Author archive for leonard slatkin

  • MAY 2009

    Many people tell me that I work too hard. There are probably some who don’t think I work hard enough. All I know is that I have just spent one year during this past April. So hang in with me. This is not going to be short.

    It started with a return to Detroit, doing about eight things at once. There were subscription concerts, with what might be characterized as the first substantive programs I conducted as Music Director. Of course that would be unfair to the three programs I had done earlier, but in fact, we had not played a work labeled “Symphony” on any of those concerts. This program was the only one where there was not a living composer represented, nor an American.

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  • APRIL 2009

    For all the weather ills that befall us at this time of year, March is in many ways my favorite month. Baseball is back. Four and a half months of withdrawal are at an end. All is right with the world. More on this later.

    I was very fortunate that the first two weeks of this period had me on vacation in two favorable climates, Los Angeles and Florida. The first was not planned in my original thoughts. But I found myself intrigued with various aspects of the motion picture industry, based on the week when I conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic earlier in the year. A few days out in La-La land would give me the chance to connect with several people who are involved in the music scoring aspect of the movie industry.

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  • MARCH 2009

    A great deal of February was spent in teaching mode. First up was a trip to Interlochen, which was not my idea at this time of year. Checking the weather became a fixation as the day of arrival neared. It is at least 10 degrees colder in that part of the world than in Detroit. None the less I arrived to chilly but not unbearable temperatures.

    The Interlochen Arts Academy is one of the only schools devoted to the arts that has a national, and indeed, an international presence. I suppose most people know it from the summer program, but they go pretty much all year round. There were several reasons that compelled me to do this at this time.

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  • FEBRUARY 2009

    After two very intense weeks in Detroit, I thought it would be a simple matter just to go back on the guest circuit. After all, no administrative responsibilities and all I had to do was just conduct.

    Naturally, it did not work out quite that easily.

    First stop was Dallas, where I had not conducted in almost 20 years. I arrived on Monday, January 19th. When I got to my hotel room and switched on the television, I realized that we had a problem. Inauguration day was less than 24 hours away, and with the one-hour time difference between Texas and the East, the orchestra would miss the ceremony.

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  • MID-JANUARY 2009

    It is only halfway through January of the new year but there is so much to write about that I thought it best to get a head start.

    A quick wrap-up to the Taipei visit gets us going. I spent an hour in the hospital. Nothing serious. As it turned out, some good friends of violinist Cho-Liang Lin invited me for dinner. Regular readers of this column know about my recent fixation with Reflexology, so I was extolling its virtues to my hosts. On the way to the restaurant, I learned that one of them is the leading plastic surgeon in town and when she heard about my plantar fasciitis troubles, she suggested a trip to her hospital. I protested, saying it really was not that bad, but she said that they had a whole section devoted to orthotics.

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  • JANUARY 2009

    Greetings from Taipei.

    The final two weeks of 2008 have been spent in Asia: the first in Tokyo, and the current one in Taiwan. It has been eight years since I last conducted any resident orchestras here in the Far East. Most everything has been on tour with American and English ensembles.

    The NHK Symphony is the oldest in Japan and has always had a fine reputation. Many of the countries that were being exposed to Western symphonic music had imported primarily German-based conductors in the early years. The idea was to keep repeating the same repertoire over and over again, until the orchestras became totally familiar with the music. The same principle applied to the public as well.

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  • MID-DECEMBER 2008

    Usually these columns are devoted to what has occurred over the course of one month, occasionally veering off into something unusual. However, events of this past week almost certainly demand a special edition of their own, so here it is.

    It is difficult to know what has been more important, moving or even fun. After a long, long wait, I finally stepped on the podium at Orchestra Hall in Detroit and gave what will be the first of many downbeats as the orchestra’s music director.

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  • DECEMBER 2008

    Another month filled with travel and good music making. When I think about my original plan, no permanent orchestra and just guest conducting, I now realize that this kind of schedule would have been too grueling. But it is still nice to see both familiar and new faces once in a while.

    The month started off in Baltimore. Contractual restrictions had prevented me from conducting Marin Alsop’s orchestra, as D.C. was too close. Now that I no longer have that clause to deal with, it seemed appropriate to work with the BSO. I knew several of the musicians from other dates I had done over the past 12 years with various pick-up bands. But working with the whole orchestra was quite different.

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  • NOVEMBER 2008

    With the Far East tour completed, the remainder of October was devoted to a bit more traditional fare, at least as far as my own concerts were concerned. But still, not having conducted my own orchestra in Detroit, it still did not feel as if the season had really started.

    At least the first date was in Pittsburgh, where I am now the Principal Guest Conductor. However, there was the small matter of adjusting to the 19-hour flight from Singapore and the accompanying 12-hour time change. Aside from worrying how an airplane could stay in the sky all that time, the trip was not too bad. But the first rehearsal, 3 days later, was not so easy.

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  • OCTOBER 2008: Far East Diary

    Oct. 1: An 11-hour flight to get to Shanghai from London. It is mild here, and our hotel is located about a half-mile from the Arts Center. That venue was the host site for a small dinner this evening. So my first meal was not of Chinese food, but French! Walked around a bit and stopped off at a tailor shop, which hand-makes clothes and has them ready in a little over 24 hours. I expect the new tux to last about the same length of time.

    The last time I was here, about seven years ago, the city was in the midst of a building boom. This has not changed. There are more skyscrapers here than in most American cities. Shanghai is the most populous of Chinese cities and it is clear that they have prioritized Western style business methods to keep up in the world market place. You do not get a sense that this is still a country with a Communist regime.

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