Slatkin Accepts Guest Role With Royal Philharmonic

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Conductor Leonard Slatkin, who is scheduled to leave his position as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2007-08 season, has been named principal guest conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, beginning in November.

It was announced in March that he would become principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl beginning this summer, so the London posting is the second far-flung assignment Slatkin has accepted.

"Thirty-one years ago I was privileged to make my London debut with the Royal Philharmonic," Slatkin said in a statement. "Nothing pleases me more than to return to this orchestra in this renewed relationship. Our concerts over the last few months were among the most pleasurable musical experiences I have had, and I anticipate several more years of exciting music-making with my colleagues."

No financial details were released. More surprisingly, no length of contract was specified.

This will be the second time Slatkin has held a musical position in London. In 2000, he was named the first American to serve as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. It was a less-than-fully-successful teaming -- Slatkin chafed at what he considered his inability to control the programming and choose his soloists, while the British public was dismayed when the conductor referred to "Rule Britannia" as "militaristic" -- and the association ended last year. But Slatkin retains a strong following in Britain among listeners who admire his idiomatic and affectionate performances of works by Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Sir William Walton.

It is anybody's guess as to what Slatkin will do when his tenure at the NSO comes to an end. Lately, he has been a regular guest conductor with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; with the departure of Daniel Barenboim next year, the post of CSO music director becomes vacant. Much of Slatkin's Chicago press has been favorable, but his appointment as music director is regarded as highly unlikely. In a recent poll of CSO musicians administered by the search committee (and published in the Chicago Tribune), Slatkin placed a distant 13th -- well behind established stars such as Simon Rattle, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Michael Tilson Thomas and Lorin Maazel (none of whom Chicago would be likely to land) but trailing lesser-known musicians such as Daniele Gatti, Christian Thielemann and David Robertson as well.

Slatkin remains a popular guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic. He is currently conducting "Tosca" with the Washington National Opera.

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