“I want my music to be a part of society”

Composer in Residence Esa-Pekka Salonen

If there is one dogma in Esa-Pekka Salonen’s understanding of music, it is the rejection of all dogmas. He doesn’t allow himself to be pigeonholed, but searches for music that excites and moves the listener – how he gets there is secondary. In the 2022/23 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen is the Berliner Philharmoniker’s Composer in Residence.

In his youth, one of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s main preoccupations was defending the true values of music. If a hit by Donna Summer was played at a student party, he might sit down at the piano with a friend and they would counter it with twelve-tone music for four hands. Now, Salonen can only laugh about such episodes, and no longer sees pop music and twelve-tone music as mutually exclusive. Quite the contrary.
 

Spontaneity is an important factor for Salonen when composing

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s music is highly expressive and speaks directly to the listener. It knows no dogmas and so it is difficult to pigeonhole. Flickering sound surfaces or dissonant chord clusters are found alongside rhythmic explosions or a sometimes late-Romantic harmony. “I write music that touches something in me. Initially, I also see myself as a receiver, as a listener. When I write a piece, I first play it in my own head. If the listener in me thinks it is good and interesting, exciting or moving, then I write it down. If I like it myself, there’s a good chance that others, maybe many, will like it too.”

Spontaneity is an important factor for Esa-Pekka Salonen when composing: “I rarely have a finished concept. I am constantly collecting material, because I don’t want to sit in the studio when I start a composition and panic because I have no ideas and I’m just staring at a blank page. I collect ideas, rhythms, themes; then when I start writing, I already have some material in front of me, and I usually find something that becomes the basis for my new piece.”

The battle between Salonen the composer and Salonen the conductor

But Salonen is not only a composer, he is also one of the most sought-after conductors in the world. This is a difficult challenge for him: “It is a constant battle between the composer and the conductor. Like Gustav Mahler. He dedicated his whole life to the Vienna Hofoper. Such institutions are monsters. They squeeze all the lifeblood out of you.” That is why he only works with selected orchestras as a conductor and always takes time in between to devote himself entirely to his compositions.

Salonen doesn’t believe in making music and composing in an ivory tower. He needs contact with the audience. And he makes a point of not seeing himself as the sole measure of all things. “I want music – and especially my music – to be part of society. What I can’t stand are people who take themselves too seriously. There always has to be room for irony and laughter, otherwise life would be unbearable.”
 

Esa-Pekka Salonen im Konzert erleben

Wednesday,

21 Dec 2022,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: E – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Wed, 21 Dec 2022, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor

Víkingur Ólafsson piano

Works by Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams and Sergei Prokofiev

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Thursday,

22 Dec 2022,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: K – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu, 22 Dec 2022, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Santtu-Matias Rouvali conductor

Víkingur Ólafsson piano

Works by Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams and Sergei Prokofiev

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Thursday,

19 Jan 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: D – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu, 19 Jan 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Olivier Latry organ

Works by Maurice Ravel, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Béla Bartók

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Friday,

20 Jan 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: B – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Fri, 20 Jan 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Olivier Latry organ

Works by Maurice Ravel, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Béla Bartók

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Saturday,

21 Jan 2023,
19:00

Philharmonie

Series: E – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat, 21 Jan 2023, 19:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Olivier Latry organ

Works by Maurice Ravel, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Béla Bartók

Read more Watch online

Saturday,

21 Jan 2023,
22:00

Philharmonie

Philharmonie »Late Night«

Sat, 21 Jan 2023, 22:00
Philharmonie

Late night

Members of the Berliner Philharmoniker

Esa-Pekka Salonen conductor

Works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Johann Sebastian Bach

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Friday,

17 Mar 2023,
20:00

Kammermusiksaal

Chamber Music | Series: Q – Philharmonic Chamber Music

Fri, 17 Mar 2023, 20:00
Kammermusiksaal

Noah Bendix-Balgley violin

Peter Riegelbauer double bass

Alexander Bader clarinet

Markus Weidmann bassoon

Guillaume Jehl trumpet

Jesper Busk Sørensen trombone

Jan Schlichte drums

Nina Hoss speaker

Works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Igor Stravinsky

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Thursday,

18 May 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: B – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Thu, 18 May 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Mikko Franck conductor

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Works by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jean Sibelius

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Friday,

19 May 2023,
20:00

Philharmonie

Series: C – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Fri, 19 May 2023, 20:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Mikko Franck conductor

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Works by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jean Sibelius

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Saturday,

20 May 2023,
19:00

Philharmonie

Series: L – Concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker

Sat, 20 May 2023, 19:00
Philharmonie

Berliner Philharmoniker

Mikko Franck conductor

Rundfunkchor Berlin

Works by Einojuhani Rautavaara, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jean Sibelius

Read more Watch online