Press Room

Preeminent Conductor/Composer Esa-Pekka Salonen Makes His First Appearance with the Houston Symphony in March

HOUSTON (Feb. 4, 2021) — The Houston Symphony is announcing that Finnish conductor/composer Esa-Pekka Salonen is headlining its March 26, 27, and 28, 2021 concert series. Marking Salonen’s Houston Symphony debut, the concert features the Finnish maestro leading the orchestra in a program of his own music alongside works by Bach and Beethoven.

Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and Conductor Laureate of both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Symphony, Salonen is widely considered to be one of the preeminent conductors in the world today. His most recent performances include an October 2020 streamed Philharmonia performance of Britten’s Les illuminations; a November 2020 virtual premiere of Nico Muhly’s Throughline with the San Francisco Symphony; and a December 2020 streamed Philharmonia performance of Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus. Also this past Fall, Salonen composed music for the groundbreaking immersive opera installation Laila at the Finnish National Opera, and he was awarded an honorary knighthood (KBE) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Harking back to Mozart and Haydn while establishing Beethoven’s distinctive compositional style, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 is the finale of the program Maestro Salonen is performing with the Houston Symphony, and joins other Beethoven Symphonies in the orchestra’s season-long commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The concert opens with works by Johann Sebastian Bach as arranged by other composers and conductors, each viewing Bach through his own distinctive lens: Bach’s own “Ricercata a 6 voci” from The Musical Offering arranged by Anton Webern; and The Art of the Fugue’s “Contrapunctus XIX,” a quadruple fugue Bach left incomplete at his death, which Luciano Berio subsequently completed and arranged. Bach’s “Preludio” from the Solo Violin Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006.1, performed by Houston Symphony Concertmaster Yoonshin Song, is paired with Salonen’s own Fog, a 90th-birthday piece for renowned architect Frank O. Gehry. Gehry and Salonen worked together closely on Los Angeles’ iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Fog is a free fantasy on the first notes heard in that hall: the Bach “Preludio.”

In 2019, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted the Philharmonia in the world premiere of Jimmy López-Bellido’s Dreamers oratorio at CalPerformances in Berkeley, CA. This is the work that was to have its second-ever performance with the Houston Symphony in April of last year, before being cancelled because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Livestream and in-person tickets are now available for these performances at Each livestream performance is available via a private link to ticket holders for $20, and livestream subscribers who purchase a package of tickets receive an additional 25% discount.

In addition to the socially distanced Jones Hall capacity of a max of 450 audience members per performance, representing less than 15% capacity, the Symphony has put safety protocols in place for all patrons, musicians, and staff entering Jones Hall. Based on guidance from partners at Houston Methodist and Houston First, these measures include regular COVID-19 testing for musicians; requiring protective masks that cover the nose and mouth at all times for all who enter the building; staggered entry and exiting; and keeping concertgoers seated a minimum of six feet apart.

Concerts continue to have a one to one-and-a-half-hour run time with no intermission, and food and beverage services are currently suspended to eliminate crowding. For a comprehensive list of safety measures, visit

This concert is part of the Frost Bank Gold Classics Series. The Classical Series, sponsored by the Robert Cizik Family, is endowed by the Wortham Foundation, Inc., in memory of Gus S. and Lyndall F. Wortham. Livestream of Houston Symphony concerts is made possible by Barbara J. Burger.

Friday, March 26, 2021 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 27, 2021 8:00 p.m.*
Sunday, March 28, 2021 at 2:30 p.m.
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
Yoonshin Song, violin
Bach-Webern: Ricercata a 6 voci
Bach-Berio: Contrapunctus XIX
Bach: Prelude for Violin Partita No. 3 in E major
Salonen: Fog
Beethoven: Symphony No. 1

*Livestreamed at 8 p.m. CST

About the Houston Symphony
During the 2020–21 Season, the Houston Symphony celebrates its seventh season with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada and continues its second century as one of America’s leading orchestras with a full complement of concert, community, education, touring, and recording activities. The Houston Symphony, one of the oldest performing arts organizations in Texas, held its inaugural performance at The Majestic Theater in downtown on Houston June 21, 1913. Today, with an annual operating budget of $25.8 million, the full-time ensemble of 88 professional musicians presents nearly 170 concerts annually, making it the largest performing arts organization in Houston. Additionally, musicians of the orchestra and the Symphony’s two Community-Embedded Musicians offer over 1,000 community-based performances each year at various schools, community centers, hospitals, and churches reaching more than 200,000 people in Greater Houston annually.

The Grammy Award-winning Houston Symphony has recorded under various prestigious labels, including Koch International Classics, Naxos, RCA Red Seal, Telarc, Virgin Classics, and, most recently, Dutch recording label Pentatone. In 2017, the Houston Symphony was awarded an ECHO Klassik award for the live recording of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck under the direction of former Music Director Hans Graf. The orchestra earned its first Grammy nomination and Grammy Award at the 60th annual ceremony for the same recording in the Best Opera Recording category.

Eric Skelly: 713.337.8560,
Mireya Reyna: 713.337.8557,


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