The 33-year-old, “the hottest conductor in Finland” (The Times), is one of the youngest ever artists to be appointed Principal Conductor of a London orchestra

Rouvali, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia since 2017, takes up his Principal Conductorship in 2021/22

His five-year contract will see him work with the Philharmonia for 10 weeks a year, including leading the Orchestra’s flagship series as Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, where their relationship has blossomed: “This kind of electricity doesn’t come along often,” (Arts Desk)

Rouvali succeeds fellow Finn Esa-Pekka Salonen, whose legacy with the Philharmonia is cemented by the title he will take up in 2021/22, Conductor Emeritus

The Philharmonia Orchestra is delighted to announce the appointment of Santtu-Matias Rouvali as its next Principal Conductor, only the sixth person to hold the title in its 75-year history. Following in the footsteps of the legendary Riccardo Muti, appointed as the Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia in 1973 at 32, 33-year-old Rouvali is one of the youngest-ever artists appointed as Principal Conductor of a London orchestra.

Rouvali will take up the position for the 2021/22 season. His five-year contract with the Philharmonia will see him working with the Orchestra for 10 weeks a year right across its programme, including leading its flagship London Season as Resident Orchestra at Southbank Centre. Reviews of his performances there have praised his innate musicianship and communicative flair: “…he is the real thing: music unmistakably flows from him,” (Sunday Times).

Rouvali will also conduct the Philharmonia across its UK residencies programme and for further weeks on international tours, also developing recording projects, and working with the Orchestra on its award-winning digital, outreach and audience development programmes.

Speaking about the appointment, Santtu-Matias Rouvali said: “I am honoured to be the new Principal Conductor of the Philharmonia. This is the start of a great adventure: London is such an exciting place for orchestras, and the Philharmonia is at the heart of classical music life in this city. The players of the Philharmonia can do anything: they are enormously talented and show an incredible hunger to create great performances. There is huge possibility with this orchestra, and we will do great things together.”

Helen Sprott, Managing Director, said: “Santtu’s appointment is a very special moment for both the Philharmonia Orchestra and our wider family of partners, audiences and funders. Santtu represents the future: he’s young, dynamic, a natural musician and a conducting wizard. He has a proven record of building audiences for orchestras and for thinking creatively about the role a symphony orchestra can play in 21st century society. Santtu is a worthy successor to Esa-Pekka, with whom we are delighted to be continuing our relationship in a new guise.”

Double bassist and Chair of the Philharmonia Michael Fuller said: “Ever since his first downbeat with the Orchestra back in 2013, Santtu’s relationship with the Philharmonia has been electric. He is unique – it is rare to find a conductor who generates such excitement from musicians and audiences alike. From Herbert von Karajan in the Philharmonia’s early history to Esa-Pekka Salonen over the past decade, great conductors have always shaped this orchestra. We are thrilled that Santtu will be the next in this great tradition.”

Salonen hands over to Rouvali after 13 remarkable years at the helm of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He cements his legacy with the Orchestra, taking up the title of Conductor Emeritus from 2021/22. The Orchestra’s membership also voted for Salonen to become an Honorary Member of the Philharmonia, recognition of his extraordinary relationship with the Orchestra. The 2020/21 Season, details of which will be announced in February 2020, will celebrate Salonen’s achievements with the Philharmonia.

Esa-Pekka Salonen said: “The Philharmonia is a special orchestra: one comprised of world-class musicians who have the flexibility of technique and spirit to play anything, anywhere. We have shared many powerful experiences together at the Royal Festival Hall and around the world. There is a lot more to come in the next chapter, and I want to send my very best wishes to Santtu.”

Santtu-Matias Rouvali was born in Lahti, Finland, where his parents were both members of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and he grew up in and around the orchestra. Trained as a percussionist and with experience playing drums in rock bands, he took up conducting at a young age, and studied at the Sibelius Academy. His first principal conductorship, which he still holds, was in Tampere, Finland, where the orchestra has had to repeat concerts because of the “Santtu Effect” on audiences for classical music in the town.

Rouvali is also Chief Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, which he will continue alongside his new post with the Philharmonia, renewing his tenure in Sweden for a further four years from 2021/22.

Rouvali’s first appearance with the Philharmonia was in January 2013. Together with Jakub Hrůša he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia in September 2017, since when he has conducted three London concerts per season with the Orchestra. In his concert with violinist Pekka Kuusisto on Thursday 30 May 2019, Rouvali conducts Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947) and Violin Concerto. He then makes a special appearance in a free event on the Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, a collaboration between Pekka Kuusisto and juggler Jay Gilligan.

Gillian Moore, Director of Music at Southbank Centre, said: “Santtu-Matias Rouvali has an electrifying energy on the concert podium which transmits to the orchestra and to the audience, making us all experience the music anew and afresh. He is an engaging personality and a committed communicator, and I know will fit well with the Southbank Centre landscape. I'm very much looking forward to working with Santtu, and our Resident Orchestra, the Philharmonia, in the lead up to the start of his new role in 2021/22 season, and to seeing the relationship between this talented young conductor and one of the world's great orchestras develop in the future.”

Joyce Wilson, London Area Director, Arts Council England, said: “Arts Council England is delighted to welcome Santtu to the London classical music sector. We look forward to seeing how his ability to regenerate classical audiences complements the Philharmonia Orchestra’s own sector-leading work in this field, and wish him and the orchestra well.”


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