2014 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition

Esa-Pekka Salonen

2014 Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition Prize

Esa-Pekka Salonen

For his musicianship and insight, both as a composer and conductor.

Official press release

Esa-Pekka Salonen, who was trained as a European modernist, composes works that move freely between contemporary idioms, combining intricacy and technical virtuosity with playful rhythmic and melodic innovations. His catalog includes several works for symphony orchestra, including “Foreign Bodies” (2001), commissioned by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra; “Insomnia” (2002), co-commissioned by Suntory Hall, Tokyo; and “Norddeutscher Rundfunk,” Hamburg; and “Wing on Wing” (2004). The latter, which had its world premiere at Walt Disney Concert Hall, was a gift from the composer to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

In 2007, Salonen conducted the New York Philharmonic in the first performance of his Piano Concerto, dedicated to and premiered by Yefim Bronfman. Salonen’s Grawemeyer-winning Violin Concerto was premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Leila Josefowicz in 2009. His compositions “Floof,” “LA Variations” and “Nyx” have become modern classics.

Salonen is currently the principal conductor and artistic adviser of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra and the conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Next season he will lead the Orchestre de Paris, the Vienna and New York philharmonics, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Salonen has received numerous honors, including the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland and the Litteris et Artibus Medal, one of Sweden’s highest honors. In 1998, the French government awarded him the rank of Officier de l’orde des Arts et des Lettres. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected him an honorary member in 2010. Salonen was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2012 for his Violin Concerto. Three major retrospectives of his compositions have been mounted to critical acclaim at Festival Presences in Paris (2011), the Stockholm International Composer Festival (2004) and Musica Nova in Helsinki (2003).

"It is with great pride and appreciation that I accept the Nemmers Prize this year,” Salonen said. “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has long been a musical home away from home for me, and I look forward to developing a relationship with the Northwestern students and faculty. The possibilities at educational institutions are always intriguing, but the Bienen School's special amalgam of creativity and merit makes this opportunity even more exciting."

As the 2014 Nemmers Prize winner, Salonen, in addition to receiving a $100,000 cash award, will have one of his works performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 2015-16 season. He also will interact with Bienen School students and faculty during four residencies on the Northwestern campus over the next two academic years.  Salonen joins an illustrious list of previous winners of the Nemmers Prize, including Aaron Jay Kernis (2012), John Luther Adams (2010), Kaija Saariaho (2008), Oliver Knussen (2006) and John Adams (2004).