Conductor Comes to A Coda
NSO's Leonard Slatkin Leaves on a Note of Regret
By Anne Midgette
Leonard Slatkin is temperamentally nervous. When he takes the stage to conduct, he walks out rapidly, slightly hunched, his head thrust forward, as if moving through a gauntlet and trying to protect himself from the needling arrows of thousands of watching eyes. In person, in his office at the Kennedy Center, he sits back in a pose of assumed relaxation, his soft Muppet face marked with thick white eyebrows and a sharp line of a mouth, and chats.
But he skitters across topics, anticipating the criticism that may be lurking behind every question, mentioning it, steering away from it, then returning to it to show that he is not steering away from it, until one is left with the impression that outside criticism, despite his protests to the contrary, matters to him very much indeed.
The general impression is that conducting is a difficult metier for a man who describes himself as having been chronically shy in his youth. The particular impression, as Slatkin talks about his 12-year tenure at the head of the National Symphony Orchestra, is of encountering someone in the final throes of a failing marriage, going over ground that has been trodden many times before, prodding the scars of old wounds that still have a tired ache.
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