Leonard Slatkin is 75 today – First of September 2019 – Birthday Greetings (Bottle of Wine) from Achenbach to Zukerman via DSO, Muti, Ohlsson & Rouse follow…

Written by: various contributors

In alphabetical order, by surname…

Leonard Slatkin at Detroit's Orchestra Hall
Photograph: Andrew Petrov
“A very happy 75th birthday to Leonard Slatkin, whose perceptive gifts, selfless dedication and sheer professionalism continue to inspire and astound. His wide-ranging repertoire and sizeable discography are full of riches (Prokofiev, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Haydn, Copland, Barber, Gershwin, Piston, Schuman, Ives, Bolcom, Leroy Anderson, Elgar, Walton and so much more), and I have never forgotten the giddy excitement of sitting in on a complete and uninterrupted Vaughan Williams 4 with a supercharged Philharmonia at Watford Town Hall – those recording sessions for RCA were quite something! – Andrew Achenbach”

“Dear Leonard, we first met twenty-five years ago when I pounced in the Royal Festival Hall (Pinchas Zukerman standing alongside you waiting to rehearse the Elgar Concerto) to ask for an interview; it was untypically daring of me, but your response was friendly and immediate: “sure”. A few days later we had a sparkling conversation. Your London concerts may now be rare (hoping this can be addressed please) but we do have those invaluable Detroit webcasts: from which the recent Mahler 9, Age of Anxiety and Bartók Concerto for Orchestra leap out, as do other performances. Thank-you for the friendship (fundamental) and the music (Holy Grail stuff) – and also the fun, I smile often at the DIY coffin kit you referenced for my sixtieth… Colin” (Anderson)

“Dear Lennie, I am so grateful that I have been a part of your musical life – from Mozart and Chopin to Schoenberg and Rouse, you have always been an inspiring model of music making, wisdom and kindness. I wish you many, many more years of continued beautiful work and happiness. Your old friend and admirer, Manny” (Emanuel Ax)

“I first worked with Leonard Slatkin when he was still a student at Aspen; he premiered a chamber all-strings piece of mine there in 1964. Over the years we would work together fairly often; most prominently he premiered my Fourth Symphony in 1987 when he ran the St. Louis Orchestra, involving a long poem, “The Rose,” by Theodore Roethke, sung by Joan Morris and recorded — certainly my grandest recorded project up to then. My biggest premiere up to then had been my Songs of Innocence and of Experience in 1984, by Dennis Russell Davies and the Stuttgart Opera, but the heavily Grammy-ed recording of that work would wait till 2004 — with Leonard at the helm! (Last summer Dennis conducted my Fourth Symphony, with Kellie O’Connor singing, in Chicago with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra, to complete the exchange.) At 81, I am beginning to count my many blessings, and one of the most major ones has been the history of my several collaborations with Leonard. Bless him.” William Bolcom

“To Dear Maestro Leonard Slatkin, happy birthday! It is always a great honor to be performing with you and privilege to attend your concerts, and I was very fortunate to play with you and listen to you for many years. And every time I did, I learned something new! I wish you many years of health, happiness, and beautiful music, with great respect and best wishes, Fima” Yefim Bronfman

Leonard Slatkin
Photograph: Nico Rodamel

“Dear Leonard, I am only one of many composers that look up to you as the epitome of what a conductor should be. You are a great musician, and have technique to burn, but it’s your curiosity and love for new things that sets you apart from your colleagues. You get such joy out of delving into a new piece by a new composer – I don’t know anyone else who radiates such pleasure at the challenge of leading the preparation of a new work. You are a truly great man, Leonard, and I feel privileged to know you, and grateful for all you have done.” John Corigliano

“Dear Leonard, On behalf of the entire Detroit Symphony Orchestra family—staff, musicians, board, and governing members—we want to take this opportunity to celebrate you on this milestone birthday! Your decade of leadership at the DSO helped shape what it means to be an orchestra in the 21st century, broadening access and integrating technology through our Live from Orchestra Hall webcasts, William Davidson Neighborhood Concerts, and Soundcard membership for students, to name just a few innovations. You bring vision, passion, energy, ideas, humor, and intelligence to your work and to all you touch in your life. Happy 75th Birthday, Leonard!!! With gratitude and appreciation – Anne Parsons, President and CEO, and Mark Davidoff, Chairman, for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra”

“Happy Birthday Leonard. It has been a few years since we were roommates together in Aspen. Look at us now…still going strong, the both of us. I feel fortunate to have been able to work together with you over the years. I have always admired your formidable talent as a conductor. Sending you a hug and all best wishes for many more birthday celebrations.
Love, Glenn” (Dicterow, formerly concertmaster, New York Philharmonic)

“Dear Maestro, you have been a beacon of excellence and a shining inspiration for all of us for all these years! The Buffalo Philharmonic musicians and I send you our heartfelt birthday wishes. We are thrilled that we will see you on our podium soon. Happy birthday with the deepest admiration.” JoAnn Falletta.

“Many Happy Returns Leonard! Please come back to London soon – you are
missed as a regular visitor. The last time we had a conversation I had
to come all the way to Tokyo.” Tony Faulkner

Leonard Slatkin
Photograph: Detroit Symphony Orchestra

“Jeanne and I want to wish you a great day on this happy occasion. We are looking forward to our next meeting when we can mark the occasion with a glass of champagne. Until then, have a great day with Cindy and the friends lucky 🍀 enough to celebrate your 75th.” Sir James Galway

“Leonard! Your illustrious career speaks for itself, but my favorite moments working with you have been based in the friendship you’ve offered, whether I was 14 or 39. You show dignity and respect to the people around you, while reaching further, confidently experimenting, and speaking your mind. I wish you no less than one significant moment of trailblazing every day and pleasant normality for the remainder. Happy 75th!” Hilary Hahn

“Leonard Slatkin has become an icon as one of the most important American conductors in the musical history of the United States. He, before any other, created in Saint Louis the concept of a quintessential American orchestral identity in its character and repertoire. This special niche combined with true excellence at the highest level, resulted in Saint Louis becoming one of the most recorded in the world during the golden age of recording. At the same time he instilled a signature sound with lush sonic qualities, and exciting performances. All this while creating a work environment of collegiality and collaboration. It was a remarkably effective method of leadership with prolific results. In that context, a celebration of his 75th birthday gives us an opportunity to celebrate those many successes, as well as to look ahead to many more, as he helps guide and inspire others to follow in this remarkable musical path.” David Halen, concertmaster, SLS

The handwritten greeting is from Thomas Hampson

A birthday greeting from Thomas Hampson

“Dear Leonard, we already celebrated your 75th birthday earlier this year in Hong Kong when you visited our city.
We have been working together for more than 40 years, if we include all the wonderful recordings you made in St Louis for Vox. I look forward to working with you for many more years and wish you good health and a happy and productive life with Cindy.” Klaus Heymann

“With someone whose music making is always so youthful, so alive, so full of energy and ideas … no, I’m sorry. 75 can’t be right! Happy Birthday, Leonard :-)” Stephen Hough

“A very happy birthday to you, Monsieur Herr Maestro Slatkin! May you continue to bring yourself and so many others much happiness, as you set new trends in programming. And to remain your amazingly down-to-earth, approachable self – the very opposite of a prima donna maestro! All very best wishes and salutations from Steven.” (Isserlis)

“Dearest Leonard, for the last occasion, some years back, I wrote you a limerick that was, as the Brits like to say, too clever by half. Upon reaching this milestone (75/120: a little over half way!), I think I will skip the humor and keep it simple: I am so grateful for knowing you all these years, for your friendship, for the wonderful music we made together, for all that you have done for our art and profession, for your integrity and immense gift! I hope you have a great time celebrating, musically and otherwise. Your friend (proudly), Yossi” Joseph Kalichstein

“Happy Birthday Leonard. Still only halfway through the first decade of maestro distinction! Warmest, Andrew Keener”

“Leonard Slatkin is a living legend. An incredible musician!
I am so lucky and proud to say now that I’ve been working with him for many years and that I can call him a wonderful colleague and more importantly – my dearest friend!
I really had magical moments when we worked on and performed together all Tchaikovsky concerti with Detroit Symphony and all Rachmaninoff concerti with Orchestre National de Lyon. Also, it was absolutely unforgettable to perform Barber concerto with Maestro Slatkin – that was truly amazing music making! However, despite all his achievements and the position of one of the greatest musicians of our time, he is an incredible versatile human being as well. He introduced me to so many interesting things, such as baseball for example – I’ve never experienced a real baseball game before I met Leonard. The same I can say about hockey – I went with him (and he also invited my son Vladislav) to a hockey game in St. Louis. It was very exciting to see it live. My son became a big hockey fan afterwords and was watching every game of Stanley cup since than. Leonard Slatkin is an inspiration. He always gives positive energy! Every time I see him or perform with him, he inspires me to be a better musician and a better person. I am so thankful that I know Maestro Slatkin! I would like to wish him the best possible birthday and the most fantastic 75th anniversary celebration! Wishing him many many more years of the greatest music making and magical moments in his life and music!” Olga Kern

Leonard Slatkin conducts
Photograph: www.msmnyc.edu

“To dear Leonard. Hearty and sincere congratulations on your big birthday from a same-aged admirer! I’m so proud to have given concertos with you – you remain an inspiring soul and a delightfully unaffected yet greatly gifted musical giant. Even if you feel you are getting a bit older, don’t forget this is the youngest you’ll ever be again… Have a very enjoyable 75th and a safe, healthy and happy future!” John Lill

“Leonaaaaaaarrrrrrd !!!!! Here we are again! It seems it was just a minute or two ago we were celebrating your 70th in Lyon. THANK YOU for inviting me to sing with your orchestra for that celebration. And THANK YOU for the many years of wonderful collaborations! I’m SOOOOO happy we are friends. PS: I love being retired and highly recommend it. MUCH love to you and Cindy!” Sylvia McNair

“Dearest Leonard, for the past ten years, week in and week out, I have had the pleasure of watching and hearing you work your amazing magic with orchestras throughout the world. I am so very proud of what you do. But most importantly, I admire who you are, a man fully committed to making this world a better place. You make my heart sing. I love you. Happy 75th!” Cindy McTee Slatkin

“Warm birthday wishes with lots of delicious wine, friends, family and laughter and happy returns!” Anne Akiko Meyers

“In this very special day, I send you my congratulations for your brilliant contribution to the world of Music! Riccardo Muti”

“To my friend and colleague Leonard. When we were at Juilliard, I knew of you as one of the most remarkably gifted future conductors. At our 1st performance together in Aspen, 1977 (Chopin #1), I knew I was playing with a brilliant conductor, who could soon become a great master. This happened quickly, as the world knows. Since then it’s been my honor and joy to re-experience your mastery in numerous concerts together. I wish you many years more of magnificent music making. With greatest admiration and affection, yours,
Garrick” (Ohlsson)

Leonard Slatkin conducts BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Prague Spring
Photograph: © Pražské jaro – Ivan Malý

“Dear Leonard, Seems like yesterday that we celebrated LS@70! Milestones help remind us of how lucky we are to enjoy special friendships and unforgettable experiences. Donald, Cara and I want you to know how much we appreciate you and cherish our relationship, with you and your family. We look forward to raising a glass (or two) in person soon. In the meantime, here’s to great joy, health and happiness, in your new life in St. Louis, back in Detroit and around the world! xxoo Anne (Parsons), Donald and Cara”

“Congratulations, Leonard, on reaching 75. I have fond memories of you with Marc Aubort, Joanna Nickrenz and myself in Powell Hall on 8th October, 1985, the first sessions recording Billy the Kid, happy times with Angel Records almost 35 years ago! Onwards and upwards, John Pattrick”

“Leonard, you are magic. You transform and uplift lives and shine a light on the beauty of this world. You are one of the truest friends I’ve ever had and I love you SO MUCH! I wish you the most joyful birthday and sign off with a couple of quotes from one of my favorite Rumi poems (in the wonderous Coleman Barks translation): Don’t worry about saving these songs! And if one of our instruments breaks,
it doesn’t matter. We have fallen into the place
where everything is music… …Stop the words now. Open the window in the center of your chest, and let the spirit fly in and out.” Hila Plitmann

“Happy 75th Leonard! I got my start thanks to you all those many years ago, and you’ve been a steadfast champion of my work. Congratulations to a superlative musician on the occasion of this milestone. Chris” (Christopher Rouse)

“The Orchestre national de Lyon feels really involved in celebrating Leonard Slatkin’s 75th birthday. Nearly a decade after the first collaboration as music director started between Leonard Slatkin and our orchestra, it is always wonderful to hold in Lyon concerts conducted by maestro Slatkin: musicians are happy to be conducted by such a safe and experienced baton and the audience developed a real attachment to him. Our ‘birthday’ concert will take place at the end of 19/20 season, so he will have a year-long celebration of this special birthday! Having personally arrived in Lyon in the course of this relationship, I feel privileged to work with him. And I enjoy spending joyful moments after the concerts with Cindy and Leonard talking about Hollywood, music, politics, movies… and eating nice French food. Happy birthday Leonard!” Aline Sam-Giao, Directrice générale

“It used to be that conductors like Leopold Stokowski and a few others took chances and performed
new music regularly, sometimes to the annoyance of board members in US orchestras. Eleazar de
Carvalho, Brazilian conductor, teacher of Abbado, Mehta, Ozawa, myself and countless others at
the Tanglewood festival, lost his job with the St. Louis Symphony because he performed so much
“avant-garde” music. Long before then, Stokowski, at the pinnacle of his fame. was dismissed from
his position with the Philadelphia Orchestra because he performed Edgard Varese and other
forward-looking composers, Today, that visionary attitude is rare, with exceptions, among conductors.
One of the great exceptions is Leonard Slatkin, who often used the National Symphony Orchestra’s visits
to New York to perform entire concerts of music by American composers. Not long ago he had the Detroit Symphony perform all four symphonies by Charles Ives in a single concert at Carnegie Hall. Having myself premiered the Ives’ 4th alongside Stokowski (it took 2 conductors on stage to do this mammoth work) at Carnegie Hall, and recorded it on my own with the LPO, I could truly appreciate Leonard’s accomplishment and bravery in doing an all-Ives concert. It was sold-out. Bravo, my friend, and keep it up. JOSE SEREBRIER”

The “coded message” is from Bright Sheng.

“Dad, We have shared many great memories together, even though I’ve known you for only 25 years! From baseball stadium tours, to sushi tastings, to performing alongside each other, I have cherished them all. Thank you, always, for your guidance and support. I am truly grateful to have you as a father. Happy birthday! Love, Daniel” (Slatkin)

“My dearest Lenny, It has been such a joy and privilege to have you in my life for so many years. Not only as a mentor, a great musician, a wonderful colleague, but also very importantly such an incredible friend. I realize more and more how important long friendships are. You have enriched my life in so many ways. I have learned so much from you, and I am always looking forward to our collaborations. When I see a week of concerts coming up with you, it makes me smile in my heart, and every performance together is a pure joy and a lot of excitement and fun. Thank you for everything, I wish you a fantastic 75th birthday, and many many more to come, and also many many more concerts together. God bless you, all my love. Your friend, Jean-Yves” (Thibaudet) “PS: and remember as you wrote to me once when I asked you how your 70th was…you said it is the same as 60, just more candles, right?”

“Dearest Leonard, a very happy 75th birthday! I’m thinking of our performances together and smiling – they have been true highlights for me, exciting combinations of great vision, creativity and command. As your soloist I’ve always felt safe to be free, and that is huge. But not only are you a great conductor but a great chef as well. I will never forget how you and Cindy hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at your house in Detroit – you with a chef’s hat and apron and all – simply the best turkey ever. Wishing you health, inspiration and love, always! Elina” (Vähälä)

“Dear Leonard, Warmest congratulations on the occasion of your 75th Birthday. You have arrived at this august anniversary one year before the Philharmonia! My colleagues and I in the Orchestra have so many fond memories of the years we worked together. So many concerts, so many venues across the country and so many great musical moments. The recordings you made with the Philharmonia are an enduring testament to the quality of your work with the Orchestra, and I am pleased to say are still popular. Your empathy with British music was remarkable and led to fine performances of not just RVW, Holst and Elgar, but also much contemporary British music. Enjoy being 75 which, as we know, is just about the middle of a conductor’s career!! The best is yet to come! Warmest regards, David Whelton OBE”

“Dearest Len, From my vantage point, 75 seems the near end of adolescence. Now on to the 100 mark… in your case, with full vigor, commitment and musical genius! Miss you… Much love, John Williams”

“Happy 75th Birthday, Leonard. It’s been a busy five years since your last significant birthday. Perhaps most importantly, you’ve just completed what you say will be your last American music directorship. The importance of your tenure in Detroit cannot be overstated. Having started your time there in the most difficult of circumstances, when many feared the challenges in Detroit heralded the end of full-time orchestras in the USA, you’ve made the Detroit Symphony into one of American music’s greatest success stories. It is a fitting culmination of a totally unique career as the USA’s most prolific orchestra builder. Thank you, congratulations and HAPPY BIRTHDAY.” Kenneth Woods

Leonard Slatkin

“It would not be an exaggeration to say Leonard Slatkin plays an
important part in my becoming a composer. Being self-taught, I
learnt my craft by listening to a lot of music, especially the
‘non-standard’ Western classical repertoire. In the 1990s, I developed
a love for music by American composers – Barber, Bolcom, Copland,
Corigliano, Ives, Piston, Schuman, Schwantner, etc. – through the
wonderful recordings that Slatkin made with various orchestras,
notably Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony
Orchestra. His presence was more ‘real’ when he became the chief
conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2000, brought with him many
fascinating works by American composers to this country, as well as
premiered many of their British counterparts. However, it was the U.K.
premiere of Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (with
soloists and BBCSO at the Royal Festival Hall) in 1996 that left a
lasting impression, not to mention that he was wonderful to talk to
backstage. If Mr Slatkin is reading this, he might be pleased to know
that his recording of guitar concerti by Castelnuovo-Tedesco (with
Kazuhito and Naoko Yamashita and London Philharmonic) remains one of
my favourite recordings. Happy 75th Birthday, Mr Slatkin, and many
happy returns, Ray” [Raymond Yiu]

“As the younger brother, by 2½ years, I frequently imitated what my brother Leonard would do. On one occasion, Len was doing “swan dives” into his bed. I miscalculated the trajectory and ended up in the emergency room where they stitched my eyelid back together. I might have ended up a violinist, Leonard’s first instrument, had I not asked permission to pluck the strings of the violin, viola, and cello, when our parents’ Hollywood String Quartet took a break in their rehearsal. When it comes to pizzicato, the cello really excels. Len played a number of different instruments and, though he doesn’t agree with me, is a fabulous pianist; he can sight-read anything. We ended up collaborating on tons of recitals, chamber music, and with me as soloist; he can follow anyone. On this 75th birthday, I want to answer the question the two of us are often asked, “was there competition in your musical family?” The answer is yes… and no. No, because artistic success is too subjective; and yes, because we are always competing, trying to attain what we want to hear. Here’s to another 75, Len! Love from your “younger” brother, Fred” [Zlotkin]

“Congratulations! What a wonderful milestone to be celebrating. Keep going and don’t forget to look at those scores once and a while! Lots of love, Pinchas Zukerman”

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