music, technology & life in pasadena, california

LA Variations

Yesterday, I woke up to the news that Esa-Pekka Salonen would be leaving the LA Philharmonic after the 2008-2009 season. I had always feared the day that would happen, but inevitably, in every facet of life, there comes a time to move on. The big surprise was that he would continue to live in Southern California while shifting his major focus to composition, to become in his words, “a composer who also conducts” rather than the reverse, as has been the case up to this point in his career.

I’ve always felt a close identity with Esa-Pekka ever since working with him at one of his first concerts with the Phil at the Hollywood Bowl when we were both in our twenties. He was unlike any other conductor I had worked with up until then. His precise sense of time told you that he was in perfect control and imbued the orchestra with a trust that is too often missing even in the most acclaimed conductors. His intense gaze when giving cues made players rise to the occasion and uncannily made you play better than you ever had before. After that first concert with him, I mentioned to several friends that the intensity I felt that night is what music is supposed to be about – this was what Los Angeles needed…hell, this is what every city needed and would be damned lucky to get. Technical mastery, enlightened inspiration, an open mind, fresh thinking…and because of Ernest Fleishmann, the brilliant and prescient mind who was then manager of the orchestra, he came home to LA to live and work with us for the next 18 years.

How lucky we’ve all been to share the experience…

April 9, 2007 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

Return to the front page