San Francisco Symphony has tapped Esa-Pekka Salonen to take over as music director beginning in September 2020. Prior to officially succeeding Michael Tilson Thomas, he will serve as music director designate and lead a series of concerts, including a January 2019 program.
With his appointment, the Symphony will also introduce a new leadership model that elevates the voices of collaborative partners across the cultural spectrum. The eight artists assembled to join Salonen in developing the Symphony’s artistic efforts are composers Nico Muhly, Nicholas Britell, and Bryce Dessner, soprano Julia Bullock, flutist Claire Chase, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, roboticist Carol Reiley, and jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.
Salonen returns to California after serving as Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director from 1992 through 2009. He currently serves as principal conductor and artistic director for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (he will leave his position there in 2021). A classical pioneer revered for his experimental approach, he also spearheaded the iPad app The Orchestra and spoke at the Apple Distinguished Education conference about new uses of technology in music education.
“Here is a top symphony orchestra in the place in America where things start; where the ways things have always been done are interrogated, and where problems are first identified and then solved. In San Francisco itself and in the San Francisco Symphony, I see both the big ideas being thought and the actual work being done, and that, to me, is irresistible,” said Salonen in a statement. “They have had the powerhouse combination of Michael’s exacting musicality and freedom of spirit for 25 years: a legacy I’m privileged to inherit.”