11 Dec 18
The Mercury News
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In an announcement that sent shock waves through the music world last week, conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen was named the San Francisco Symphony’s 12th music director. The Finnish maestro, who will succeed the Symphony’s current music director, Michael Tilson Thomas, comes to the organization following 17 years as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He’s also the principal conductor and artistic adviser of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra.
His official tenure in San Francisco doesn’t begin until the end of the 2019-20 season, when Tilson Thomas steps down after 25 years in the post. But Salonen, 60, has already assembled a team of young artistic advisors — innovators from the worlds of tech, science, film and music.
Who are the members of this brain trust? Here’s a brief introduction.
Nicholas Britell: You’ve heard his soundtracks for Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film “Moonlight” and the riveting HBO series “Succession,” among others; his new score for Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” hits theaters this month. With his links to film and classical performance — Britell, 38, is also a founding member of the L.A. Dance Project and the Carnegie Hall-based ensemble Decoda — he’s sure to be a power player in the Salonen era.
Julia Bullock: Whether she’s singing operatic roles by John Adams or Josephine Baker songs in new arrangements by Tyshawn Sorey, Julia Bullock, 31, brings one-of-a-kind insight and intensity to the music at hand. The soprano and social activist, who sang the role of Dame Shirley in San Francisco Opera’s 2017 world premiere production of Adams’ “Girls of the Golden West,” is an artist of diverse musical interests, one who always seems to inspire composers to reach for new heights. Will Salonen, also a prolific composer, write for her? Stay tuned.
Claire Chase: Flutist, new music advocate and Avery Fisher Prize winner Claire Chase, 40, had critics grasping for superlatives last December in her Berkeley recital for Cal Performances. The event, a day-long performance of new works from Chase’s 22-year commissioning project, “Density 2036,” revealed a rare talent, one whose knowledge and experience in the contemporary music world is vast.
Bryce Dessner: Best known as a guitarist and member of the rock band The National, Bryce Dessner, 42, has garnered wide acclaim as an American composer and new music curator. He’s been commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, SōPercussion and Salonen’s Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has co-commissioned Dessner’s yet-to-be performed “American Wedding,” a new work for eight-voice choir and ensemble inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography.
Pekka Kuusisto: Salonen’s fellow Finn, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, 42, has a distinctive sound and a solid track record in new music performance. An artistic partner with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and artistic director of Australia’s ACO Collective, he’s played concertos for his instrument by Thomas Adės, Magnus Lindberg and Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason. He also devotes much of his time to ecology, working with Greenpeace to protect the Great Northern Forests.
Nico Muhly: Vermont-born, New York-based composer Nico Muhly, 37, is one of the most lauded composers of his generation: Hs latest opera, “Marnie,” based on Winston Graham’s 1961 novel and the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock film it inspired, was produced by the Metropolitan Opera to glowing reviews this fall. Considering that he’s created more than 80 new works for the concert stage, look for Muhly to make key contributions once Salonen takes up the Symphony’s reins.
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Carol E. Reiley: A pioneer in teleoperated and autonomous robot systems for surgery, space exploration, disaster rescue and self-driving cars, Carol Reiley, 36, is also a forceful advocate for diversity in the tech world. In an interview with the Bay Area News Group following his appointment, Salonen said he’s looking for new ways to bring audiences to the concert hall, so Reiley is certain to play a significant role on his team.
Esperanza Spalding: Jazz bassist Spalding, 34, whose music crosses boundaries, eras and styles, completes Salonen’s lineup. Like some other artists on the list, she brings a wealth of musical acumen to the team. She’s also the only jazz artist to make the cut, so we’re already envisioning the endless possibilities for musical collaborations between the Symphony and the Bay Area’s premier jazz presenters.
Contact Georgia Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.