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Leonard Slatkin Shows What Directing Detroit Symphony Is Like

Jamie Paisley
WKAR's Jamie Paisley and DSO's Maestro Leonard Slatkin

After 10 years as music director, Leonard Slatkin is in his final one with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. WKAR will be bringing you select live broadcasts throughout the year, part of a partnership with WRCJ in Detroit. But for this Friday’s 1st live broadcast of the season, WKAR’s Jamie Paisley went to Orchestra Hall to speak with the Maestro.

"Every concert this year is designed with a real means to understanding what it has been like for me to be the music director of the Detroit Symphony for 10 years." says Maestro Leonard Slatkin. "For the purposes of this week, I decided to do something different. So I asked seven of my good buddies, composer colleagues, to select either a current of a former student of theirs and I would commission them each to write a between 10-and-12 minute piece to open the concert. And this week we have Loren Loiacono, who's a student of Steven Stucky. And her piece 'Smothered by Sky.'"

Joining the world premiere of LorenLoiacono’s 'Smothered by Sky' on Friday’s concert and live broadcast, Maestro Slatkin is highlighting two fairly recent additions to the DSO, principal violist Eric Nowlin and principal cellist, Wei Yu. He asked them what they wanted to play and be featured with, and Wei Yu chose Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

"I've been an Anglophile almost all my life. As much as people talk about me for promoting American music, I've always been associated with English music particularly when I'm in England." says Slatkin. "I would say for people that don't know Elgar, this is one of the two or three pieces that you should hear for making a judgment call on him. Yes he's maybe not to everybody's taste; I tend to put him in kind of being the English Richard Strauss in these big sweeping statements. But this is a more intimate concerto, it really is. And it does show off the soloist, but it shows off how they blend with the orchestra, how you listen, it's a little complicated to conduct, more complicated to play just because the attention is focused for the 30 minutes the piece takes."

After Wei Yu finishes the Elgar Cello Concerto, the 2nd half of the DSO’s concert is devoted to Hector Berlioz and his 'Harold in Italy,' a work which began as a rare viola concerto, but grew into a symphony.

It was written originally for Niccolo Paganini to play, and Paganini took a look at it and said "There's not enough for the viola to do, so I'm not going to play it!" And he didn't, but subsequently, he went to a performance of it and apologized to the composer saying "I understand exactly what you meant." Now, Berlioz is in my mind one of the great revolutionaries in music. You have to remember that he lives and writes just following the death of Beethoven. So when you hear a Berlioz work, it's hard to believe he was thinking of these sounds and these ideas so close to the time of Beethoven. And he doesn't fall into the Germanic tradition of writing like a Schumann or Brahms, he has his own world, very special. and Harold in Italy is no exception.

Maestro Leonard Slatkinleads the Detroit Symphony Orchestrathrough three works, including a world premiere this weekend. More information at DSO.org, and it’s a concert WKAR will broadcast live this Friday morning October 20th on 90.5 Classical starting at 10:45 a.m.

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