Salonen awarded Honorary Knighthood in New Year’s Honours List

Conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen
© Minna Hatinen – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Esa-Pekka Salonen, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, has been awarded an Honorary Knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the New Year’s Honours List. He receives the honour for his services to music, and to relations between the United Kingdom and his home country, Finland.

Maestro Salonen’s links with Britain date back to his first invitation to conduct London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in 1983. The conductor and composer became Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia in 1985, a position he held until 1994, subsequently becoming the orchestra’s Principal Conductor in 2008, which he is due to relinquish in June 2021 to become Artistic Advisor and Conductor Emeritus. The Philharmonia celebrates the 76th anniversary of its founding this year.

Salonen possesses a unique vision for both the present and future of the contemporary symphony orchestra. During his tenure as Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia, the Orchestra has become well known for its technological advances in Virtual Reality, enabling audiences around the world to ‘step inside’ the Orchestra through audio and video projections. Salonen was also the driving force behind the iPad app, The Orchestra, which gives the user unprecedented access to the internal workings of eight symphonic works. 

Prior to taking up his current position with the San Francisco Symphony, Maestro Salonen was Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, of which he is now Conductor Laureate – a position he also holds with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, is a member of the faculty of the Colburn School in Los Angeles, and was a co-founder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival, where he served as Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018.

Esa-Pekka Salonen joins a small but distinguished group of Finns who have received British honorary knighthoods. These include former Presidents Martti Ahtisaari and Urho Kekkonen; Harri Holkeri, Prime Minister of Finland and President of the UN General Assembly; former President and Marshal of Finland C G E Mannerheim; and former Prime Minister, President and the Governor of the Bank of Finland, Risto Ryti.

Maestro Salonen says of his Honorary Knighthood: “This is a true personal honour, but more than that, it is meaningful to have artists honoured at a national – at a historical – level. It shows an appreciation of art-making as a necessary part of society. A recognition that culture is who we are, not just what we do. I am grateful for my time in London and throughout the UK with the Philharmonia Orchestra. I share this with them.”

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony

Philharmonia Orchestra

Esa-Pekka Salonen website

ArtsPreview home page

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