February 22, 2024

Conductor Leonard Slatkin indulges love for radio during visit with CIM Orchestra

Leonard Slatkin speaks in a radio recording studio.

The podium isn’t the only place where Leonard Slatkin is a commanding presence. 

No, judging by his recent visit to Cleveland’s WCLV, the maestro – in town to conduct the CIM Orchestra Feb. 27 at Severance Music Center – is also quite comfortable in a recording studio.  

Speaking with Bill O’Connell, the station’s vice president of programming, the music director laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and former director of The Cleveland Orchestra’s Blossom Festival expounded on everything from the weather to the state of American music, all with the greatest of ease.  

And no wonder. Back in his hometown of St. Louis, where he long served as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Slatkin hosts a radio program he created called The Slatkin Shuffle. 

The show, which airs in St. Louis on Saturdays and Sundays, features an uncommonly wide range of music and equally uncommon insights along with perhaps the most radio-friendly voice of any conductor working today.  

This is no new hobby, either. Many years ago, also in St. Louis, Slatkin hosted a radio show called The Slatkin Project, and as a youth growing up in Los Angeles, the future conductor lived within walking distance of a classical radio station, where his love for broadcasting was sealed alongside his love for music.  

“I grew up in an atmosphere where there was only good music and bad music,” Slatkin told O’Connell, noting that now, in his own radio shows, “We always try to explore whatever is out there. It’s so wide, we should never limit ourselves.” 

About his CIM Orchestra program, Slatkin also had plenty to say.  

After outlining the two-part nature of his wife Cindy McTee’s Double Play, he called the Copland Clarinet Concerto "a marvelous showcase” for the entire orchestra, not just the clarinet, and stressed that the full subtitle of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 is FROM the New World, not just New World.  

“We make certain associations [about the piece] that are not true,” he said. “It’s really Dvorak sending a postcard...to his homeland.” 

About his own life, the 79-year-old Slatkin offered a kind of postcard as well.  

He’s still conducting and teaching all over the world, now without administrative duties. Recently, he was named an artistic consultant to the Las Vegas Philharmonic, an exciting prospect where he hopes to partner with the new Sphere venue.  

Meanwhile, he continues to pursue all his other enduring interests: writing, composing, watching baseball...and hosting radio programs.  

“That’s kind of what I do now,” he said happily.   

Look (and listen) for the full WCLV interview, when it appears, here.

Leonard Slatkin speaks with Bill O'Connell in a recording studio.