Slatkin forgot his baton Thursday

Posted Friday, Jun. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The man on the podium for the Cliburn’s concerto performances met the public at the event’s A Conversation with Leonard Slatkin in the Van Cliburn Recital Hall on Friday morning.

In a wide-ranging 90 minutes of remarks and a Q&A session, the music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who is conducting the Fort Worth Symphony during the Cliburn finals for the first time, touched on a number of topics.

But it took a question from the audience to solve the mystery of the missing baton.

Among the things that the more than 250 Cliburn fans who packed the room Thursday learned were that Slatkin:

• Crashed Hillary Clinton’s 50th birthday party, along with his dining companion, Van Cliburn, after a Washington, D.C. performance. (Slatkin served as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra there.)

• Had a crush on Doris Day, one of the many major film stars known by this musician parents in his native Los Angeles. (After writing about being struck speechless when introduced to the singer-actress by his parents in a Hollywood restaurant as a child in his autobiographical book Conducting Business, Day sent Slatkin an autographed picture, beginning a correspondence. He now refers to her as his “pen pal.”)

• Does not believe in music competitions. (When moderator Fred Child of American Public Media’s Performance Today asked him about that view, in light of his current gig, the maestro danced around the question but did not back far off his initial stance.)

• Will hire one or more of the competitors from this Cliburn. (Slatkin said flatly that he already knows that he will try to engage “at least one and maybe two” of the pianists performing in the competition.)

• Has not yet learned to speak Texan. (He used the phrase “you all,” and then stopped himself, noting proudly “that is my first ‘you all’ in Texas.” But he pronounced it as two words, not “y’all.”)

• But all these insights into Slatkin’s personal and professional life were not enough to satisfy the eager audience. They wanted to know about the baton, or lack thereof.

• When asked why he had conducted Thursday’s concerto performances with only his bare hands, Slatkin had a reply that was a bit of a surprise to hear coming from a globe-trotting conductor.

“I forgot to bring one,” he told the crowd, drawing gales of laughter.

— Punch Shaw, Special to the Star-Telegram

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