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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Helix (2005)
Commissioned by the BBC for the BBC Proms
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
9 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Helix (2005)
I decided to compose a celebratory and direct overture-like piece, which would nevertheless be very rigidly structured, and based on essentially one continuous process. The form of Helix can indeed be described as a spiral or a coil; or more academically a curve that lies on a cone and makes a constant angle with the straight lines parallel to the base of the cone.

The process of Helix is basically that of a nine-minute accelerando. The tempo gets faster, but the note values of the phrases become correspondingly longer. Therefore only the material’s relation to the pulse changes, not necessarily the impression of speed itself. Hence the spiral metaphor: the material (which consists essentially of two different phrases) is being pushed through constantly narrowing concentric circles until the music reaches a point where it has to stop as it has nowhere to go.

The musical expression changes quite drastically in the course of these nine minutes: the idyllic, almost pastoral opening phrase for piccolo and contra-bassoon returns much later in the horns and trumpets, fortissimo, surrounded by a very busy tutti orchestra. The closing section shows the material in an almost manic light.

It has been a very inspiring task to write a piece for my friend Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace, to whom Helix is dedicated. These are amazing musicians with no limits to their capacity. I have worked with many of the players over the years around the world. Writing this piece has felt like a more personal undertaking than usual.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen

  • Ensemble
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Yefim Bronfman
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Deutsche Grammophon:
  • 16 MAY 2019
    Oslo Konserthus, Oslo, Norway
    Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
    Xavier de Maistre, harp ; Lionel Bringuier, conductor
  • 31 OCT 2018
    Jordan Hall, Boston, MA
    New England Conservatory Philharmonia
    Hugh Wolff, conductor
  • 27 JUL 2018
    Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, MN
    Minnesota Orchestra
    Roderick Cox, conductor
  • 11 MAY 2018
    NFM Wroclaw, Poland
    NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra
    Andrzej Boreyko, conductor
  • 11 MAY 2018
    Bar sur Aube, France
    Orchestre Symphonique de l’Aube
    Gilles Millière , conductor

    Other Dates:
    12,13 May - Troyes, France
  • 01 MAR 2018
    Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, USA
    San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
    Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor

    Other Dates:
    2,3 March - Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, USA
  • 07 FEB 2018
    Helsinki Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Piotr Anderszewski, piano ; Lionel Bringuier, conductor

    Other Dates:
    8 February - Helsinki Music Centre, Helsinki, Finland
  • 11 JAN 2018
    Helix New York Premiere
    David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, NY
    New York Philharmonic
    Malkki Susanna, conductor

    Other Dates:
    12,13 January - David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, NY
  • 06 SEP 2017
    Gothenberg, Sweden
    Gothenberg Symphony Orchestra
    Lionel Bringuier, conductor
  • 08 SEP 2016
    Hollywood Bowl, US
    LA Dance Project
    Ludovic Morlot, conductor
  • 26 JUL 2016
    The Joyce Theater, New York, US
    LA Dance Project

    Other Dates:
    27-30 July - The Joyce Theater, New York, US
  • 03 JUN 2016
    Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Spain
    Auditorio Nacional de Música
    Miguel Romea, conductor

    Other Dates:
    4,5 June - Auditorio Nacional de Música Madrid, Spain
  • 27 FEB 2016
    Jacksonville, FL
    Jacksonville Symphony
  • 03 NOV 2015
    City of Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic
    Hradec Kralove Philharmonic
  • 30 OCT 2015
    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
    Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
  • 03 JUL 2015
    Brevard, NC
    Brevard Music Center Orchestra
    Rune Bergmann, conductor
  • 13 MAR 2015
    Tampere, Finland
    Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
    Daniel Cohen, conductor
  • 25 FEB 2015
    Creative Chair
    Tonhalle, Zurch, Switzerland
    Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra
    Yuja Wang (piano); Lionel Bringuier, conductor

    Other Dates:
    26 February - Tonhalle, Zurich, Switzerland
    7 March - Konzerthau, Vienna, Austria
  • 04 DEC 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic
    Gustavo Dudamel, conductor

    Other Dates:
    5-7 December - Los Angeles, CA
  • 26 OCT 2014
    Lubeck, Germany
    Philharmonisches Orchester Lübeck
    Andreas Wolf, conductor

    Other Dates:
    27 October - Lubeck, Germany
  • 12 APR 2014
    Essex Youth Orchestra
  • 24 OCT 2013
    Jones Hall, Houston, USA
    Houston Symphony Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor

    Other Dates:
    26,27 October - Jones Hall, Houston, USA
  • 24 OCT 2013
    Houston, TX
    Houston Symphony Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor

    Other Dates:
    25-27 October - Houston, TX
  • 14 FEB 2013
    Kennesaw, GA
    Kennesaw State University
    Michael Alexander, conductor
  • 14 FEB 2013
    Kennesaw, GA
    Kennesaw State University
    Michael Alexander, conductor
  • 02 FEB 2013
    Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, France
    Orchestre Pasdeloup
    Wolfgang Doerner, conductor
  • 09 NOV 2012
    Zellerbach Hall, Berkley, CA U.S.A.
    Philharmonia Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 15 AUG 2012
    Astor Theatre Perth AUSTRALIA
    West Australian Symphony Orchestra
    Paul Daniel, conductor
  • 02 MAR 2012
    The Hague, The Netherlands
    Residentie Orkest
    Santtu-Matias Rouvali, conductor
  • 02 MAR 2012
    The Hague, Netherlands
    Residentie Orkest
    Santtu-Matias Rouvali, conductor

"Helix" starts slowly at the wide end of the cone and accelerates as it spirals to the tip. But as the tempo gets faster, Salonen lengthens the phrases to give the feeling of pressure building up as music is pushed through an increasingly small space, like icing forced through a pastry cone. The work, which lasts nine minutes, ends with an orchestra in furious motion getting louder and louder
Mark Swed, LA Times,02/04/2007 was good to have a new work from Esa-Pekka Salonen. His Helix plays in virtuosic fashion with the metaphor of the spiral, with illusions of speed and acceleration.
Barry Millington, London Evening Standard,30/08/2005
This was another example of Salonen's recent listener-friendly style, which winds itself in tighter and tighter melodic knots...
Andrew Clements, The Guardian,29/08/2005
... an "overture-like" miniature by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Helix, an intricately written yet lucid exercise in musical acceleration...
Matthew Rye, The Daily Telegraph,29/08/2005
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