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Leonard Edward Slatkin (born September 1, 1944) is an Americanmarker conductor. Long associated with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, he is now music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

His father Felix Slatkin was the violinist, conductor and founder of the Hollywood String Quartet, and his mother Eleanor Aller was cellist with the quartet. His brother, Frederick Zlotkin, is a cellist.


Slatkin was born to a musical family that came from areas of the Russian Empiremarker now in Ukrainemarker. His brother Frederick traced the family's original name as Zlotkin, and adopted that form of the family surname for himself professionally. Frederick Zlotkin has spoken of the family lineage as follows:

"The Zlotkin/Slatkin lineage is Russian-Jewish.
The first Zlotkin arrival to the US was Felix's father, grandpa Chaim Peretz Zlotkin, who came to settle with relatives in St. Louis in 1904; he (or the clerk at Ellis Islandmarker) changed the name.
He probably came from the town of Mogilev [now Mohyliv-Podilskyi], from a shtetl (the Russians forced most Jews to live in villages outside of the major cities)...The Altschuler [Aller] side of the family is really rife with musicians.
Grisha's uncle, Modest Altschuler, was a cellist (making me 4th generation) and he had quite a career.
Among other things, he did the St. Petersburg premiere of Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence Sextet.
When he came to America he formed the Russian Symphony Orchestra (early 1900's)."

Slatkin studied at Indiana Universitymarker and Los Angeles City College before attending the Juilliard Schoolmarker where he studied conducting under Jean Paul Morel. His conducting debut came in 1966 when he became artistic director and conductor of the award-winning New York Youth Symphony, and in 1968, Walter Susskind named him the assistant conductor of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. He stayed there until 1977, when he was made music advisor of the New Orleans Symphony.

He led a series of Beethoven festivals with the San Francisco Symphony during the late 1970s and early 1980s. These annual concerts, held during June, included the orchestra's final concert in San Francisco's War Memorial Opera Housemarker in 1980, which featured a performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony. He has continued to guest conduct in San Francisco since this time.

Slatkin returned to Saint Louis in 1979 as music director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. The national profile of the orchestra increased notably under his tenure. In 1985, he recorded the first digital stereo version of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker with the SLSO. (This was also the first complete Nutcracker issued on compact disc.) He remained there until 1996, and was named the SLSO's conductor laureate after his departure. His recorded work with that orchestra was represented on RCA Records, EMI and Telarc. Slatkin, a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, said that one of his biggest regrets in leaving the Saint Louis Symphony to become conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra would be that he would no longer be able to attend Cardinals games. He made recordings for RCA Records with the National Symphony until RCA abandoned new classical recording early in the 21st century.

He was the director of the Blossom Festival of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1990-1999. In 1996, Slatkin became music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.marker In 2004, it was announced that his tenure with the National Symphony will conclude in 2008. Slatkin received both praise for improving the overall quality of the orchestra and criticism for under-rehearsal of the NSO.

In 2000, he became the chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 2001, he was only the second non-British person to conduct the Last Night of the Proms (Sir Charles Mackerras had been the first in 1980). This performance occurred in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, and included changes to the traditional second half of the concert. He held this post until September 11, 2004, the 110th Last Night. There were reports of tension between Slatkin and the orchestra, whose secure finances were said to have "fostered a culture of superiority and recalcitrance", as well as negative concert reviews, which contributed to his short tenure with the BBCSO. Previously in the UK, Slatkin was principal guest conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra from 1997 to 2000 and made a series of digital recordings for RCA with them, including the symphonies of Ralph Vaughan Williams. In 2004, the Los Angeles Philharmonic named him "Principal Guest Conductor at the Hollywood Bowlmarker" for a two-year period; he was subsequently given a third year in the position, with his tenure ending in September 2007. In 2005, he became the principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London.

In 2006, he was named the music advisor to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. In that capacity, he conducted the inaugural concert of the Schermerhorn Symphony Centermarker on September 9, 2006. In June 2007, Slatkin was announced as the next Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he assumed this post in 2008.

On October 7, 2007, Slatkin announced he had reached agreement on a three-year contract, followed by a two-year option, to become the new music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, beginning with the 2008-2009 subscription season. Slatkin has stated that he will relocate to the Detroit area. His contract in Detroit calls for 5 weeks of subscription concerts in the 2008-2009 season, and 13 weeks in the 2009-2010 season. Slatkin conducted his first concert as music director in Detroit in December 2008.

Slatkin has conducted a wide range of repertoire, being particularly noted for his interpretations of 20th century American and British composers. His compositions, including The Raven (1971) for narrator and orchestra after Edgar Allan Poe, are little known. In addition to his earlier Saint Louis recordings for RCA and EMI, Slatkin has conducted several recordings for the Naxos label, including the first commercial recording of William Bolcom's Songs of Innocence and of Experience that received a Grammy Award for the Best Orchestral Performance.

On November 1, 2009, Slatkin suffered a heart attack while conducting in the Netherlands.


In 1990, Leonard Slatkin was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame. On October 27, 2006, the Jacobs School of Music announced that Slatkin will be joining the faculty at Indiana University where he will teach conducting and composition part-time.

Personal life

Slatkin has been married three times. His first two marriages, to Beth Gootee and to Jerilyn Cohen, ended in divorce. He and his third wife, soprano Linda Hohenfeld, married since 1986, have a son, Daniel. Slatkin had an affair with percussionist Evelyn Glennie, though the relationship was over by 2003. In 2008, Slatkin and Hohenfeld separated.


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