The other day Esa-Pekka Salonen announced his final season with the LA Philharmonic. The most innovative conductor of the contemporary era is going out in the high and bold style to which LA audiences have become accustomed. Of particular interest is a series of concerts in January 2009 in which Salonen will conduct new works of Arvo Pärt and Louis Andriessen and the long-awaited Peter Sellars staging of Kaija Saariaho's La Passion de Simone. His last series begins on April 7, with a Green Umbrella concert of younger composers: Fang Man, Erin Gee, Enrico Chapela, and Brooklyn's Anna Clyne. He then leads a yet-to-be-titled work of his own devising and moves on to the grand finale: Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and Symphony of Psalms, as directed by Sellars. That's not even the end of the season: John Adams curates some concerts in May, including a premiere by the very gifted composer-pianist Timothy Andres. (It's great to see the mighty LA Phil championing younger, relatively unknown composing talent.) And, lest anyone worry that the orchestra's modernistic tendencies will lapse when Salonen leaves, Ligeti's Atmosphères and Kurtág's Stele appear on Gustavo Dudamel's programs in fall 2008.
Explaining why he focussed on Stravinsky in his farewell season, Salonen said: “Stravinsky was very fortunate. He lived a very long life and he was productive to the very end. And somehow, I cannot think of many other artists of any discipline with the same sort of imagination and fantasy as Stravinsky. And that’s what it comes down to, really: the point of the idea, the imagination. The technique, everybody can learn ultimately, to make something that looks or sounds like a work of art. But the quality of the idea itself is the very central issue here, and Stravinsky never had bad ideas." Miller Theatre in NYC will underscore that point when it puts on a five-concert Stravinsky Festival in April, centered on a presentation of the Psalms, the Mass, and Requiem Canticles at the Park Avenue Armory.