Journal

  • AUGUST 2018

    Ah, the sun, surf and sand. Whether vacationing on the Left Coast, scuba diving in the clear waters of the South Pacific or sipping rum punches on the beaches of Mexico, this time of year is mostly about getting as out-of-shape as possible. Sounds good; no?

    No!

    Until this summer, I usually could be found at music festivals—leading orchestras, teaching or diving into opera. But, after fifty years of doing exactly that, I decided that it was time for a break. Upon wrapping up my music director tenure in Detroit in June, which was to be followed by finishing the last week of the season in Lyon, I would take a few months off with no plan in place.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • A Day at the DMV

    Changing residence is always complicated. You must inform friends and family about your new digs. Account information needs to be updated. Finding the best grocery store requires a lot of shopping around. But perhaps the most difficult task to accomplish is the one that involves your automobile.

    On a hot, steamy day in my new hometown of Clayton, Missouri, I thought that I had it all figured out. There were, at least so I was led to believe, two places to visit. One was the department that registers your car, and the other was the one where you transfer your license. After a preliminary check, it seemed that all the proper steps had been taken to ensure a trouble-free exchange of information.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • JULY 2018

    After several weeks devoted to health and personal matters, I decided it was time to get back to regular writing. By that I don’t mean just the usual diary entries, as there really is nothing much to talk about, other than changing residence.

    That is a big deal, of course. Cindy and I are now ensconced in our new home in St. Louis. Yes, it is back to the scene of my family history, as four generations of Slatkins have lived here. Many people wondered where we would end up. Looking at various sites in California, where the major plus would be access to my son on a more regular basis, we determined that it was not the best choice for us. Taxes are steep, and the state seems quite high up on Mother Nature’s watch list when it comes to earthquakes and fires.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • Notes from the Heart, Part 4: An Incredible Moment, Suspended in Time

    There are times in life when your heartstrings are pulled so tightly that it is impossible to contain your emotion. When that occurs, you transition from one plane of existence into another dimension. Such was the case on June 23rd.

    For the past eight years, the Detroit Symphony has paid homage to individual benefactors during its annual Heroes Gala. On the occasion of my ten-year anniversary at the helm of the orchestra, the board decided that I should now receive this honor, along with two wonderful souls, Harold and Penny Blumenstein. They have been among the strongest advocates for our educational initiatives and certainly deserved this recognition.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • Notes from the Heart, Part 3: A Welcome Diversion

    A hospital is not supposed to be a place you go for thoughts and reflection. Everyone is there to make you better. But sometimes a question can come up from one of the staff that causes you to think outside the box.

    After a couple days, I was told that it was time to take a little walk in the hallway. This was not easy, considering that I was hooked up to various medical devices, not to mention the pain from the surgery. There were others doing the same thing, all of us moving at the speed of the zombies in Night of the Living Dead. Most were accompanied by nurses and sometimes a friend or relative.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • Notes from the Heart, Part 2: The Procedure

    Musicians hate, really hate, getting up early in the morning. That is why orchestra rehearsals don’t start until around 10 a.m. So I felt both lethargy and anxiety when I arrived at the University of Michigan Medical Center at 5:30 a.m. to begin preparations for the day’s events.

    After the tests that were given the day before, I received clearance to move forward with the procedure. It struck me as odd that I had to pass tests to determine if I was well enough to fix a major disease. What would have happened if I had a cold, or worse? Knowing that the blockage in my arteries was above 90%, it was not impossible to envision another heart attack while waiting to recover from an unrelated illness.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • Notes from the Heart, Part 1

    On November 1, 2009, my heart attacked me.

    It was a sneak attack, as six weeks prior I was informed by my general practitioner that a physical exam showed me to be in good health. Over the succeeding years I modified my diet but never really followed anything strict.

    Eight-and-a-half years later, I entered the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center for a triple bypass coronary procedure, an attempt to prevent any further disease. The problem was spotted a few days prior to the surgery, thankfully caught in time before another heart attack.

    The next few months are now devoid of conducting activities. So instead of the usual music diary, I will be writing about many different topics, most related to health but also a few things that swirled around in my mind during convalescence. Perhaps my tale might help others in recognizing the signs and preventing problems in the future. If not, I hope this makes a decent story.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • MAY 2018

    It seemed to take forever, but spring finally arrived. With snow on the ground right through the middle of the month, Detroit was poised for a continuing winter. However, the chill disappeared in Orchestra Hall with a program that warmed the soul.

    The star was our concertmaster, Yoonshin Song, who delivered a magnificent reading of the Second Bartok Concerto. In complete command of this fiendishly difficult work, she made it seem less a virtuoso vehicle and more of a rhapsodic carriage. With her wide command of dynamics, expressive approach to the lyrical passages and faultless intonation, it was one of the best collaborations I have ever experienced in this amazing piece.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • APRIL 2018

    The groundhog was right. No signs of spring at all during my four-week trip to Europe. Maybe they should try Katowice Katy instead of Punxsutawney Phil.

    I am not exactly sure why we did it, but in Lyon it was decided that we would undertake a two-week Scandinavian Festival. This provided an opportunity to revisit a couple of symphonies that I dearly love as well as one new piece that was most enjoyable to conduct and play. Sibelius seems to go in and out of fashion, and today we have a number of Finnish conductors who have brought him back to life.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN
  • MARCH 2018

    Even though my music directorship in Lyon has ended, the six-year tenure stayed very much in the forefront during the month of February. At this time, during the usually bitterly cold weather in Michigan, we put on a festival, in the past devoted to a single composer. With Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Mozart represented in previous seasons, it was time to try something different.

    What could be more natural than bringing some of the repertoire from France back to Detroit? After all, the Motor City was founded in 1701 by the explorer and adventurer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. It also happens that I drive one of his automobiles. Okay, so he really was from what is now part of Canada, but still, he did create this bustling town and give it a French moniker.

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    LEONARD SLATKIN