By Nancy T. Lu
Conductor Leonard Slatkin is a parent who listens to the music which his 14-year-old son likes, he revealed during his Taipei visit a few years ago. Knowing the music of this generation is important, he said, for it enables him to share with his child what is interesting in his life like classical music.
"When I was young," he recalled, "I was fortunate to have been exposed to all kinds of music, including rock, jazz, blues, as well as country and western music."
But he added, quoting Duke Ellington: "There are only two kinds of music - good music and bad music."
Slatkin observed that young people today tend to have a larger view of the music culture. But he also pointed out, this time quoting Leoanrd Bernstein: "We hear music all the time, like in the department store, in the elevator and down the hallway. But many times we don't really listen to the music. Music simply becomes something in the background."
According to Slatkin, classical music represents a kind of history. He remarked: "No great music is without connection to social history."
Slatkin conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei during his visit.
Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring Suite" was in the program. According to Slatkin, the piece originally commissioned by choreographer Martha Graham for her ballet is about the Shakers, a people living in Pennsylvania and trying to build their homes and to integrate into the American life.
Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 1" was likewise in the repertoire. Slatkin explained: "Mahler literally took folk music and put it in the symphony. The third movement is a funeral march. Mahler abandoned the Jewish religion to convert to Catholicism. This is reflected in his music."
Slatkin also cited Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3." The composer originally dedicated it to Napoleon. But even before he could finish writing the symphony, Napoleon declared himself Emperor of Europe. Beethoven in his anger scratched out the name of Napoleon in the title. The first two chords of the symphony consequently reflected his anger.