Esa-Pekka Salonen trained at the Sibelius Academy (Helsinki), specialising in French horn, conducting and composition. He made his conducting debut with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. For the following ten years Esa-Pekka Salonen led the Swedish Radio Orchestra and was Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Philharmonic Orchestra.
From 1992 Salonen was head of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, with which he took part in the Salzburg Festival as well as touring Japan in 1994. He is renowned for his interpretations of contemporary music, often conducting works by Stravinsky, Schцnberg, Shostakovich, Magnus Lindberg and Ligeti.
Esa-Pekka Salonen studied composition in Italy under Niccolo Castiglioni and Franco Donatoni. His works include a Saxophone concerto, Giro, Floof (to words by Stanislaw Lem), a French horn Solo, Dichotomie, a Cello concerto (for Anssi Karttunen), a Sinfonietta, works for the Swedish Radio Chorus, the song cycle for soprano and fourteen instruments 5 imágenes sobre Safo and Insomnia.
In 2003 Salonen initiated the Baltic Sea Festival, with concerts in Stockholm, Helsinki, Gdansk, Tallinn and Turku.
Salonen has won many prestigious awards including the Siena Prize (1993), the only conductor to receive it, the Royal Philharmonic Society´s Opera Award (1995) and for conducting (1997) in addition to the rank of Officier de l´ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1998).