The prominent American conductor, Leonard (Edward) Slatkin, was born in Los Angeles into a family of musicians. His parents were founding members of the Hollywood String Quartet (his father is Felix Slatkin). He received musical training in his youth, studying violin, viola, piano, and conducting, as well as composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco; after attending Indiana University (1962) and Los Angeles City college (1963). He first studied conducting with his father, later received valuable advice from Walter Susskind at the Aspen (Colorado) Music School (1964). He then studied conducting with Jean Morel at the Juilliard School of Music in New York (Mus.B., 1968).
In 1968 Leonard Slatkin joined the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra as assistant .conductor to Walter Susskind, and was successively named associate conductor (1971), associate principal conductor (1974), and principal guest conductor (1975). He made his European debut in London as a guest conductor with the Royal Philharmonic in 1974. Since then he has appeared widely as a guest conductor of major orchestras, both in North America and Europe, the Far East and Australia. His performances have been distinguished by imaginative programming and highly praised interpretations of Classical, Romantic and 20th Century repertoire.
Leonard Slatkin was music adviser of the New Orleans Philharmonic from 1977 to 1980. From 1979 he was also music director of the Minnesota Orchestra summer concerts. In 1979 he became music director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra; took it on a major European tour in 1985. In 1990 he also became music director of the Great Woods Performing Arts center in Mansfield, Massachusetts, the summer home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. From 1991 to 1999 he was the Director of the Blossom Music Center, the summer home of the Cleveland Orchestra. In October 1991 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York, conducting La Fanciulla del West. In 1992 he was awarded the Elgar Medal. He was named music director designate of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., in 1994. After completing his tenure with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1996, he thereafter served as its Conductor Laureate. In 1996 he assumed his new post as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. Leonard Slatkin also conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra each season and regularly appears in Japan with the NHK Symphony Orchestra.
In Europe Leonard Slatkin has developed strong relationships with several major orchestras. In September 1997 his close association with the Philharmonia Orchestra was marked by his appointment as their Principal Guest Conductor for three years. During this time he has appeared with them at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh Festival, Symphony Hall Birmingham and in numerous concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. He also performs with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra each season and in 1999 conducted four programmes in a two week American Festival at the Concertgebouw Hall. He also regularly conducts the Orchestre National de France with whom he appeared at the Orange Festival in a production of Nabucco. Recent European engagements include the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, Dresden Staatskapelle and Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. He has also worked with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Firenze. In 2004-2005 season he conducted the Danish Radio, NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Orchestra, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Nacional de España and Orchestre National de Lyon.
Leonard Slatkin’s inaugural concert as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra took place in Autumn 2000, when the orchestra celebrated its 70th birthday. He has developed a strong relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra over a number of years, including regular appearances at the BBC Proms and the European premiere of John Corigliano’s Second Symphony, A Dylan Thomas Trilogy, which he premiered very successfully in Washington and New York. Highlights of the next season (2004) include a major European tour to Amsterdam, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Barcelona and Madrid and of course many more BBC Proms including the famous Last Night of the Proms.
Leonard Slatkin has made over 100 recordings which have been recognised with four Grammy awards and fifty Grammy nominations. He has recorded music ranging from Haydn to Dmitri Shostakovich with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchester. There are also a number of discs devoted to American composers as well as the operas La fanciulla and Romeo and Juliet with Bavarian Radio Orchestra. He has an exclusive contract with Chandos for recordings with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and their releases of Leonard Bernstein works were very well received. Upcoming releases include Samuel Barber’s opera Vanessa.
Recent operas have also included two with Plácido Domingo: I pagliacci at the Washington Opera and Samson et Dalila at the Metropolitan Opera.
Leonard Slatkin is married to soprano Linda Hohenfeld and they have a son called Daniel.