June 23, 2017
Hail to the Chief: Anne-Sophie Mutter, the ONL and the People of Lyon Welcome the Work of Leonard Slatkin
by Beate Langenbruch
Published in French by Bachtrack, June 22, 2017.
Translated excerpts below.
How often does it happen that a listener, even a person coming to a concert hall for the first time, feels part of an intimate community, if not a family. This is what happened to all of us last Friday night at the Auditorium in Lyon. It was the occasion of the closing of the 2016-2017 season, and it will go down in history as an evening of importance to the place, the city, and all who attended.
Musically and personally, the evening was remarkable thanks to Anne-Sophie Mutter in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, thanks to the ONL who paid enthusiastic tribute to the man who was its leader for six years, Leonard Slatkin, and of course, thanks to the conductor himself, the one receiving this very special honor.
A thunderous ovation followed the Mendelssohn, and the audience did not let Anne-Sophie Mutter leave until she had played three encores, the first explicitly dedicated to the maestro, Leonard Slatkin, who sat nonchalantly on the edge of the stage to savor every moment. And each time the violinist came out to play another encore, he sneaked back onto the edge of the stage, eager not to miss anything.
The rest of the evening belonged to him, including the reworking of the program. If Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major op. 55 of Edward Elgar had to give way to the Symphonie fantastique of Berlioz, it was because Leonard Slatkin chose the latter to bring full closure to his work as music director. The Berlioz was among the works played on his first program in Lyon, and it became a standard. Tonight’s performance represented a crowning achievement at the center of a celebration that showed the deep, even intimate ties that the music director has established with his musicians.
[Following the performance of the Berlioz] there were many encores, each one more rousing than the one before. Hardly the last notes had finished resonating before a military march was heard emerging from the ONL, a tribute from the musicians, clearly American music. Leonard Slatkin showed his surprise with a big smile, and he informed the audience that “Hail to the Chief” is a piece normally reserved for the President of the United States! But with a sardonic smile, he said with pride: “Well, I think I’m doing a better job than he is. …” He noted that six years spent with the ONL were the best of his life, and that his collaborators were not simply musicians, “They are all my very close friends.” This was therefore only a goodbye for now. The maestro will return every year for four to five weeks, no doubt having in his suitcases new discoveries for the public (the Elgar?).
Thank you, Leonard Slatkin, for your six years of leadership, inspiration, sensitivity, humor and generosity. The music director has retired—long live the honorary music director!