Author archive for leonard slatkin

  • OCTOBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 25

    During the more than half a year of pandemic shutdowns, I have spent a lot of time dwelling on what others should or should not be doing. Whether addressing matters concerning performers, administrators, or audiences, my observations and suggestions have come from the standpoint of an outsider looking in. Other than a decision not to make the nine-hour drive to Detroit to lead rehearsals and a concert, I have mostly been shielded from heeding my own advice.

    Ever since it became clear that musical life was being turned inside out, I realized that a major verdict might need to be rendered as October arrived. When COVID-19 first reared its ugly head, I, like so many others, did not believe that it would affect me. Exercising every precaution, I believed that together, we could beat the virus into submission. It did not take very long to realize that this was not going to be the case.

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  • OCTOBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 24

    In recent weeks, there has been a lot of news about orchestras settling contracts, some for up to five years. This is a very encouraging sign, as security for the musicians has been hard to calculate during this shutdown. One must hope that contingency plans are in place should the virus continue well into the new year.

    The reason I am bringing this up has to do with the role of music directors as we move forward. Many of them cannot enter the States right now or are put into quarantine upon arrival. In several cases their services as conductors have not been required, as their orchestras are not working, even in reduced numbers. Perhaps some are assisting in repertoire choices for chamber music concerts.

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  • OCTOBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 23

    One of the fingernail-biting experiences in life is watching the scoreboard as the last day of the regular baseball season approaches. Will your team get to the playoffs by winning or as a result of losses by the others?

    In the meantime, there is another, more dramatic game going on. Those of us who are supposed to be travelling keep a close eye on restrictions that each country is imposing on people as they enter foreign lands. I have a seven-week tour coming up near the end of the month involving five separate countries, and the situation in each of those places has an impact on the feasibility of the other dates.

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  • OCTOBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 22

    The Lone Ranger. Batwoman. The Green Hornet. Iván Fischer. What do they all have in common? They wear a mask when they perform.

    Get used to the sight. Many musicians around the world have adopted the facial covering as ensembles try and come back to the concert hall. No longer confined to its traditional role as a disguise for either a bank robber or superhero, the mask is fast becoming as controversial in the music world as it is in so-called real life.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Potholes Edition

    We have a lot to discuss this time around. Arts, politics, society, and health have all intersected, at least for me. Let me begin with a decision that was agonizing but, ultimately, appropriate.

    Over the course of the pandemic, I have, despite some of my written observations, tried to keep an optimistic view. Somehow, without concrete evidence to the contrary, I believed that things would be under control enough to allow to me to fulfill at least one concert date that was on my calendar, namely my engagement in Detroit.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2020: Recovery Edition, Part 21

    Each of us has a misgiving or two about social networking. Although as a society our daily lives have included this form of communication, very rarely are thoughts expressed that offer potential solutions to the dilemmas facing our world. Once in a while, however, a social media post can trigger a set of ideas that might lead to something concrete.

    While idly scrolling through the stream of criticism, advertisements, and messages, one post jumped out at me. A writer asked a question that went something like this: “If you had $100K to spend on programing during the pandemic, what would you do?” Since we are at the start of what will be at least a four-month delay in regular concert presentation as well as the commencement of the school year, I found myself pondering how the two might come together.

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  • 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: “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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