MARCH 2008

MARCH 2008
March 1, 2008 leonard slatkin

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.

Next, we headed off to South Carolina for our annual residency. I could only do two days, so there was not much time to spend on activities. My two concerts were in Clover and Greenville, two cities I really knew nothing about. But the public was enthusiastic, with many people hearing a full symphony orchestra for the first time. In many ways, it is possible to believe that we made more of an impression on those listeners than the ones who frequent the concert halls regularly in Manhattan.

As I was driving to the airport in Charlotte, my cell phone rang. This was a Sunday, about five in the afternoon. On the line was the Executive Director of the Nashville Symphony, telling me that our disc of music by Joan Tower had won three Grammys. To say that I was surprised would be a major understatement. Not that the disc wasn’t good, but I simply did not think it had the legs to pull off anything like this. There had been an article in the Washington Post bemoaning the irrelevance of the awards in classical music. Tell that to the wonderful people in Music City, or Joan, or all those who both nominated and cast votes for this recording.

This makes seven of the statuettes for me. When you consider that some 1,500 recordings come out each year, it is truly an honor to get your name on the list. Yes, it is sad that these and so many other categories are relegated to the “pre-telecast.” But there is a sales spike after, and now a fine orchestra and great composer have been moved up a notch in America’s musical life. My parents won at the first ceremony 50 years ago. The feeling remains very special.

The rest of the month was spent in Germany, starting in Berlin. Most of the major cities in that country have at least two orchestras and with reunification, more. I regularly work with what is called the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, the orchestra of the German Radio. They have gone under several names during their existence, but the quality of playing has always been high. The concerts were in the Philharmonie, home of the Berlin Philharmonic.

During this week, the annual Berlin Film Festival took place. No one mistook me for George Clooney.

Next it was Hamburg, another city with a storied musical history. This was for a concert with the Opera Orchestra. Most companies utilize the players not only for the staged productions, but for the concert platform as well. It must be remembered that the Vienna Philharmonic is an off-shoot of the pit band at the Staatsoper. The novelty on the program was the 2nd Violin Concerto by Joseph Joachim, most famous as the dedicatee of the Brahms Concerto. The work was new to me and is a bit long, with not much original to say. But in Christian Tetzlaff, it had a fine proponent and he played with great panache and flair.

To close out the month, it was on to Bamberg, a city pretty much untouched by the ravages of war. It is close to Bayreuth and Nurnberg, so there are some strong musical traditions. The orchestra has a fine concert hall and superb players. All you have to do is go out the back door of the hotel and there is the venue, sitting serenely on the river Regnitz.

Having still not recovered from the missing bag, and looking at the travel plans, I decided to try to do most of the trip by train. Yes, schlepping the luggage to the platform is a drag, literally, but at least I can sit and keep an eye on my belongings. Hopefully, my paranoia will dissipate and I will not worry about this much longer. But there is no train from Milan to London and then back to DC.

See you next month,

Leonard Slatkin