This week Esa-Pekka Salonen will give concert-goers a preview of the fall of 2020, when he becomes the next Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. The concert was scheduled before the news was announced in early December that he would be taking on the new role. The program includes the West Coast premiere of a work called METACOSMOS by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, and Four Legends from the Kalevala by Jean Sibelius.

There’s more information about the concerts at the San Francisco Symphony website.

At the celebration when the announcement was made, Salonen was asked what it was about the ensemble that made him take the offer – since he had said in the past his hope was to concentrate primarily on composition. “The orchestra is absolutely first rate, it’s got spirit, curiosity, flexibility, commitment. Every time I’ve been here as a guest conductor, I’ve felt an instant connection, a natural communication between the musicians and myself, and that’s the main thing.” He described that feeling of chemistry he felt when he would guest conduct. “Quite often your first gut reaction is absolutely precisely the right one. Often you meet somebody new, and you know with an absolute certainty that this person is going to be a great constructive influence in your life until the end of your days…I start conducting, and in about 35 seconds or so, I can feel how they respond to my phrase, my language, my gestural language. And here, I always felt it, you know, after a few moments…. OK, they’re with me, they’re breathing with me, they are phrasing with me, I don’t have to explain things.” Salonen said his career has been entwined with that of Michael Tilson Thomas since 1983, when MTT had an injury, and couldn’t conduct Mahler’s Third Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Salonen (who even then was concentrating on his composing) decided to change direction, and was soon offered the post of leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic.