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Esa-Pekka Salonen to Step Down from San Francisco Symphony in 2025

Salonen stated that he did "not share the same goals for the future of the institution as the Board of Governors"


Esa-Pekka Salonen was announced as the San Francisco Symphony’s 12th Music Director in 2018 and began his tenure in the Fall of 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdown. It has been announced today that his five-year contract with the ensemble will come to a close in June 2025.

"I have decided not to continue as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, because I do not share the same goals for the future of the institution as the Board of Governors does," Salonen said in a statement. "I am sincerely looking forward to the many exciting programs we have planned for my final season as music director, and am proud to continue working with the world-class musicians of the San Francisco Symphony."

The New York Times adds that "the rift between Salonen and the board appeared to be over efforts to cut costs, which include reducing the number of concerts and commissions, as well as putting tours on hold."

Additionally, SF CEO Matthew Spivey told the San Francisco Chronicle that since Salonen's hiring in 2018, "the San Francisco Symphony is in a very different place now than it was at that point in time. There are significant financial pressures on the organization, and they have become impossible to ignore."

Salonen's relationship with the ensemble will continue, however. The San Francisco Symphony has written in its press release that after June 2025, "Salonen will maintain an ongoing partnership with the San Francisco Symphony through regular guest conducting appearances and collaborations following the conclusion of the upcoming season."


At the beginning of his tenure, Salonen brought several online projects via the streaming service SFSymphony+ plus a digital performance of György Ligeti's works with imagery generated by Artificial Intelligence and visual artist Refik Anadol.

In May 2021, after COVID-19 restrictions were loosened, he conducted his first in-person performances as Music Director at Davies Symphony Hall as well as at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater.

With the SF Symphony, Salonen has conducted world premieres of works by Samuel Adams, Fang Man, Anders Hillborg, Jens Ibsen, Magnus Lindberg, Jesper Nordin, and Trevor Weston — plus U.S. premieres of works by Bryce Dessner, Hannah Kendall, and Daniel Kidane.

In 2023, Salonen led the San Francisco Symphony on a European tour featuring extended residencies at France's Philharmonie de Paris and Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie.

With Gustavo Dudamel and Rafael Payare, Salonen also led the California Festival: A Celebration of New Music, a two-week statewide initiative that brought together more than 100 musical organizations to perform more than 180 works written in the last five years.


Outside of San Francisco, Salonen is also a conductor laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is also on faculty at the Colburn School, where he develops, leads, and directs the pre-professional Negaunee Conducting Program. He co-founded the annual Baltic Sea Festival, and until 2018, he also served as its Artistic Director. Recently, Salonen has been named as the recipient of the Polar Music Prize for 2024.

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