Author archive for leonard slatkin

  • MAY 2008

    Home at last!

    After almost 12 weeks on the road, I have finally landed back in Washington. This will be a three-week stint with the NSO, which right now feels more like three months. No more hotel rooms and horrid Internet connections. And the projects that are looming here are interesting.

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  • MID-APRIL 2008

    Normally, I try to keep this column down to once a month. But every so often, something happens which demands a “special edition.” For the past eight days, I have been in Detroit, the first time I have conducted there since being appointed music director. This was originally to have been a guest date, but now it was much, much more.

    Over the past six months, I have come here several times for meetings, dinners and functions designed to get to know the area, orchestra and community. All these trips have proved useful in setting forth an agenda for the next several years. But ultimately, none of it matters if the music making is not good.

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  • APRIL 2008

    Life on the road is tough. A different orchestra each week, travel difficulties, strange accommodations. But when it goes well, all the travails get put behind.

    March started off in Milan, where I have conducted four times over the past year or so. Having gotten through the three-week stint in Germany, a change of language seemed in order. No, I do not really speak either German or Italian particularly well, but enough to get through rehearsals and to order properly in the restaurants. Almost all the cities and orchestras that I conduct have plenty of English speaking citizens and musicians. But it is nice to be able to communicate in the tongue of the country I am visiting.

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  • MARCH 2008

    On the road again. The shortest month of the year can seem the longest when travel is involved.

    The NSO went to NY, and I did my final concert in Carnegie Hall as the orchestra’s music director. There is still something special about walking into the same place where almost every great musician has performed. You sense the history, as well as the ghosts. All went well, with some very elegant playing by the group. The day prior to that trip, I was in Detroit, announcing the 08-09 season to the press.

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  • FEBRUARY 2008

    The New Year has gotten off to a quick start, hampered by a severe cold.

    Beethoven 9’s in Milan were great fun, a term one does not usually associate with this piece. But it seemed appropriate for the audience, which was looking for this high level of entertainment to bring in the festivities. Our tenor fell ill suddenly with just one performance under our belt, so we had to find another quickly. Being in Milan, you would have thought all they had to do was go across town to La Scala and get someone. But the answer seemed to lie in Germany, were a fine substitute filled in.

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  • JANUARY 2008

    Happy New Year!

    2007 has ended on a mostly upbeat note. In some years, December is a more quiet time for symphonic conductors. What with Holiday Pops, Messiahs, and other concerts devoted to this time of year, there is not much place for a lot of the traditional or adventurous symphonic fare.

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  • DECEMBER 2007

    Another whirlwind month has come to a close. There are times when I am not sure that it is possible to keep up with the calendar. And traveling these days is certainly not one of life’s greatest pleasures.

    The first two weeks of November were spent with the Royal Philharmonic. For the first time in my career, I did a concert at Albert Hall in London which was not a Prom. To fill the 5,000+ seating area, the programs have to be more popular than usual. In this case, Holst’s Planets paired with Walton’s Belshazzar. The concert was recorded and is available on iTunes.

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  • NOVEMBER 2007

    Well, October was certainly a busy month. In Washington, at the NSO, we began the subscription season. Beethoven 9 was up first. It is amazing how my thoughts of this work have changed over the years. Time was when the last movement was the only one worth listening to. But now, the drama and tension of the first, the sarcasm and explosiveness of the Scherzo, and the joyous cry of thanksgiving in the slow movement take me to places much closer to the composers intentions. And that Finale still is not bad.

    We also premiered a new piece by Jefferson Friedman, a composer I have been interested in for the past four years. Very bright and concerned with the representation of outsider art. The visuals come to life in his music, which is a blend of exotic sounds and hymn tunes. Hard to categorize his works, but look for his name.

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  • OCTOBER 2007

    By now, most of you will have learned of my recent appointment as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony. Between the positions that I am completing and the ones that are coming up, it is even confusing to me. So let’s summarize.

    I have just ended my three-year stint at the Hollywood Bowl; my 12-year tenure with the National Symphony ends this June; last year was my first as Principal Guest Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic (four weeks a year); I just began my semester residency at Indiana University (two weeks per year); and, next September, I become Music Director in Detroit (14-16 weeks) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony (three or four weeks).

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    Originally, I had only planned to write once a month, summarizing activities that had occurred previously. But the first few weeks of September have had a couple of nice surprises that I felt were worth sharing early.

    The recording industry has been in something of a downturn, but there are signs that the situation may be improving. I certainly cannot complain. During the 80’s and early 90’s, my own discography usually saw 5 to 6 discs a year being issued. But recently, I have been quite active both in the recording studio and through archival material.

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