Acclaimed Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen has announced his departure from the San Francisco Symphony after the upcoming season, after a tenure that has lasted only four years.

Salonen announced Thursday that the 2024-25 season will be his last in San Francisco, and the reason is a mostly unexplained rift between him and the symphony's board.

"I have decided not to continue as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, because I do not share the same goals for the future of the institution as the Board of Governors does," Salonen said in a statement. "I am sincerely looking forward to the many exciting programs we have planned for my final season as music director, and am proud to continue working with the world-class musicians of the San Francisco Symphony."

As the New York Times notes, "The rift between Salonen and the board appeared to be over efforts to cut costs, which include reducing the number of concerts and commissions, as well as putting tours on hold."

And SF Symphony CEO Matthew Spivey basically confirmed that in a statement to the Chronicle, saying, "Esa-Pekka was announced as music director in 2018. The San Francisco Symphony is in a very different place now than it was at that point in time. There are significant financial pressures on the organization, and they have become impossible to ignore."

Spivey added to the Times that the orchestra now needs to "evolve in various ways to respond to those pressures."

One of Salonen's first moves as music director was to hire eight younger artists and thinkers from different disciplines whom he called the Symphony's Collaborative Partners. These include jazz bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, computer scientist and AI entrepreneur Carol Reiley, composer Nico Muhly, and Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated composer Nicholas Britell — who composed the iconic theme music for Succession.

As Salonen said at the time, "The idea is that each [collaborative partner] would be more than just a discussion partner and a letterhead figure. I felt that orchestras, even before the pandemic, were facing a challenging time, especially in this country but also globally. The funding model needs to be rethought. The audience development needs to be rethought. The outreach needs to be reanalyzed."

Spivey told the Chronicle that the Symphony has already made cuts to its experimental SoundBox programming, and that more cuts are coming — and perhaps Salonen's collaborative partner program is also facing cuts.

Like theaters around the country, the SF Symphony has seen a drop in subscribers — a key source of revenue — as the Times reports, though it has managed to significantly grow its endowment to $315 million.

And while attendance at concerts is expected to exceed pre-pandemic levels this year, the Symphony is also doing fewer of them. There were 178 concerts this season, compared with 202 in 2018-19.

The Times obtained a letter that Spivey sent to the Symphony board and staff in January which said, in part, "In the absence of fundamental changes to our business model and revenue streams, we will sustain increasingly unmanageable deficits in the coming years. Given the magnitude of these challenges, we are examining every aspect of the organization’s activities."

The loss of Salonen, who has worldwide acclaim and was a particularly hot property when the SF Symphony announced his appointment in 2018, following the retirement of longtime Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas, will be felt by the local classical music community. Salonen said that he chose to return to a post in the U.S., after leading the Los Angeles Philharmonic for almost two decades from 1992 to 2009, because he missed California and because San Francisco might offer the embrace of modernism and technology that he is passionate about.

"It wouldn’t mean a 180-degree turn in terms of the orchestra culture,” Salonen said at the time. "It would be more like continuing [MTT's] work. And I know Michael, and we are good friends."

Because of the pandemic, Salonen's opening season in SF was canceled — and Tilson Thomas's retirement celebration had to happen online. The 2021-22 season became his inaugural one, so the 2024-25 season will be only his fourth with the Symphony.

The Symphony will now conduct a new candidate search for a music director, and they hope to appoint someone in time for the 2025-26 season.

The upcoming season of the SF Symphony, announced today, will include performances of Verdi’s Requiem September 19 to 21, and Beethoven's Pastoral October 18 to 20, both conducted by Salonen.

September 27 and 28 Salonen will conduct works by one of the collaborative partners, composer Nico Muhly.