A Classical Icon Who Has a Lot to Say for L.A.

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Esa-Pekka Salonen leading the Philharmonia Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall on November 18, 2012.

The London Philharmonia is one of the world's great performing ensembles; over its seventy year history, it has engaged conductors as distinguished as Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss and others. Today, Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen holds the baton. He has, of course, absorbed the great traditions of the Old World, but found fresh inspiration in a somewhat unlikely setting: Tinseltown. Salonen spent almost twenty years at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic before landing in London.

"It was incredibly helpful to be away from the European, arrogant intellectual canon," Salonen says. "Of course when I started out, I had some residue of that 'culture as medicine' thing. Which is vile."

As if all of this wasn't enough to keep busy, now Salonen is also the Composer-In-Residence at the New York Philharmonic. He joins host Alec Baldwin to talk about his passion for composing; the psychological difference between conducting and composing; and why he has a complicated relationship with Italian opera.