January 1, 2008 leonard slatkin

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.

Or is there?

The start of the month found me back in Nashville. We performed and recorded John Corigliano’s Dylan Thomas Trilogy. This is a work I commissioned some ten years ago, but it has taken until now to get it recorded. Sir Thomas Allen delivered the words of the Welsh poet in outstanding voice. John was on hand to supervise, and I think we have a terrific recording of the piece. Not sure when it will come out, but I will let you know.

There was a jump-in for me in Pittsburgh. I had planned to take the remainder of the month off, but considering my relationship with the PSO, I thought that it would be nice to see them for a few days in advance of our January concerts. More Corigliano, with his Phantasmagoria. The orchestra’s principal cellist, Anne Martindale Williams, brilliantly realized the Elgar Cello concerto. This trip reinforced the bond that I have with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the next few years as Principal Guest Conductor are full of promise.

By now you all know about the event with my son. Lots of good cheer and people are still talking about it. In the meantime, I have arranged a few more holiday songs and hope to have a collection of them that might be published.

Next it was off to Detroit for four days of very intense meetings. So much has to be put in place. But we have been able to hire two great additions to the staff, Jim Berdahl and Keith Elder. More about them as we go along. Between getting the seasons artists and programs finalized, planning television and radio projects, recording and education initiatives, there was a lot to do. Happily, all of us seem to be working toward the same goals.

I actually conducted the orchestra, the first time since being announced as Music Director. It was an event at Chrysler headquarters, something the orchestra has done for the past couple of years. In the holiday spirit, we did Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. No, I did not use the occasion to promote my new CD, volume one of the complete works by that composer. But you can feel free to check it out as it is released this month.

I did take about a week off and at this moment am writing you from Milan. Their New Year’s offering is the same as several European orchestras: Beethoven’s 9th. I did it last year and the four performances were great fun. Just the right thing to kick off 2008.

At the start I mentioned that this was a mostly upbeat time. On a serious note, the passing of Oscar Peterson saddened us all. For the past week, I have been listening to several of the many recordings he made. What an artist! I was fortunate to have heard him live on many occasions. We will not see or hear his likes again.

And for those of you who need to know, the bag never showed up. This meant that I had to engage in my least favorite activity, shopping for clothes!

See you next month,

Leonard Slatkin