Welcome to this live concert, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s final performance as our Principal Conductor and Artistic Director. Tonight we celebrate a collaboration that began 13 years ago and which has transformed and enriched the Philharmonia, redefining what an orchestra can be and do in the 21st century.
Esa-Pekka’s handpicked programme reflects his characteristic creativity and sense of adventure, and is also deeply personal. To start with, he threads together four pieces by JS Bach, from a lush aria arranged for strings by Otto Klemperer, the Philharmonia’s first Principal Conductor, to the Partita that inspired Salonen’s own composition, the mysterious yet playful Fog. The evening culminates with Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, played by revered soloist Mitsuko Uchida, who is a long-time collaborator of Salonen’s.
Thank you for joining us as we say farewell to Esa-Pekka and wish him the best for the future – and we hope you enjoy the performance. During the interval and after the concert, do share your thoughts on social media tagging us @Philharmonia.
Header image: Esa-Pekka Salonen © Mark Allan
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Otto Klemperer by Studio Harcourt, 1946 (public domain)
Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690 – 1749), attrib. JS Bach (1685 – 1750), arr. Otto Klemperer (1885 – 1973): ‘Bist du mei mir’, BWV 508 (1718, arr. 1935)
Reportedly, Otto Klemperer would often play the song ‘Bist du bei mir’, found in JS Bach’s 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, on his dressing room piano before concerts. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that he should arrange it for strings in 1935 for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, of which he was then conductor.
Otto Klemperer would often play the song ‘Bist du bei mir’, found in JS Bach’s 1725 Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, on his dressing room piano before concerts.
Until recently this beautifully touching song was attributed to Bach, but research has shown it is an aria by the prolific but lesser-known German composer Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel from his 1718 opera Diomedes. It was only in 2009, when the score to Stölzel’s opera was discovered, that the misattribution was revealed. (The Anna Magdalena notebook, we now know, is as much an album of Bach family favourites as it is a collection of original pieces.)
Klemperer, who in 1959 became the Philharmonia’s first Principal Conductor, could not have known this. Nevertheless his rich arrangement, with its swooping inner parts and pungent suspensions and passing notes, possesses a fittingly operatic drama.
Title page to the first volume of Singende Müse an der Pleisse by Johann Sigismund Scholze, Leipzig 1736, thought to depict JS and Anna Magdalena Bach (public domain)
JS Bach arr. Anton Webern (1883 – 1945): ‘Ricercarta a 6 voci’ from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079 (1747, arr. 1934 – 1935)
This six-voice fugue originated in a challenge set by Frederick the Great of Prussia. Showing Bach around his impressive collection of (then very new) pianos, Frederick urged Bach to improvise first a three- and then a six-voice fugue to a melody of the King’s own. Bach managed the former on the spot but asked that he be allowed to write the latter at home and send it at a later date. He duly did, along with several other works on the same theme, in a collection we now call The Musical Offering.
The first page of the manuscript of the 'Ricercarta a 6 voci' by JS Bach, Berlin State Library (public domain)
Even by Bach’s standards the ‘Ricercarta a 6 voci’ is an astonishing technical achievement, truly fit for a monarch’s amusement. Webern’s arrangement – an icon of early 20th-century transcription – shatters Bach’s (and Frederick’s) long-limbed melody into fragments rarely more than four or five notes long that pass kaleidoscopically from one instrument to another in a masterclass in modernistic tone-colour composition.
JS Bach arr. Luciano Berio (1925 – 2003): ‘Contrapunctus XIX’, from The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 (1740s, arr. 2001)
More thoroughgoing even than The Musical Offering in its exploration of a single theme, The Art of Fugue consists of 14 fugues and four canons, all deriving from a single subject. The last of the fugues (often known as ‘Contrapunctus XIV’) Bach left incomplete at its 239th bar; the romanticised story is that he died with his pen in his hand, but more likely failing eyesight or ill health forced him to stop.
Many composers since have attempted satisfactory realisations, the vast majority of which follow closely the style of the rest of the work. (Many, like Berio’s, use the name ‘Contrapunctus XIX’ in recognition that they are adding to Bach’s original set.)
Luciano Berio in 1994 (public domain)
Berio takes a different approach, not attempting a completion but instead emphasising the negative space of Bach’s abbreviated ending. Until its final six bars his orchestral arrangement follows Bach faithfully but for the addition of soft sustained notes behind the principal contrapuntal lines. As it nears its end, however, these become more prominent – as though a sound engineer were slowly increasing the amount of reverberation – until they become the music’s foreground, and then all that is left. And then, like an organ – Bach’s own instrument – being switched off mid-flow, they dissipate in unpredictable harmonies before fading away completely.
JS Bach: Prelude from Violin Partita in E major for solo violin, BWV 1006.1 (c. 1736 – 1737)
The Partita in E major is the last of Bach’s famous set of six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, and its suite of dance-inspired movements includes an unusual Loure and a Gavotte en Rondeau that is recorded on the Golden Record attached to the two Voyager spacecraft – alongside a Philharmonia recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, conducted by Klemperer.
First page of the autograph manuscript of JS Bach's Prelude from the Partita in E for solo violin, BWV 1006.1 (public domain)
Between the bell-like cascade with which it opens and its return as a concluding flourish, the set’s Prelude shows Bach at his most effervescently inventive. It certainly seemed to please him, and he transcribed it several times himself: twice for organ and orchestra for the cantata BWV 29 ‘Wir danken Gott, wir danken dir’ and the (hastily composed) wedding cantata BWV 120a, ‘Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge’; and once more in a transcription of the complete Partita, seemingly for lute.
The Prelude will be played by the Philharmonia Concert Master, Benjamin Marquise Gilmore, and will segue straight into Salonen’s work, Fog.
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Mark Allan
Esa-Pekka Salonen (b. 1958): Fog (2019)
Fog, by Klemperer’s descendant at the Philharmonia and its departing Principal Conductor, is a fantasy on Bach’s E major Prelude. The work’s title suggests first of all its atmosphere, a dreamlike re-rendering of Bach’s music out of which quotations and allusions emerge like faces found in clouds.
But there is a second meaning, too: FOG are the initials of Frank Owen Gehry, architect of the flamboyant and daring Walt Disney Concert Hall and home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, for which Salonen followed in Klemperer’s footsteps again as Music Director between 1992 and 2009. Gehry and Salonen collaborated closely on the creation of Disney Hall, and Salonen wrote Fog as a 90th-birthday tribute to the architect.
FOG are the initials of Frank Owen Gehry, architect of the flamboyant and daring Walt Disney Concert Hall ... Salonen wrote 'Fog' as a 90th-birthday tribute to the architect.
Walt Disney Concert Hall by Antoine Taveneaux, 2011 (public domain)
The harmony of his piece is based on the musical letters of Gehry’s name, F A G E H (B natural), but the Bach reference derives from a more private story. The E major Prelude was in fact the first piece of music played in the building. Gehry, in a brief crisis of confidence, wanted to hear music in the space while it was still under construction; to help, Salonen asked the Philharmonic’s Concert Master, Martin Chalifour, to don a hard hat and play something for them. He chose the E major Prelude.
And this is the moment Salonen has captured: when the sounds of Bach echoed around a cavernous building site and both men knew that their extraordinary project was going to work.
Cover page of the first edition of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, 1804, Viennese Bureau of Arts & Industry (public domain)
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827): Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, Op. 37 (c. 1800)
- Allegro con brio
- Rondo – Allegro
Even though you can shed such different lights on his music, “You can’t destroy Bach,” Salonen has said. “The only other composer who can take anything is Beethoven.” Nevertheless, Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto in C minor endured a difficult and prolonged arrival into the world. The idea had been with him for several years already before he began serious work in 1800. Yet, realising it would not be completed in time for its planned premiere, he set it aside. Returning to it two years later he was again forced to put it away when another planned concert fell through.
In late 1802 he returned to it a third time, finally completing it the following year. And still there were problems: the Concerto was to be premiered as part of a three-hour concert that also included the First and Second Symphonies and a new oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, and the day before Beethoven was still making changes to the latter. He hadn’t even written down the solo part for the Concerto, and on the day he played from memory, using a sheaf of indecipherable aides-memoires (to the great consternation of his page turner!). An exhausting ten-hour rehearsal led to a lacklustre concert, and Beethoven’s Concerto in particular was poorly received.
“You can’t destroy Bach,” Salonen has said. “The only other composer who can take anything is Beethoven.”
It was later more warmly welcomed: a review of its second performance hailed it “among Beethoven’s most beautiful compositions” and today we understand it as sitting at the moment Beethoven escapes the shadow of Mozart and discovers his voice. This essential dynamic may be heard in its opening motto. A three-note rising arpeggio carries echoes of Mozart (particularly his own C minor Concerto, K. 491); but the dotted rhythm that follows is pure Beethoven, and it is this martial drumbeat that becomes the work’s signature.
The earliest reference to the Concerto in Beethoven’s notebooks is a sketch from 1796 marked “for the Concerto in C minor kettledrum at the cadenza”, and in an eerie duet at the end of the first movement this moment is indeed realised.
Antoine Siguré © Camilla Greenwell
A sublime change of tone heralds the extraordinarily beautiful slow movement. Led by a piano that seems to speak from (and find comfort in) stark solitude, it marks for the first time the emergence of Beethoven’s true manner. After a wary journey from darkness into light, the third and final movement returns to the fast tempo of the first, but now with an emboldened, darting attention. In between statements of a folky dance tune Beethoven inserts brass fanfares, martial dotted rhythms (recalling the first movement), dramatic key changes (recalling the second), as well as great flights of pianistic fantasy.
JS Bach aged 61 by Elias Gottlob Haussmann (public domain)
Bach, Borrow or Steal
While creative appropriation is foundational to African American music (just think of the jazz standard, the reggae riddim or the hip hop sample) it is relatively uncommon in European art music. Yet the music of Bach is a notable exception: throughout the 20th century musicians turned to it not only as a source of inspiration but also as basic compositional material, whether via quotation and allusion, or more fundamentally through arrangement or transcription.
Among the composers in this evening’s concert, personal threads tie both Salonen and Klemperer to Bach, much as they tie Salonen and Klemperer to each other. (Salonen noted recently that he might be the only person to have inherited one of Klemperer’s orchestras twice, in both the Philharmonia and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.) Klemperer’s arrangement is of a piece he would play as a way of clarifying his mind before concerts (even if it has since turned out not to have been by Bach at all) – many other classical musicians, such as cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist András Schiff, speak of playing a movement of Bach every morning as a kind of spiritual hygiene.
Personal threads tie both Salonen and Klemperer to Bach, much as they tie Salonen and Klemperer to each other. Salonen noted recently that he might be the only person to have inherited one of Klemperer’s orchestras twice, in both the Philharmonia and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Salonen borrows a piece so thoroughly under every violinist’s fingers it could serve as an impromptu test of a concert hall’s acoustic. Both examples point to a view of Bach as archetypal, almost functional, in spite of (or because of?) its accomplishment. Yet the list of others who have similarly arranged, transcribed, elaborated or riffed upon Bach, from Mendelssohn to Michael Finnissy (to say nothing of Dave Brubeck, Procol Harum, or Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance), transcends such personal connections.
For Webern, Bach’s music clearly was an archetype, a Petri dish in which to cultivate his fractured instrumental style. Bach’s music – dominated by fugal and canonic forms and strict contrapuntal rules – could also be read (rightly or wrongly) as an important predecessor to Webern’s highly constructivist music, and Webern’s arrangement provides historical and musical legitimacy for his serial experiments.
For Berio, meanwhile, it was the unfinished nature of Bach’s ‘Contrapunctus XIV’ that appealed: his Contrapunctus XIX springs from a similar artistic impulse as his finale to Puccini’s Turandot and his fantastically imaginative completion of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Eighth Symphony, Rendering. In all three instances, Berio’s interest was not fidelity to the style or method of the historical work, but an acknowledgement of it as history, with all the layers of grime and misreading that can accumulate over the years. So his inserts into Schubert’s Eighth go places Schubert could never have dreamed of, while his ‘completion’ of Bach’s unfinished fugue simply accentuates the unknowability of what the great German composer would have done next. This is the inverse of Webern’s constructivist Bach; this is Bach as mercurial, unmatchable genius.
Notes and feature by Tim Rutherford-Johnson © Philharmonia Orchestra/Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Benjamin Ealovega
A Tribute to Esa-Pekka Salonen
By Kira Doherty, 2nd Horn and President of the Philharmonia
Usually when I go and speak to conductors after a Philharmonia concert, we talk about the music, the players and about future plans. They are often chatty and satisfied, and happily beaming after particularly good performances. When I speak to Salonen though, I never know what to expect…
“Good concert tonight, Maestro. Did you enjoy it?”
“Yes. It was a good one tonight. Listen, I’d like to book some karaoke for tomorrow night. Do you think you could help me with that?”
“Um… yes of course. How many people would it be for?”
To be fair, this was the last night of a two-week tour of Japan, where the Philharmonia had travelled the length of the country performing Mahler, Beethoven and Strauss. But this sort of spontaneous generosity from Salonen was not out of the ordinary; in fact it was representative of his longstanding relationship with the players, and the close camaraderie that he fostered throughout his tenure.
Esa-Pekka Salonen in Lotte Concert Hall, Seoul, 2018 © Mast Media
“How about a drink somewhere near the hall after the show?” This time we were performing at the Auditorio Nacional de Música in Madrid, where the only bars in the vicinity were decidedly spit-and-sawdust. After the end of the concert, however, Esa-Pekka and a group of us piled in to the best-looking one, and spent an enjoyable evening drinking cheerful, goldfish bowl-sized gin and tonics, and munching on complimentary saucers of peanuts.
For a group of players used to maestros draping cashmere sweaters over their shoulders and keeping well away from the playing troops, Salonen broke the mould, and in so doing accomplished what very few principal conductors manage to do.
You see, principal conductors almost always fall into two categories: those who remain frustratingly elusive and isolated from the players, and those who become overly familiar, often at the risk of breeding what familiarity breeds. Yet Salonen managed to avoid both of these pitfalls during his time as Principal Conductor, becoming a close and beloved member of the Philharmonia family whilst always maintaining the highest levels of respect on the podium from the players.
Relationships like these between conductor and orchestra are rare, and although these final concerts feel as if a chapter is closing, the Philharmonia/Salonen relationship is far from over...
If one wants to understand the source of the success behind this relationship, it is not in small part due to this sense of closeness and rapport coupled with exacting standards and musical integrity. It is a relationship built on trust and mutual respect, which makes us feel able to take risks and push boundaries (or to put it in more colloquial terms, he is always there to save our derrière when things get interesting and, very occasionally, we his).
There are so many conductors who will to seek to control an orchestra, to impose their vision, or to shape the orchestra in their image. But playing for Salonen is different: he enables the orchestra to be its true self, and together we follow where he leads.
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Mika Ranta
Relationships like these between conductor and orchestra are rare, and although these final concerts feel as if a chapter is closing, the Philharmonia/Salonen relationship is far from over, and we will already be looking forward to seeing our old friend back on the podium before too long, and to buying him a large gin and tonic afterwards (with complimentary peanuts, of course).
Feature by Kira Doherty © Philharmonia Orchestra/Kira Doherty
Esa-Pekka Salonen © Benjamin Suomela
“The Philharmonia under Mr Salonen is a wondrous creature to behold...” The New York Times
Back in 1983, an unknown young Finnish conductor made his Philharmonia debut at the Royal Festival Hall in London, stepping in at a few days’ notice to conduct Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 3.
Esa-Pekka Salonen has been part of the life of the Philharmonia ever since, and this season is the last in his remarkable 13-season term as Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor. Throughout his tenure he has worked relentlessly to redefine what classical music can be in the 21st century.
He has collaborated with the Philharmonia on groundbreaking ways to present orchestral music, including large-scale interactive installations The Virtual Orchestra, Universe of Sound and Re:Rite, an acclaimed iPad app, The Orchestra; and a virtual reality experience featuring the piece that first brought him to us, Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.
He has programmed outstanding, critically acclaimed series examining social and cultural history through the prism of music – among the most memorable are Vienna: City of Dreams, Paris: City of Light, Stravinsky: Myths and Rituals, and Weimar Berlin: Bittersweet Metropolis. And he has led the Philharmonia on tours to Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, the USA, and all over Europe.
Alongside his position with the Philharmonia, Esa-Pekka is also Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, and Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009. He is the Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet. He recently joined the faculty of LA’s Colburn School, where he leads the Negaunee Conducting Program (in partnership with the Philharmonia). He co-founded the annual Baltic Sea Festival, serving as Artistic Director from 2003 to 2018.
He is renowned as a composer as well as a conductor – he spends part of each year composing, deep in the Finnish countryside. His music has been praised for its “tremendous technique, intellect, charm and musicality” (The Times), and his Violin Concerto won a Grawemeyer Award.
Mitsuko Uchida © Geoffroy Schied
One of the most revered artists of our time, Mitsuko Uchida is known as a peerless interpreter of the works of Mozart, Schubert, Schumann and Beethoven, as well for being a devotee of the piano music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern and György Kurtág.
She has enjoyed close relationships over many years with the world’s most renowned orchestras, including the Philharmonia, Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, and – in the US – the Chicago Symphony and The Cleveland Orchestra, with whom she celebrated her 100th performance at Severance Hall. Conductors with whom she has worked closely have included Esa-Pekka Salonen, Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Riccardo Muti, Vladimir Jurowski, Andris Nelsons, Gustavo Dudamel and Mariss Jansons.
Since 2016, Mitsuko Uchida has been an Artistic Partner of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, with whom she is engaged on a five-year touring project in Europe and North America. She also appears regularly in recital in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, New York and Tokyo, and is a frequent guest at the Salzburg Mozartwoche and Salzburg Festival.
Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively for Decca, and her multi-award-winning discography includes the complete Mozart and Schubert piano sonatas. She is the recipient of two GRAMMY Awards – for Mozart Concertos with The Cleveland Orchestra, and for an album of lieder with Dorothea Röschmann – and her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra won the Gramophone Award for Best Concerto.
A founding member of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and Director of Marlboro Music Festival, Mitsuko Uchida is a recipient of the Golden Mozart Medal from the Salzburg Mozarteum, and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. She has also been awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Philharmonic Society, and holds Honorary Degrees from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. In 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
The Steinway concert piano chosen and hired by the Philharmonia Orchestra for this performance is supplied and maintained by Steinway & Sons, London.
- Benjamin Marquise Gilmore
- Rebecca Chan
- Eugene Lee
- Soong Choo
- Victoria Irish
- Adrián Varela
- Eunsley Park – Chair endowed by Saul Nathan
- Karin Tilch
- Annabelle Meare
- Emily Davis – No. 2 Second Violin Chair is endowed by Nick and Camilla Bishop
- Fiona Cornall – No. 3 Second Violin Chair is endowed anonymously
- Julian Milone – Chair endowed by Julia Zilberman
- Jan Regulski
- Sophie Cameron
- Yukiko Ogura – The Principal Viola Chair is endowed by The Tertis Foundation
- William Bender – No. 3 Viola Chair is endowed by Gillian and Lionel Frumkin
- Sylvain Séailles – No. 4 Viola Chair is endowed by Ruth and Henry Amar
- Linda Kidwell – Chair endowed by AgCo Tech Pte Ltd
- Cheremie Hamilton-Miller – The Philharmonia Orchestra Deputy President’s Chair is endowed by The Fernside Trust
- Stephanie Edmundson
- Timothy Walden – The Principal Cello Chair is endowed in memory of Amaryllis Fleming (1925–1999) by the Amaryllis Fleming Foundation and Fleming Family and Partners Ltd
- Karen Stephenson – No. 2 Cello Chair is endowed by Jane and Julian Langer
- Deirdre Cooper
- Ella Rundle
- Anne Baker
- Yaroslava Trofymchuk – Chair endowed by Manuela Ribadeneira
- Tim Gibbs – The Principal Double Bass Chair is endowed by Sir Sydney and Lady Lipworth in memory of Bertrand Lipworth
- Gareth Sheppard
- Michael Fuller – Chair endowed anonymously
- Simon Oliver – Chair endowed by Saul Nathan
- Charlotte Ashton (doubling piccolo) – The Principal Flute Chair is endowed by Norbert and Sabine Reis
- June Scott
- Timothy Rundle (doubling cor anglais) – The Principal Oboe Chair is endowed by Elizabeth Aitken
- Alex Hilton
- Mark van de Wiel (doubling bass clarinet)
- Laurent Ben Slimane
- Jordan Black
- Laurent Ben Slimane – The Principal Bass Clarinet Chair is endowed by Philip and Judy Green
- Emily Hultmark – The Principal Bassoon Chair is endowed by Penny and Nigel Turnbull
- Nigel Black – The Principal Horn Chair is endowed by John and Carol Wates in memory of Dennis Brain
- Kira Doherty – The President’s Chair is endowed by Esa-Pekka Salonen in honour of Sir Sydney Lipworth QC and Lady Lipworth CBE
- Chris Evans – The Principal Trumpet Chair is endowed by Daan and Maggie Knottenbelt
- Robin Totterdell
- Becky Smith
- Robert Moseley
- Dudley Bright – The Principal Trombone Chair is endowed by the National Friends Council
Percussion – The Percussion Section is endowed by Patrick and Sule Dewilde