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Friday traffic snares Salonen

November 24, 2002|Scott Timberg

Thanks to Friday night traffic, Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen didn't show up until after the all-Scandinavian concert earlier this month had started "It seems to be the kind of thing that everybody deals with," Salonen said dolefully a few days later. He felt he'd failed as a professional, despite efforts by his driver to negotiate the 10 Freeway, Olympic Boulevard and Pico en route from his home in Brentwood, calling the Phil repeatedly on a cell phone.

"I've been stuck in traffic before," Salonen said. "This was the first total defeat."

But his defeat was an opportunity for assistant conductor Yasuo Shinozaki, who came onstage with five minutes' notice to conduct Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt" Suite No. 1. It's standard practice to have a conductor standing by in case of such any emergency, though a spokesperson says no one at the Phil can remember a conductor replaced because of traffic.

Shinozaki, who was backstage, had more time to prepare than the orchestra's musicians, who found out from an announcement on the house P.A. system that Salonen would not be leading them.

With a "romantic piece like Grieg, it's important that the orchestra see my expression," wrote Shinozaki, who chose to respond via e-mail because of limited English. "Of course I didn't have a chance to speak to the orchestra in that time. But they completely know my conducting and they quite understood my expression."

Shinozaki said he was at ease when he took the stage. "To be honest I didn't have a time to get nervous because I had to get my tails, put them on, and check the score within five minutes."

The following night, a repeat of the same program, Salonen gave himself an hour and a half to get to the Music Center. "It took just 25 minutes," Salonen reports. "So you just can't tell these days."

-- Scott Timberg

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