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In a tumultuous world, conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen is focusing more on the present

In a tumultuous world, conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen is focusing more on the present

Drinking a triple cappuccino on a summery morning at a Brentwood Country Mart courtyard once favored by Schoenberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen appears content. A week earlier he had returned to Walt Disney Concert Hall for his annual visit with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The program — a Beethoven Concerto and a Mahler Symphony — was unusually conventional, at least for a venturesome conductor. But there was nothing commonplace about the dazzling performances or the reception Salonen received from a jubilant audience.

April will mark the seventh anniversary of his emotional last concert as L.A. Phil music director. Ever since the ensemble he had led for 17 years was turned over...

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