Composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen is a longtime spokesman for the Baltic Sea
Even though Los Angeles has become the city I live in, my roots will always be firmly planted in my hometown, Helsinki. The Baltic Sea clings to me like my skin, and protecting it means the world to me. Even though I cannot think about the Baltic Sea each and every day, I am more than happy to lend my face and my voice to the Sea, and to those who work to protect it. I am glad to be able to participate by doing something significant in the corner of the world where I am from – and where I regularly return. To me, the Baltic Sea equals the Helsinki I know, surrounded by the sea, relaxation at our summer house in Sipoo, and encounters in Stockholm in late summer. The list goes on.
The Baltic Sea is a sensitive sea, burdened by the populations of many countries, and compared to the Pacific Ocean, it is a vulnerable, shallow puddle with not much water in it. My generation and the ones before us did not realise how vulnerable the sea could be; we imagined it can take whatever you throw at it. Today, we are trying to make amends for past sins and, at the same time, ensure that the sea will no longer be treated with such negligence.
The Baltic Sea competes for our attention alongside many other burning issues. I have taken part in the Baltic Sea effort by, for example, establishing the Stockholm Baltic Sea Festival, and working there actively, together with Valery Gergiev. This I have always done pro bono, pro mare – out of love for the sea. I have many musician friends who, like me, genuinely and actively want to do their share in improving the status of the Baltic Sea.
A strong message of hope is associated with the Baltic Sea because we know that by working together the Sea can still be saved. Our generation has the chance to correct the course of the ship. The experts are also saying: the Baltic Sea can still be saved. Through international cooperation and the actions of states, cities, private companies and foundations, a lot has already been achieved. I have also met many people who work tirelessly for the Baltic Sea. Each time, I am hugely impressed by the dedication with which these people and stakeholders protect the Baltic Sea. One of these is the John Nurminen Foundation.
About the Clean Baltic Sea concert on April 19, 2016:
Music is a strong carrier of messages. Nature and the Baltic Sea have inspired also those composers whose work we will hear in this concert. The tour of the Baltic Sea Philharmonic orchestra embodies an important message for the citizens and decision-makers of the countries they tour in. Alexander Toradze, the Georgian soloist of the concert, is a marvellous pianist. I believe that a concert for the Baltic Sea, offering its audience musical and aesthetic experiences, is a wonderful way of inviting a new audience to the world of classical music and the protection of the Baltic Sea. I hope that also people who have until now been somewhat reluctant to go to classical music concerts will now find their way to the Music Centre. The talented and energetic Kristjan Järvi has, by the way, been my assistant conductor in Los Angeles, and I bet that he will just charm the Music Centre with his fierce and intense performance.
Composer and conductor
One of the artistic advisors of the Baltic Youth Philharmonic orchestra
Founding member of the Stockholm Baltic Sea Festival
Philharmonia Orchestra, London, Principal Conductor
New York Philharmonic, Composer-in-Residence
Photo: Clive Barda