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Esa-Pekka Salonen

Publisher: Chester Music

Gambit (1998)
Work Notes
Dedicated to Magnus Lindberg on his 40th birthday
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
9 Minutes
Programme Note
Esa-Pekka Salonen Gambit (1998)
Gambit is, as the name suggests, a shortish work for a large symphony orchestra of overture character. It is based on a few gestures, or archetypes, which are combined and juxtaposed in different ways during the nine minutes of Gambit. The two main ones are a descending mainly pentatonic scale-like gesture and a basic rhythm (and combinations thereof). The archetypes themselves do not change much, only the environment in which they appear. There is no variation in the traditional sense of the word.

Some harmonic progressions as well as the persistent minor third figure in the introduction are deliberate, free quotations from Magnus Lindberg's music. I have dedicated Gambit to this talented friend of mine as an homage on his fortieth birthday.

© Esa-Pekka Salonen
Tokyo, 29th May 1998

  • Ensemble
    LA Philharmonic Orchestra / London Sinfonietta
    Dawn Upshaw, soprano / Anssi Karttunen, cello
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Ensemble
    Avanti! Chamber Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
  • Ensemble
    Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
    Paavo Järvi
    Presto Classical:
  • 13 APR 2018
    NFM Wroclaw, Poland
    NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra
    Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
  • 10 DEC 2017
    Total Immersion: Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Barbican Concert Hall, London, UK
    BBC Symphony Chorus / BBC Symphony Orchestra
    Anu Komsi, soprano; Piia Komsi, soprano; Nicholas Daniel, oboe; Sakari Oramo, conductor
  • 12 OCT 2017
    Gambit New York Premiere
    David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, USA
    New York Philharmonic
    Paavo Järvi, conductor

    Other Dates:
    13,14,17 October - David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York, USA
  • 11 MAR 2017
    Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA
    American Youth Symphony
    Carlos Izcaray, conductor
  • 18 APR 2014
    Airchi Prefectual Art Theatre, Japan
    Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra
    Jukka Iisakkala, conductor
  • 13 OCT 2012
    Lima, OH
    Lima Symphony Orchestra
    Crafton Beck, conductor
  • 07 JUL 2012
    Weimar, Germany
    Staatskapelle Weimar
    Stefan Solyom, conductor
  • 07 JUL 2011
    Weimarhalle Weimar, GERMANY
    Staatskapelle Weimar
    Stefan Solyom, conductor
  • 12 FEB 2011
    Presence Festival
    Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, France
    Orchestre Philharmonique du Radio France
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 29 JAN 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
    Edo de Waart, conductor

    Other Dates:
    30 January - Milwaukee, WI
  • 14 OCT 2005
    Powell Symphony Hall
    St Louis Symphony Orchestra
    Michael Christie, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15,16 October - Powell Symphony Hall
  • 28 APR 2005
    Music Hall, Cincinnati
    Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
    Paavo Järvi, conductor

    Other Dates:
    29,30 April - Music Hall, Cincinnati
  • 07 NOV 2004
    Rottendams Philharmonisch Orkest
    Susanna Mälkki, conductor
  • 24 OCT 2004
    Stockholm International Composer Festival
    Stockholm Concert Hall, Stockholm
    Norrköpings Symfoniorkester
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 21 OCT 2004
    Norrköping, Sweden
    Norrköpings Symfoniorkester
    Hannu Lintu, conductor
  • 17 JUL 2004
    Montpellier, France
    Orchestre National de France
    E. Krivine, conductor
  • 13 JUN 2002
    Hannover, Germany
    Radio-Philharmonie Hannover des NDR
    Tuomas Ollila, conductor

    Other Dates:
    14 June - Hannover, Germany
    15 June - Braunschweig, Germany
  • 07 MAR 2002
    Musica Nova Festival
    Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
    Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 01 FEB 2002
    Denver, CO
    Colorado Symphony Orchestra

    Other Dates:
    2 February - Denver, CO
  • 31 JAN 2002
    Denver, CO
    Colorado Symphony Orchestra
    Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
  • 31 JAN 2002
    Denver, CO
    Colorado Symphony Orchestra
  • 30 NOV 2001
    Utah, USA
    Utah Symphony Orchestra
    Jeffrey Kahane, conductor

    Other Dates:
    1 December - Utah, USA
  • 06 JUN 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 06 JAN 2000
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 06 NOV 1999
    Gambit Country Premiere
    Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
  • 27 MAR 1999
    Tampere, Finland
    Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra
    Eri Klas, conductor
  • 20 JAN 1999
    Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
    Hannu Lintu, conductor

    Other Dates:
    21 January - Helsinki
  • 08 OCT 1998
    Gambit US Premiere
    LA Variations
    Los Angeles, CA
    Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
    Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor

    Other Dates:
    9-11 October - Los Angeles, CA
  • 25 JUN 1998
    Gambit Country Premiere
    Summer Sounds
    Porvoo, Finland
    Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Magnus Lindberg, conductor

Although Esa-Pekka Salonen is still best known as a conductor, his reputation as a composer is growing. His short overture Gambit gleams with the confidence of an assured professional. Opening quietly in quasi-minimalist style, it expands in a dramatic wedge shape towards a powerful, percussive climax. While retaining the minimalist's active pulsation, Gambit is far more harmonically directed than is conventional for classic minimalism, and in the early stages of the piece, there is a distinctly Sibelian tinge to the wind colours and harmonies. Its steady build towards climax has a sense of luxuriating in its own sonority that lights it up from within.
Pauline Fairclough, The Guardian,27/06/2003
He [Jeffrey Kahane] began with an unusually eloquent and inspiring introduction, which included a discussion of the importance of premieres. He noted that in the time of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, virtually every selection was being heard for the first time, and audiences came ready to engage in the new. With those thoughts hanging in the air, the orchestra then plunged into what was likely the local premiere of "Gambit" (1998), a kind of mini-tone poem by Esa Pekka-Salonen, artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Though less than 10 minutes long, this work packs a punch. It progresses with a definite forward thrust, but instead of having an obvious beginning, middle and end, it is more of a self-contained slice of musical time. It opens with hovering, slowly modulating chords and then it gradually picks up momentum until it reaches a fevered pitch of rhythmic agitation. Powering it from beginning to end is a barrage of percussion elements, including congas, vibraphone and miramba.
Kyle MacMillan, Denver Post,03/02/2002
An attractive, solid, well-constructed piece, but what has stayed with me more than anything is that it was not just written under the watchful eye of Stravinsky and Ligeti (as suggested by the programme note), but that Messiaen and John Adams have also added some flavour. Salonen has not escaped the fate of many composing conductors, who have difficulty breaking away from illustrious contemporaries, and one striking detail of this piece is that he has deliberately used quotations from the work of his “talented friend” and fellow student Magnus Lindberg, in honour of his 40th birthday.
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