When composing, Esa-Pekka Salonen confesses in this video interview that he tries “to avoid the moment when I’m back in my studio and I sit down and panic — that moment that everybody knows.”
Yo-Yo Ma, for whom Salonen has written his latest work, interjects: “Come on, you don’t panic.”
“Any degree of discomfort is to be avoided,” Salonen responds. “This is my motto.”
Then he and Ma burst out, almost in unison: “Artistic comfort at all costs.”
The work in question is Salonen’s Cello Concerto, which will receive its world-premiere performances March 9-11, with the composer leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ma as soloist. The concerto was co-commissioned by the CSO, the New York Philharmonic, the Barbican Centre in London and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany.
Ma, the CSO’s Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, observes that Salonen has written “beautiful concertos for Yefim Bronfman and Leila Josefowicz, and now you’re writing what’s going to be a wonderful piece [for me]. You like to write for friends. What do you look for in friendship that results in pieces of music?”
“There are two sides to it,” Salonen says. “The obvious, simple answer is of course it’s fun to work with friends. It gives me a lot of pleasure to develop a partnership and friendship, which has been there for decades in some cases, on to the next level.”
When writing for someone specific, Salonen notes, “There’s something about the aura of that person that becomes part of the energy of the piece. When I’m writing for you, I have your sound in mind. I know —”
Joking, Ma interrupts, “It’s not pentatonic scales …”
They both crack up, and Salonen adds, “I know that you have no limits, which is for a composer really very inspiring. It’s also the personality thing. It’s not only the way a person plays an instrument, it’s the way the person is. And how I’ve elected to represent that personality.”
For information about the program, which also features Adams’ Slonimsky’s Earbox and Stravinsky’s Petrushka, click here.