Author archive for leonard slatkin

  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 20

    On March 11, 2020, I stepped off the podium at Orchestra Hall in Detroit. The strains of “Oh, Fortuna,” as interpreted by Carl Orff in his Carmina Burana, were the last notes I would lead for … no one knew how long at the time. Earlier that evening, the governor of Michigan had urged communities to avoid gatherings of 100 or more people.

    For six months, I wrote, watched television, tried to cook in a healthy manner, and avoided pretty much any contact with anybody. Yes, there were the obligatory trips for medical check-ups, but for the most part, I got to know every nook and cranny of my abode. As several orchestras attempted to put on highly scaled-back seasons and others shut down until January and beyond, I was beginning to think that my next trip to the stage might not ever take place.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 19

    There was a catchphrase used by a company that manufactured recording products. “Is it live or is it Memorex?” That firm must be in a total state of confusion these days.

    We have come to the time when orchestras are starting up their reconstituted seasons. After a summer of remote chamber music and virtual ensembles, many groups are going to reemerge this week. Most will consist of forty musicians or less, and others will keep the forces down to four or five. A few will have a small contingent in the audience, but most will be playing to empty halls.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 18

    Do you remember radio? Fifty-one years ago I was driving from St. Louis to Oberlin on July 19th. It was a cloudless evening when I heard the voice of Neil Armstrong as he descended the ladder and then stepped foot on the moon. All those sci-fi serials, films, and audio dramas of my childhood flashed in front of me. Good thing there were not too many people on the road that night.

    Having written a few speculative fiction stories, visions of what the lunar surface might contain were coming to me, fast and furious. Perhaps the astronaut would encounter a previously unknown civilization of celestial beings that lay dormant until our heroic space cadet accidentally crushed them under his boot. Perhaps the Russians did beat us in the moon race and were secretly planning to obliterate the United States from their nuclear moon base, which had gone undetected by our satellites. They never forgave us when Van Cliburn won the Tchaikovsky competition.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 17

    Our strange journey to a destination still unknown has been a bumpy ride so far. Musicians and orchestra staff have hit a stumbling block completely unlike the shutdowns that occur with strikes and lockdowns. Somehow, most have remained optimistic, even though a few ensembles have had to close up shop for the entire season.

    But on August 29, many of us received the following news, which sent shock waves to all sectors of the classical music world:

    Statement from Columbia Artists:

    It is with a heavy heart that, having endured a prolonged pandemic environment, we must announce that effective August 31, 2020, Columbia Artists Management, Inc. will close its doors. 

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  • New Recording Release: Kastalsky’s Requiem

    August 28, 2020

    The world-premiere recording of Alexander Kastalsky’s Requiem for Fallen Brothers was released by Naxos Records in its complete and revised, 17-movement version for orchestra, choir, and soloists. The album, which was recorded live in Washington National Cathedral, features the combined forces of multiple GRAMMY®-winning ensembles conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

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  • AUGUST 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 16

    It is a late afternoon on a Thursday, sometime in mid-September. Sam and Janet are contemplating what to do that night.

    Sam: “I’m beat. Those kids at the office are driving me crazy.”

    Janet: “Why don’t you take a little nap? Oh, remember, tonight is the opening of the symphony season. Where did I put the tickets?”

    Sam: “Do we have to go?”

    Janet: “The Stevens and Dorfmans are sitting in our box. It would be rude to snub them. Besides, Ruthie always makes you laugh.”

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  • AUGUST 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 15 (10:20 a.m., Aug. 18)

    “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
    —Harlan Ellison

    In 1998, the author of the quote above was given a task from the creator of the television series The X-Files.

    I have a writing exercise for you. I’d like you to produce a short story using the premise “The 102-year-old pregnant corpse.” It’s currently 1 p.m., and I’d like a completed story by close of business today, please. Oh, there’s one more thing. You’ll be writing it in the front window of a bookstore.

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  • AUGUST 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 14

     It is now the middle of August. If ever there was a confluence of important decisions to be made, this is the time. Schools are supposed to reopen, but conflicting directives and information are making that choice difficult. The political conventions are approaching, and we don’t have any idea of how they will look or sound. Protests continue to grow, and the enmity between sectors of the public and law enforcement seems greater than ever. Sports are experiencing the consequences, in some cases, of seemingly reckless behavior, thereby jeopardizing all participants.

    And then there is our small world of classical music. Most orchestras were expecting to start their seasons either in September or very early October. Some have cancelled all concerts until the new year, and a few have taken the entire 2020-21 season off the books. Others are holding out until the last possible moment, with the hope that some miracle will allow them to proceed in some form.

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  • AUGUST 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 13

    There are some things that we are all supposed to do, certainly those of us in certain age brackets. The government demands some, our family and friends ask for others, and the medical community advises on several as well. It was time for what might be my final colonoscopy. When you reach eighty, and if you are in decent health, this procedure is considered unnecessary. I will be seventy-six next month. Don’t worry. I am not going to write anything about the invasion.

    Because we live in a different time, there is a new wrinkle in preparing for the operation. You have to get a COVID-19 test. All of us have watched and read about what it entails, but I thought that it might be useful for you to know how it actually works. This would apply equally to anyone who has to undergo surgery of any kind these days.

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  • AUGUST 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 12

    New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore. Those are just a few of the orchestras that have announced they will not commence the fall season and do not plan to start up again until the holidays. The next seven days will certainly see more organizations do something similar.

    All of us want to return. The spring and summer vacation has lasted long enough. But now we add autumn to the list. All we need is winter and we will have completed the Vivaldi cycle, not to mention Tchaikovsky, Haydn, and Glazunov, to name a few. Perhaps those should be among the works we consider upon getting back to work.

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