Author archive for leonard slatkin

  • 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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    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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  • OCTOBER 2008

    September is usually a very busy month. There are seasons to open and I usually have to be right in the thick of things. But this year it is a bit different.

    After having spent the first week packing up and moving music and belongings up to Detroit, I started the concert calendar at Indiana University. There are five orchestras at the school. Each is very good, and one can sense that there is no problem regarding the future of orchestral performers. There might be, however, a question of how many jobs will be available, but filling them will not be difficult.

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  • SEPTEMBER 2008

    Another long orchestral season has come to a close and it is time to start gearing up for a busy 2008-2009 year.

    August saw a string of concerts in three venues, but with lots of travel involved. I started off in Detroit. For many years, the orchestra’s summer home was at the Meadowbrook Music Festival, a sylvan-like setting on the campus of Oakland University. In fact, the last time I conducted the orchestra, before we began the music director courtship, was at this space. In many ways, it is similar to the National Symphony’s outdoor arena, Wolf Trap.

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  • AUGUST 2008

    Summertime and the livin’ is, well, not as easy as it should be.

    July started off as planned with a trip to Nashville. Conducting on the 4th of this month is always an interesting experience, no matter where you are. I have done concerts all over the U.S. as well as a few in Europe. However, perhaps aside from Washington and Boston, it is hard to imagine a place more tuned into that date than Music City.

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  • JULY 2008

    And so it ends.

    June saw my final concerts as music director of the National Symphony. These occupied most of the month and, as you can imagine, was a highly charged three weeks. But there was almost as much packed into the first week as well.

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