“Boyishly handsome,” gushed the Baltimore Sun. “Hollywood good looks,” raved Time. “Brash, energetic, dynamic, tough, aloof,” opined London’s Financial Times. No, not swoons over “The Talented Mr. Ripley’s” Jude Law. These adjectives, none of which has much to do with melody, rhythm or timbre, have variously described Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Those devilish bangs. Those chiseled cheekbones. That naughty pout. It’s no wonder that the Philharmonic wasn’t about to stuff this hunky Finn into a stodgy tux for its promotional campaigns. Last season’s high-flying street banners caught Salonen, wearing a short-sleeved black T-shirt, in a moment of rapturous podium ecstasy: mouth agape, eyes fluttering shut, arms outstretched. High-beam gymnast scoring a sure 10.0 meets “Boogie Nights.” Another poster, casually referred to as “the biceps shot” around the Phil office, highlights the conductor’s flexed, well-defined arm waving a baton.
Then this season, the Phil debuts its new posters featuring . . . musical instruments? What do staid violins and pianos have to do with music? “He is our poster boy to put a face on the orchestra,” says Fran Wheatley, who’s with the Philharmonic’s art department. “But because he is going to be on sabbatical, and because we have used him so much, we thought we’d feature the musical instruments this year.” Phooey!
Wheatley does admit there are those at the Phil who “miss having that more personal side to the posters. Esa-Pekka is an amazing person. He’s deep and he’s funny.” And hopefully disciplined. Those pecs better not get flabby on sabbatical.