Archive of monthly comments from Leonard Slatkin.




It’s 2016, and this coming year is filled with interesting programs, exciting places to be, and fascinating people to work and play with. But there were some important events that took place last month. more ]


When they decided to call it “New Year,” perhaps they were referring to my conducting schedule. With four pieces that I had never performed, all of them substantial works, it was a good thing I had three weeks off beforehand so I could wrap my brain around these creations. more ]

March, 2016

Whew! That was exhausting.

It was a good thing that February contained one extra day, as I needed any break possible. It all started back in Lyon, with a program that would also be played in Paris. more ]

April, 2016

Amid the escalating political rhetoric dominating the news, as well as atrocities being committed in the world, there was some comfort in traveling to places old and new for me this past month. I found myself ending each rehearsal period by telling the orchestras I led that we are so lucky to be musicians. Bringing great art and moving audiences away from the turmoil that exists outside the confines of the concert hall remind us that there remain pleasures that can never be taken away.

After the exhausting Brahms Festival in Detroit, I began a nine-week road trip, one that took me to orchestras familiar and unknown, at least as far as my own experiences were concerned. more ]



The Old Year went quietly, including a couple weeks off before starting the new one with a lot of work. But there still is plenty to catch up on.

December began in Lyon with the OLN. The first of two weeks of concerts featured French premieres of three pieces by Mason Bates, one of our two resident composers. more ]

Nothing like jumping right into it for the New Year. A week of concerts in Detroit followed by three in Lyon. And a season announcement as well. more ]

MARCH, 2015
It was Tchaikovsky month at the DSO. Considering that most of the time, temperatures outside were in the single digits, it seemed appropriate to bring warmth to those who attended the six programs and 12 performances that took place. more ]

APRIL, 2015
If the frying pan, fire analogy ever existed, it certainly applied to the first part of March. Having successfully navigated my way through the six Tchaikovsky symphonies in three weeks, it was back to Lyon for the four by Brahms over a two-week period. more ]

May, 2015
Just when I think that there are no new worlds for me to work in, up pop a couple that are really off the beaten track.

The violinist Vadim Repin had asked if I would participate in his Trans-Siberian Art Festival. more ]

June, 2015
It is not out of the question to describe this past month as gigantic. Over the course of four weeks, all the major works were at least an hour long. With two Mahler symphonies, Asrael by Suk and a concert performance of Tosca, I was ready for a bit of a break. more ]

July, 2015
A long season has come to a close. With three weeks of performances left, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Not that I did not enjoy the overwhelming majority of work, but it became clear that a recharging of the batteries was needed. more ]

August, 2015    

At the time, when I first announced that I would spend my summers away from the podium, no one believed me. How would it be possible for someone who has devoted his life to waving his arms to actually halt for nine weeks? Well, halfway into it, I can attest that it has not been difficult at all. more ]

September, 2015    

I could get used to this non-conducting thing. That might be good news for some out there. It was truly a break from an exhausting regimen from the past season. A couple people asked me if I was retiring. Not yet, all you hopeful baton twirlers. more ]

October, 2015    

It did not start out well.

Upon arrival in Lyon, we were preparing for a concert at Côte St. André, our annual pilgrimage to the birthplace of Hector Berlioz. The program was a bit unusual in that it contained two rarities by the festival’s namesake, plus the Beethoven Ninth. more ]

November, 2015    

What a month!

With both Detroit and Lyon up and running, October was the first month of high-intensity music making on a large scale. With the strains of the Rosenkavalier Suite still in my head, I shifted my focus to Strauss’s earlier opera, Salome, for what would be an amazing evening of drama. [ more ]

December, 2015   

The slight delay in this posting is due to what many of you now will know. After what will be ten seasons with the DSO, I am moving into a different position with the orchestra. At this point, I have no idea what the various questions will be from journalists as well as my regular readers. So I thought it would be a good idea to let you know what is occurring. [ more ]



And a very Happy New Year to all of you!
     It is getting more and more rare for me to spend this time of year at home, and this year, I could be found in the Far East. But the journey began in Lyon.
more ]

After a perfectly lovely vacation, Cindy and I returned to Detroit and faced well-below freezing temperatures. It may have been cold outside, but indoors things were heating up on a very positive note. more ]

MARCH, 2014
One of the pleasures of having two orchestras is the ability to spend lengthy periods with each, honing the sound and discovering the repertoire together. Such was the case in February, when I returned to Lyon for a three-week stint. more ]

APRIL, 2014    
Probably about six of you are wondering where I have been for the past several weeks. Well, it seems that I have gotten a bit behind on my web postings, mostly due to an extremely busy work schedule. But here is the recap of those times past
. more ]

MAY, 2014    
In what was my final set of guest appearances for the season, I found myself having more than satisfying experiences for three weeks. Life on the road can be difficult, but if the music making is exciting, that more than makes up for the travails of the itinerary. [ more ]

JUNE, 2014    
First things first. Cindy came through the brain surgery like a champ. The removal of the benign tumor took a little over three hours. She was home 48 hours later and communicating with friends and family. We are grateful to the medical team and all those who lent their talent and words of support.more ]

JULY, 2014    
It was unseasonably warm at the start of June in Lyon. Temperatures soared into the upper 80’s. But it is always so lovely that not too many people mind the heat.more ]

AUGUST, 2014    
It was a very rushed period in Lyon. We had a concert to perform as part of a jazz festival, followed by just one day of rehearsal for a two-week tour to Japan. The “Jazz at Vienne” is an annual event that plays around a bit with the jazz format. Here it is meant to include most music that falls outside of the classical and pop repertoire, which does not explain the presence of performers such as Jamie Cullum and a couple others. more ]

SEPTEMBER, 2014    
There has been a lot going on in my head for the past few weeks. Very little of it has to do with turning 70, but clearly something has caused me to think of many things that most likely have been swimming in my brain for decades. more ]

OCTOBER, 2014    
There is only one way to begin this. I can only give my heartfelt thanks to all of you who greeted me in one way or another for my 70th birthday. Sometimes it is possible to take your friends for granted, and sometimes you don’t even know who your friends are. On this occasion, I have been blessed with so many good wishes that it is not possible to answer everyone personally. So please let this be the thank-you card you each deserve.more ]

NOVEMBER, 2014    

And the celebration continued.

With all the hoopla in Lyon, and especially considering that several Detroiters were in attendance, I could only wonder what they had in store for me back home. I did not have to wait long to find out. more ]

December, 2014    

You never know what is around the corner.

Musical pleasures abounded as winter weather started in a bit earlier than expected. However, one highly anticipated guest-conducting trip to Tokyo had to be cancelled. Turns out that I needed to have a medical procedure. Nothing life threatening or related to the 2009 heart attack, but still, it was something that could not be put off. more ]


Happy New Year!
     The world did not end so now we must await the next apocalyptic prediction. In the meantime, there was a lot to catch up with during December.
more ]

When exactly do people stop wishing each other a “Happy New Year”?
     This one started out with quite a varied repertoire, and some interesting venues along the way.
more ]

MARCH, 2013
When asked who he thought was the greatest living composer, Leonard Bernstein replied, “Beethoven!”
     Having spent three full weeks traversing the nine Symphonies, I can only come to the same conclusion.
more ]

APRIL, 2013
The end of March means one thing: Baseball is back! It is not as if I do not enjoy the other sports and certainly the University of Michigan seems to be doing well in the basketball tournament, but for me it is about being in the outdoors, for the most part, and following a couple of teams for the next half a year.
     Oh, there was music as well.
more ]

Rather than wait, I felt compelled to write sooner regarding my sojourn to Moscow at the beginning of the month. more ]

MAY, 2013
April in Lyon. Spring decided to wait a little before showing up.
     After the Moscow adventure it was nice to get back to my other home. These would be the final two weeks in the Auditorium, as it will be closed for about 5 months while crews repair the air conditioning and heating systems. Also, the organ is undergoing a transplant. New pipes and a general cleaning are in store for the instrument.
more ]

From Motown to Manhattan. That was the slogan in Detroit for May.
     For the first time in 17 years, the DSO was headed for Carnegie Hall, part of the Spring for Music Festival. The basic concept was that orchestras were to present program ideas and those with the most intriguing would be invited to participate, six in total each season.
more ]

JUNE, 2013
By the end of May, it appeared that Stravinsky might have had the last laugh after all. 100 years after the premiere of “The Rite of Spring,” the actual season of spring decided not to show up around much of the U.S and Europe. Unseasonably cool and sometimes cold temperatures prevailed and all the flowers were confused.
     The weather was much better inside the concert halls ...
more ]

Starting with the day of arrival, I began keeping a journal of thoughts regarding the 14th Cliburn competition. All the entries are as I wrote at the end of the day, with nothing altered. more ]

JULY, 2013
For most of my career I have avoided cycles. It has been season after season of as much variety as possible in my repertoire choices. But this past year has been quite different. more ]

AUGUST, 2013
     This is a word that I have not had in my vocabulary for quite a while. After an extremely busy season, winter, spring and summer, I am taking several weeks off to recharge the batteries.
more ]

As I write this, vacation is about to come to an end. Having a nice long stretch of time off proved invaluable. Among other things, I wrote a piece for woodwinds and strings that will be premiered in the 14-15 season. This was something I had planned for a long time but needed an extended period in order to complete the work. It has turned out to be just what I intended. more ]

Vacation is over. No more Mai Tais. The only surfing to be done is on the Internet.
     I had not seen either of my orchestras since July and missed them both very much. In a way, the true relationships started around the same time. ...
more ]

Fall is a beautiful time in Michigan. The baseball team has made it to the playoffs for the third year in a row. Apples are plentiful from the orchards in the area. The music scene is springing back into action. more ]

When we left off last month, I had finished a set of performances in Detroit with the Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony. Usually I do not repeat a work in consecutive weeks, but as it happened, the same piece was scheduled for my return to Lyon.
     A question I am asked quite often is, “What are the differences between American and European orchestras?” Here is the ideal opportunity to try to answer this.
more ]

It is somewhat unusual for me to be making a debut with an orchestra these days. With a limited guest-conducting schedule, due to running two orchestras, I have to be a bit more selective about where I will be guesting. So it was surprising to many that I spent a week in La Coruña with the Galician Symphony Orchestra. more ]

Some of you loyal readers will have noticed that there are subtle changes in the appearance and content on this site. Over the next few months, these alterations will continue, as we think it is time for something different. Performance content will be more complete, the news section will be updated more frequently and even the look of the site will be changed. Hopefully, no service will be disrupted during this period and you will continue to visit often. more ]


How does that song go? “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
     December proved the ditty correct, at least for me. Two weeks were spent in Lyon performing American music. A festival had been devised around my arrival this season and I thought it would be a good idea for musicians and audience to get to know me through some of the music created in the States.
more ]

More than 6,000 miles separated conducting engagements in January. At least it was only one flight between Detroit and Tokyo, so the 14-hour trip was not unbearable. When you are dealing with a 14-hour time change, no amount of preparation can offset jet lag. more ]

MARCH, 2012
It has been my habit to more or less inform readers of my comings and goings during a given month. This time I am going to start in the middle, dealing with a musical issue. more ]

APRIL, 2012
Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Hannover, Munich, Friedrichshafen, Heidelberg, and Vienna. Almost enough for a German baseball team. This was a tour schedule that took me to all these places over the course of 9 days.
     Everything went well but you would never have known it from the way this European jaunt started.
more ]

MAY, 2012
“You’re baddass!”
     These two words were spoken to me following a concert in one of Detroit’s suburbs. A young woman came up to me, looked me in the eyes and that is what she said.
     After figuring out that this was a compliment, I realized that perhaps there are ways to reach the younger generation that I had not yet contemplated.
more ]

MID-MAY, 2012
Kid Rock and Roll over Beethoven
     The question on everyone’s lips was, “What is this going to be like?”
     The answer was, “Fabulous.”
     Over the years I have done my share of concerts with acts from the popular music culture. ...
     But that was in the past. Now a new collaboration emerged, involving the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and one Kid Rock, a kind of bad boy of rap and Southern Rock. He has been a part of the Detroit cultural scene for most of his 41 years and has a huge fan base here.
more ]

JUNE, 2012
Winding down a season usually means that the overall pace slackens a bit. Not this time.
     The first week of May was relatively calm, with only one set of concerts in Detroit at Orchestra Hall. My brother joined us for a performance of the Korngold Cello Concerto, written for our mother more than 60 years ago! Fred and I have always enjoyed doing this piece together and everyone was caught up not only with the story behind the story, but the performance as well.
more ]

We are just about a month away from the publication of Conducting Business on July 24. Amadeus Press has graciously allowed me to post the introductory chapter. I hope this makes some of you interested to read more. more ]

JULY, 2012
Wrapping up seasons is an occasion to reflect on what has been done or accomplished over the past months. In this case, my first year as music director in Lyon had to be measured as a fine success. But before I led the last two weeks of concerts there, I had one wonderful week in my old stomping grounds. more ]

AUGUST, 2012
As I write this, we are less than a week from the publication of “Conducting Business.” The first copies are now in my hands and it looks very good. There was just the slightest tremble in my hand as I ripped open the box containing the tome and wondering if this really was happening. more ]

AUGUST, 2012, #2
Leonard goes to a Rock Concert (sort of)
Several months ago, I vowed that I would actually take a vacation for most of the summer. That meant little conducting, a bit of study and a lot of sleep. One of the downsides of the conducting profession is the inevitable life on the road, so I decided to spend the majority of down time at home. We have a lovely house located far enough from downtown as to be thought of as an escape from work.
more ]

There are some promises that must be broken occasionally. After vowing a real vacation this summer, I accepted an invitation to be one of the participants in John Williams’ 80th birthday concert at Tanglewood. The actual date of his coming into the world was in February, but John only wanted one celebration and it was to take place in the Berkshires. more ]

Some people loathe going back to work. I relish it, especially when it entails conducting one of the biggest masterpieces in the repertoire. more ]

Taxi cabs with doors that open automatically. Warm toilet seats that salute you when you enter the restroom. People bowing respectfully when you enter and leave a building.
     Yes, it was great to be back in Japan.
more ]

It is that time of year again. No, I am not speaking of the complex season of concerts, but rather the baseball playoffs.
     And I am potentially in big trouble this time.
more ]

Another busy period, one filled with great music and sports heartbreak. The Cardinals did not make it to the World Series but the Tigers did. They needn’t have bothered. San Francisco took them out in four straight games.
     I had a wager with Michael Tilson Thomas. Whichever team lost, the losing conductor had to wear the opposition’s cap to a rehearsal.
more ]

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