October 22, 2020
On Saturday, October 24, the Federation of Alliances Françaises will present its most prestigious award, the Prix Charbonnier, to internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin. The award ceremony is among the capstone events of the Federation’s 2020 Annual Convention, this year held online for constituents of the more than 100 Alliance Française chapters in the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean.
The Prix Charbonnier was created in 1991 to recognize M. Daniel Charbonnier of San Francisco, a past President of the Federation, who exemplified all of the best qualities of this organization. Other notable recipients include chefs Julia Child and Jacques Pépin and fashion designer Pierre Cardin. The purpose of the Prix Charbonnier is to recognize persons of national stature and reputation whose vocation or avocation has promoted French language and culture in a manner consistent with the goals and purpose of the Federation. A committee established by the Board of Directors of the Federation nominates the candidate for the Prix Charbonnier.
“I feel truly honored to be receiving the Prix Charbonnier from the Federation of Alliances Françaises,” Slatkin said. “My principal conducting teacher at The Juilliard School was the Frenchman Jean Morel. He gave to his students a lasting treasure by educating them in the repertoire of his country. Throughout my career, I have always held the music of France close to my heart. Having produced French festivals with orchestras in St. Louis, Washington D.C., and Detroit, not to mention Lyon, I have been able to express my love for France and French culture primarily through its music, but also its art and cuisine. Thank you for this award.”
Slatkin has been instrumental in connecting symphonic orchestras in the U.S. and France, having led the Orchestre National de Lyon in works by French composers Ravel, Berlioz, and Connesson on its 2017 American tour, which included a triumphant performance at Carnegie Hall.
Over the course of his fifty-year conducting career, Slatkin has consistently programmed pieces by some of France’s best-known composers, including Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Dukas, Milhaud, and Satie, whose works were featured in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s 2018 French Festival. In Lyon, he has recorded repertoire by Ravel, Berlioz, and Saint-Saëns for Naxos Records. “The degree of musical sophistication and brilliance of Ravel’s original thought is not fully recognized,” he explained. “When I became musical director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, my first thought was to try to record Ravel’s orchestral works. So far, we have released eight volumes on the Naxos label, including the two operas L’Heure Espagnole and L’Enfant et les Sortilèges.”