Esa-Pekka Salonen announced his 17th and final season as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic on Thursday at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the venue he helped build and in which he raised the city's and the orchestra's musical profiles to new heights.
Sharing the stage with Salonen, Philharmonic Assn. President Deborah Borda said, "There is a ban on any dirge-like activity or comment. This is simply not allowed today. We have a season and a half to go. But more importantly, it's a celebration of one hell of a guy, a man who has led us on amazing excursions and will continue to do so."
"This has been one of the luckiest things in my life," said Salonen, who will turn 50 in June and has said he intends to concentrate on composing when he steps down from the Disney Hall podium. "It seems a little too early to look back, and I'm not an eager back-looker because I tend to think that the best things are still ahead."
The 2008-09 season will include seven world premieres and residencies by four of the music director's close friends and collaborators -- composer-conductor John Adams, pianist Yefim Bronfman, director Peter Sellars and soprano Dawn Upshaw.
Among other highlights, the Vienna Philharmonic, led by former Philharmonic music director Zubin Mehta, will make its Disney Hall debut. Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's oratorio "La Passion de Simone," postponed from the 2007-08 season, will receive its U.S. premiere. And Andras Schiff will complete his two-year survey of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas.
Additionally, San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas will conduct the SFO in "The Thomashefsky Project," a program honoring Tilson Thomas' grandparents, Yiddish theater luminaries Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky.
Salonen's last Philharmonic program, April 16 to 19, 2009, will focus on Stravinsky, a composer long considered one of his specialties. The program will include "Oedipus Rex" and "Symphony of Psalms," both staged by Sellars.
Works by Stravinsky will also appear on subscription concerts in October and during a 17-day tour to Asia that the orchestra will make that month.
Salonen's last "Green Umbrella" concert, April 7, 2009, will include his 1982 work for soprano and five instrumentalists, "Floof," along with four Philharmonic-commissioned premieres.
"I thought it would be great to give our audience an idea of what young people are thinking in terms of creating music these days and around the world," Salonen said in an earlier interview.
"I can't think of a more fitting gesture for me to bow out with than this because that's what I believe in. I'm really more and more interested in trying to nurture the next generation and trying to help new voices to be heard and to be developed."
After a gala concert Oct. 2 led by Salonen, the season will open Oct. 3 with a program of Falla and Ravel, also led by the departing music director.
Among the new works next season will be a work for string orchestra by Arvo Part, a Double Piano Concerto by Louis Andriessen and chamber pieces by Timothy Andres, Fang Man, Erin Gee, Anna Clyne and Enrico Chapela.
A new work by Salonen, which will be premiered in Chicago in January 2009, will also be played in Los Angeles that April.
Philharmonic music director-designate Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Israel Philharmonic in November and the L.A. orchestra in November and December. He will officially become music director at the start of the 2009-10 season.
Lionel Bringuier, one of the orchestra's two assistant conductors, will lead four Philharmonic subscription concerts with violinist Joshua Bell in April, as well as a "Green Umbrella" concert in January.
As part of his residency in May, John Adams will conduct a staged performance of his "A Flowering Tree," directed by Sellars. The two-act opera was commissioned by the Vienna New Crowned Hope Festival to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth.
The list of visiting artists includes countertenor David Daniels, soprano Christine Brewer, violinist Nikolaj Znaider and pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque, Martha Argerich, Emanuel Ax, Leif Ove Andsnes, Evgeny Kissin and Krystian Zimerman.
The Venice Baroque Orchestra, English Concert and Australian Chamber Orchestra will appear on the Philharmonic's "Baroque Variations" series. Other series will be devoted to organ recitals, jazz, pop and world music.
The orchestra's 17-day tour to Asia, Oct. 15 to 31, will include concerts in Seoul, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong.