Salonen’s ‘Violin Concerto’ wins Grawemeyer music award

“Violin Concerto,” a piece by Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, has won the 2012 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

The four-movement, half-hour concerto begins with a solitary violin, moves on to embrace a series of themes ranging from a quiet heartbeat to urban pop music and ends on a chord unlike any other in the work, said award director Marc Satterwhite.

“The piece is eclectic in its influences but has a distinct personality all its own,” he said.

Salonen, 53, principal conductor and artistic advisor for the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, was music director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 17 years. He conducted the first performance of “Violin Concerto” himself at one of his final concerts with the Los Angeles orchestra in 2009.

Leila Josefowicz, an American violinist known for championing new music, inspired Salonen’s winning work and played at its premiere. Josefowicz and the Finnish National Radio Symphony will record the piece for commercial release in May.

Salonen began conducting in 1979. He has written many orchestral works that are regularly performed and broadcast worldwide, including “LA Variations,” “Foreign Bodies,” “Wing on Wing,” “Piano Concerto” and “Nyx.”

His “Violin Concerto” was selected for the Grawemeyer Award from among 165 entries.

UofL presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year’s awards are $100,000 each.

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts his Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz & Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France at Festival Présences, Paris 2011

About Esa-Pekka Salonen

Esa-Pekka Salonen, principal conductor and artistic advisor of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra since 2008, is a conductor, composer and lifelong advocate of new music.

Salonen’s own works have long received acclaim. His pieces “Floof” and “LA Variations” have become established as modern classics, and retrospectives of his work at Musica Nova, Helsinki, in 2003, the Stockholm International Composer Festival in 2004 and Festival Presences Paris in February played to capacity audiences.

Born in Helsinki in 1958, he made his conducting debut in 1979 with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, later conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Symphony orchestras and serving as artistic director for the Helsinki Festival.

In 1992, he became music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Under his 17-year leadership, the orchestra’s reputation soared as it commissioned more than 50 new works and gave 120 pieces of music their U.S. or global debuts. While there, Salonen also launched innovative collaborations such as a Stravinsky Festival in Paris in 1996 and the Tristan Project in 2007.

He was named the orchestra’s first conductor laureate after stepping down from the Los Angeles job in 2009.

Since 2003, Salonen has been artistic director of the Baltic Sea Festival, an event dedicated to promoting ecological awareness in the Baltic region that features special musical performances each year by invited orchestras, conductors and soloists.

He recently became artist-in-residence at Germany’s Konzerthaus Dortmund, where he will lead performances by London’s Philharmonia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Bavarian Radio Symphony this season in addition to his regular duties with the Philharmonia.

In 2010, he was elected a foreign honorary fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2006, was named Musician of the Year by Musical America magazine. The Helsinki Medal and Siena Prize are among his many awards.

His music is published by Chester Music Limited of London and recorded on various labels by orchestras, ensembles and solo artists worldwide.

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