Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slatkin Triumphant in His Debut with National Symphony

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Slatkin Triumphant in His Debut with National Symphony

Article excerpt

Leonard Slatkin, the man who proposes to turn the National Symphony Orchestra into "the leading orchestra for the music of this country," walked into a standing ovation Thursday on his first night on the job.

He basked but a moment in the applause, pivoted athletically, signaled the snare drum and conducted the audience in a surprise, shining rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

"To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement," said Slatkin, the orchestra's music director-designate, at a reception after his debut. But the advantage of the ovation was, he said, "I didn't have to ask the audience to rise for the national anthem."

Slatkin - who has spent more than a quarter-century with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra - was off to a triumphant start.

"You felt like they were playing their hearts out for him," said Susan Stamberg, the National Public Radio correspondent who traveled with the NSO to Russia last year. "This is precision. I've never heard them like this before."

"So much energy," said retiring House Minority Leader Robert Michel, R-Ill. His wife, Corinne, compared Slatkin to Mstislav Rostropovich, who retired last year after 17 years as music director of the NSO. "Rostropovich had oodles of emotion jumping out of his skin. Slatkin's much more contained, more disciplined."

The heart of the evening was Copland's "Symphony No. 3," a soaring piece of Americana that brought out Slatkin's every emotion, tapping into his core: the American identity he hopes to bring to the NSO. His shoulders relaxed, he swayed and jumped, and an orchestra hungry for variety after Rostropovich's Russian ferocity leaned forward to follow Slatkin's every gesture.

Backstage before the concert, the 102 members of the orchestra were eager. "Finally, this orchestra will have its golden era," said Sylvia Alimena, who has played French horn for the NSO for 10 years. …

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