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Composed: 2019

Orchestration: piccolo, flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, 2 horns, timpani, percussion (vibraphone, glockenspiel, congas, tam-tam), harp, piano, and strings 

First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: February 11, 2022, Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting

About this Piece

With Walt Disney Concert Hall under construction ahead of its grand opening in 2003, architect Frank Gehry made a late-night phone call to LA Phil’s then Music Director, Esa-Pekka Salonen. The reason, as Salonen later recalled, was simple: to hear music fill the concert hall. Salonen in turn called Principal Concertmaster Martin Chalifour and asked him to meet him and Gehry onsite.

At the time, the spot where the Walt Disney Concert Hall stage would be built was still a gaping hole at the center of a construction site. Gehry and Salonen stood in the balcony as Chalifour readied his violin just in front of the stage’s void—all three men wore the mandatory hard hats.

“We were incredibly nervous because obviously that was the first critical moment [to hear] how does music sound in this place?” Salonen said in an interview. “And then Martin started playing the E-major Prelude from [Bach’s] Partita, and all these beautiful sounds floated in the air. We were so happy. It was a tearful moment for both of us.”

Many years later, when Salonen was asked to compose something in honor of Gehry’s 90th birthday, he turned to that pivotal moment. Fog is a fantasy around that Bach Prelude, imagined through a dream. Paying homage to Gehry in multiple ways, the name is both a play on the architect’s initials (Frank Owen Gehry) and Gehry’s sailboat, Foggy. Adding another layer to his tribute, Salonen’s harmonies use a musical spelling of Frank’s name: F–A–G–E–H (H being the German designation for B natural).

—Ricky O’Bannon