Preeminent Conductor/Composer Esa-Pekka Salonen Makes His First Appearance With The Houston Symphony In March

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