Paul E. Robinson
La Scena Musicale
, November 2009
Like so many other music festivals the Verbier Festival in Switzerland brings together some of the most talented young musicians to form an orchestra and invites well-known conductors to lead them. On July 26, 2007, Esa-Pekka Salonen was on the podium and I’ll bet those kids will remember the occasion for the rest of their lives. For here was a great Finnish maestro conducting the music of his most famous countryman in an absolutely authoritative and spell-binding performance, and for good measure introducing the young musicians to his own music.
Salonen recently completed a hugely successful tenure heading the Los Angeles Philharmonic but he is barely into middle age, with many productive years ahead of him both as a conductor and a composer. His LA Variations is original and engrossing from beginning to end. Salonen constantly finds new sonorities and, unlike many contemporary composers, has no trouble creating music in quick tempo and music with a sense
of humour. The UBS Verbier Festival Orchestra played the piece brilliantly.
Salonen has special insight into Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. Without underplaying the romantic tunes, he uncovers the complexity of the symphonic construction and generates a fearsome energy that reminds us that this music was contemporary with Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Ravel when it was composed in 1915.