Hall a Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky program with pianist Yefim Bronfman (Oct. 9-12); Mozart, a new Paart work and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 with Emanuel Ax (Jan. 9-11); the West Coast premiere of the Philharmonic-commissioned Kaija Saariaho’s “La Passion de Simone”; and the world premiere of Louis Andriessen’s Double Piano Concerto with Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Leo Janacek’s “Sinfonietta” (Jan. 16, 18).
New works by four young composers — Fang Man, Erin Gee, Anna Clyne and Enrico Chapela — and Salonen’s “Floof” fill the April 7 bill. His tenure ends April 16-19 with Stravinsky’s “Oedipus Rex” and “Symphony of Psalms” with Peter Sellars directing. Salonen and the Philharmonic will be on tour Oct. 15-31. Salonen also conducts the opening night gala on Oct. 2.
Borda noted that Salonen’s final year — Gustavo Dudamel takes over in fall 2009 — is filled with four artists closely connected with the conductor: Bronfman, Sellars, Dawn Upshaw and John Adams, all of whom will participate in the Philharmonic’s On Location residencies. Bronfman will be the featured soloist on part of the L.A. Phil tour, perform a celebrity recital Nov. 12 and perform Prokofiev in May 2009. Sellars will be involved in four projects and Upshaw two; they will join forces on Nov. 18 for Gyorg Kurtag’s “Kafka Fragments” with violinist Geoff Nutall.
Adams will conduct his “Son of Chamber Symphony” and the world premiere of Timothy Andres’ Phil-commissioned work on May 12, 2009. An opera created by Adams and Sellars, “A Flowering Tree,” will be performed May 15 and 17, 2009.
Dudamel will make three conducting appearances this year: the Nov. 28-20 program with soprano Christine Brewer; Dec. 4-7 with pianist Rudolf Buchbinder performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23; and Nov. 24 with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
The L.A. Phil will also continue to present jazz, world music and songbook concerts. Highlights include Vince Gill (Oct. 25), Milton Nascimento and the Jobim Trio (Oct. 29), Wayne Shorter Quartet and Imani Winds (Dec. 10) and a tribute to bassist Ray Brown led by Christian McBride (Jan. 28).