Philharmonia begins search for new Artistic Director as Esa-Pekka Salonen moves to San Francisco Symphony

Boo. Esa-Pekka Salonen is stepping down from his role at the Philharmonia as Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor in the 2020/21 season.

Sure. It seems like a long way off. We’ve got sodding Brexit to claw our way through yet (or not), two more Proms season and three Christmases. Why worry about this now? These things take time to set in motion. A band with an international brand needs to make the right decision. The right decision takes time. Might the right decision be a woman at the helm?

It’s tempting to exaggerate a departure of key personnel like Salonen, though in this case it’s deserved. I have it on good authority that the Philharmonia’s innovative spirit has a lot to do with his presence. That there is often a challenging artistic strategy underpinned by rich supporting material that deepens understanding of the art form is also a Salonen thing.

And whilst its inevitable that after 13 years, Salonen will want to look for new opportunities (and has one with San Francisco Symphony), all eyes will be on how the Philharmonia looks to consolidate its current successes and with whom. A tough act to follow.

Next Salonen appearances: Bartok cello and orchestra concerto on Sunday 24 February, plus Ravel’s Shéhérazade on Thursday 28 February, both at Royal Festival Hall.

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