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Esa-Pekka Salonen Leads Debussy & Boulez

Thu / May 8, 2025 - 8:00PM

Salonen contrasts two iconic French composers, capped off by La mer.


About this Performance

As a teenage aspiring composer with a modernist ear, Esa-Pekka Salonen idolized composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and has become one of the biggest champions of his music. Salonen writes, “It can be complex without ever losing its clarity, it can be aggressive or delicate, hypnotic or kaleidoscopically flickering, ritualistic or virtuosic. But most importantly, it is often hauntingly beautiful.”

Salonen contrasts Boulez’ serialist voice with fellow French composer Debussy’s impressionism—a pairing critic Mark Pullinger compared to “glaring sunburst [and] smudgy haze” or “Monet and Jackson Pollock.” Boulez’ solo piano Notations (each only 12 bars) flow into a version for orchestra that explodes the original musical idea with orchestral colors before being counterpointed by one of Debussy’s dreamy Images. Like Salonen, Boulez was a renowned conductor of Debussy’s music, and after intermission Salonen, leads two Debussy favorites: the Fantaisie with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and the composer’s conversation between wind and wave, La mer.

Concerts in the Thursday 2 subscription series are generously supported by The Otis Booth Foundation.

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