When Esa-Pekka Salonen arrives on the job in 1992 as director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he should have more than just the usual ex officio influence on local music-making.
Salonen will lead the orchestra into the Music Center's new Disney Hall. If the recent experience of the Orange County Performing Arts Center is any indication, the new building will focus attention on its residents and bring them new audiences of the trendy and simply curious, at least for the first season.
The orchestra is counting on the earnest young Finn to provide charismatic leadership and enticing programs to rejuvenate audiences without alienating the graying Philharmonic faithful. Salonen comes to the orchestra as a composer as well as a conductor at a time when premieres are becoming assets again, rather than liabilities.
Perhaps most important, Salonen may be the music director who survives Ernest Fleischmann. The demanding and productive executive vice president of the Philharmonic will be 70 when Salonen's first contract expires, and for obvious reasons the words retirement and Fleischmann are now being linked in Music Center speculation. For the first time in almost a generation, the music director will be the unquestioned apex of Philharmonic leadership, and that music director will most likely be Salonen.