Queen Elizabeth II awarded an honorary knighthood to San Francisco Symphony Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen earlier this week. Salonen received his commendation for his services to music and United Kingdom-Finland relations.
The Finnish-born conductor and composer made his international debut in the United Kingdom in 1983 after being invited to conduct the Philharmonia Orchestra in London.
Salonen was the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor from 1985 to 1994 and has been Principal Conductor there since 2008. When that tenure officially ends next June, he will become the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Artistic Advisor and Conductor Emeritus.
“This is a true personal honor, but more than that, it is meaningful to have artists honored at a national—at a historical—level,” Salonen said in a written statement. “It shows an appreciation of art-making as a necessary part of society. A recognition that culture is who we are, not just what we do.”
Only a handful of Finns have received British honorary knighthoods. Salonen joins former presidents Martti Ahtisaari, Urho Kekkonen, C. G. E. Mannerheim and Risto Ryti; and prime ministers Harri Holkeri.
Besides his current role at the. San Francisco Symphony and Philharmonia Orchestra, Esa-Pekka Salonen is also currently an Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, a member of the faculty of the Colburn School in Los Angeles, the Conductor Laureate for both the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic