With Esa-Pekka Salonen beginning the second week of a three-week residency with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I thought it was worth sharing this exchange between him and writer Vesa Sirén. This interview was first published a few weeks ago, but it’s still relatively new to me, and unless you follow the Twitter feed of the Finnish-Angeleno composer-conductor religiously and/or have a subscription to Finnish Music Quarterly, it’s probably new to you too.
The best part about it is that Jaakko Mäntyjärvi kindly translated the interview from its original Suomi to English. The second best part about it is the range of topics covered in the interview.
There’s this tidbit about the Salonen Family’s move back to Southern California:
“In another surprising turn, the family decided to return from London to Los Angeles, even though Salonen’s tenure with the Philharmonia Orchestra is still continuing at the time of this writing. ‘My daughters are studying in the USA, and my son wants to go to high school there. It’s generally a good idea for parents to live on the same continent as their children.’
Salonen says that Los Angeles is conveniently off the beaten track as far as the music business and meeting requests are concerned. ‘I even dream of having a retreat where I can write music, somewhere in the mountains where there’s no mobile phone signal. I’ve understood that Los Angeles is nearer to my idea of home than any other city in the world.’ ”
(First of all, you gotta love the understatement in the line about parents living on the same continent as their kids. You know he didn’t have that level of deadpan sarcasm before he spent nearly two decades in Los Angeles. Secondly, I’m assuming that the reference to the “music business” above refers to the classical music business . . .)
Or this closing comment about the philosophical and practical differences between conducting and composing:
“Even as we speak, Salonen is looking forward to the next extended period of writing music. Why? Even a major commission from a top-notch orchestra is worth ‘only’ some tens of thousands yet requires months of work. As a conductor, Salonen could make that kind of money in a week.
Is it immortality he is looking for?
‘That’s beyond my control. But it would be nice to think that someone will still be performing my music 50 years from now. I like writing music, even though it’s slow and difficult and does not pay well at all. I need space for my thoughts, and I cannot hear myself think when I conduct. Composing is my way of finding out who I am.’ ”
You can read the full article HERE.
Photo credit: Jussi Puikkonen
Too bad the house was not even close to being filled last weekend when he conducted the Lemminkainen and Saariaho works. Great concert appreciated by those who did attend, but the attendance could not have been over 1,800 in a house that seats over 2,300.
He will always be welcome on the podium here in LA. And it is not like his own works have not been appreciated over the decades.
LA – The city that welcomes the world.