And how its visionary director is redefining the future of classical music
In Partnership with the SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY
Words by KELSEY McKINNON
German dancer Adji Cissoko of Alonzo King LINES Ballet will dance to choreography by the company’s founder as part of the Re-Opening Night lineup.
When Michael Tilson Thomas, the lauded music director of the San Francisco Symphony, stepped down from his position after a quarter of a century (transitioning to music director laureate), the future of the symphony was unclear. Certainly no one in the music community expected Esa-Pekka Salonen — the Finnish composer/conductor who had spent 17 transformative years leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic (he was crucial in finalizing the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall) and a decade-plus as the principal conductor of the Philharmonia in London — to be interested in another high-profile podium position, especially stateside. For starters, Salonen had stepped away from much of his conducting work to focus on composing his own music, which included a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma, particularly after Gustavo Dudamel took the reins in LA. So when the announcement came through at the end of 2018 that Salonen, who had topped the lists at many great music companies across the country, had agreed to pick up the baton in San Francisco, it sent shock waves through the system.
“When the announcement came through at the end of 2018 that Salonen, who had topped many lists at many music companies across the country, had agreed to pick up the baton in San Francisco, it sent shock waves through the system.”
A performance by singer and bassist esperanza spalding will take the evening in a bold new direction, exploring new creative territory.
Like so many, Salonen was lured by San Francisco’s progressive spirit. Here, he has been given the freedom to take the symphony where none has gone before, breaking conventional rules and experimenting with new ideas. As part of his groundbreaking approach, Salonen has teamed up with eight collaborative partners from a variety of cultural disciplines: Nicholas Britell, Julia Bullock, Claire Chase, Bryce Dessner, Pekka Kuusisto, Nico Muhly, Carol Reiley and esperanza spalding.
“Salonen has the freedom to take the symphony where none has gone before by breaking conventional rules and experimenting with new ideas.”
Esa-Pekka Salonen was lured by San Francisco’s progressive spirit, picking up the baton left by the San Francisco Symphony’s lauded music director laureate, Michael Tilson Thomas.
On October 1, visitors on Re-Opening Night at Davies Hall will be able to witness Salonen in action with the first of an exciting schedule of innovative programming this season, including dancers from Alonzo King LINES Ballet performing original choreography by the company’s founder, and singer and bassist esperanza spalding and a guest jazz trio performing Wayne Shorter’s Gaia alongside the symphony. The season will boldly venture into the unknown and explore new creative territory, but what we know for certain is that the West Coast has secured its place at the very forefront of orchestral music. sfsymphony.org/reopeningnight.
A previous gala evening attended by arts aficionados in San Francisco.
Feature image: Esa-Pekka Salonen, the music director of the San Francisco Symphony.
September 29, 2021
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