Rhinegold Photo credit: Clive Barda

Lucy Thraves


Esa-Pekka Salonen moves to San Francisco Symphony

10:27, 6th December 2018

Esa-Pekka Salonen has been named the 12th music director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). He will succeed Michael Tilson Thomas, who has been in the role for 25 years.

Salonen will take up the position in September 2020, initially for a five-year contract. Until then, he will lead the orchestra in a number of concerts as music director designate. He will conclude his tenure as principal conductor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in 2021.

Salonen described the orchestra as ‘buzzing with possibilities … Here is a top symphony orchestra in the place in America where things start; where the way 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.’

As part of the appointment, the orchestra is looking to introduce a new leadership model anchored by a group of eight collaborative partners from a variety of cultural disciplines. This group of artists, which includes film composer Nicholas Britell, composer Nico Muhly, entrepreneur and roboticist Carol Reiley, and composer and member of The National Bryce Dessner, will collaborate on new ideas surrounding the concert experience.

‘I am incredibly excited to be a part of this artistic coalition,’ said Nicholas Britell. ‘Music is such a central element of our lives, yet the ways in which we interact with it are constantly shifting. Esa-Pekka’s vision – to explore all the possibilities for the SFS as both an orchestra and as a doorway to the arts more generally – is something I am truly passionate about.

‘With trends in science and technology increasing at an ever faster rate, it is crucial to have a dialogue about the profound importance of music and the arts in our lives, in our communities, and in our society.’


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