Leading Tones: Reflections on Music, Musicians, and the Music Industry

by Leonard Slatkin

When Leonard Slatkin released his first book, Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro, in 2012, he condensed over five decades of experience leading the world’s premier orchestras into a pithy collection of vignettes about life, the music industry, and the art of conducting. Now, at the behest of his friends, family, and fans, Slatkin has returned—but not with a sequel. Rather, his latest work, Leading Tones: Reflections on Music, Musicians, and the Music Industry, offers a continuation of the observations and reflections found in Conducting Business with one crucial difference: this time around, the maestro is taking a backseat. The result is a sincere, candid, and, at times, heartwarming compendium intended to offer music lovers—not just musicians—some valuable insights into largely uncharted areas of the orchestral world.

Leading Tones glimpses far beyond the tip of Slatkin's baton and casts an inquisitive eye upon many facets of the contemporary music industry. Although this anecdotal, episodically structured book occasionally touches on Slatkin’s life as a musician and conductor, its principal preoccupation is with the business as a whole. From the rigors and peculiarities of the audition process, which are presented in the form of a brief novella, to the often-strained state of labor relations in the symphony world, for which the lockout in Minnesota serves as a flashpoint, Slatkin presents his perceptions of a world at once tumultuous and static. A chapter considering the professional media’s criticism from a performer’s point of view and another exploring the role of diversity and discrimination within the field round out Slatkin’s timely analysis of our modern musical reality.

Leading Tones also delves into Slatkin’s relationships with some of the legendary conductors and musicians who touched him most deeply: Eugene Ormandy, Gilbert Kaplan, Isaac Stern, John Browning, John Williams, and Nathan Milstein. The book offers a series of miniature portraits, droll yarns, and warm recollections that bring both the artistic genius and unabashed humanity of these individuals to the fore.

As is the fashion these days, Leading Tones is also peppered with ten-item lists, complete with commentary. Among the subjects covered are:

  • The ten pieces Slatkin most loves to conduct—and why.
  • Advice for composers on presenting their material to conductors.
  • Ten things orchestral musicians do not want you to know.
  • The ten premieres of which Slatkin is proudest—and another ten he now regrets. 

By bringing a lifetime of experience to bear on a career committed to American music, Slatkin hopes he might aid a new generation of artists in opening a few of the doors that were closed to him. Leading Tones is, in a sense, a real-time blueprint charting where the industry has been, where it stands, and how we might overcome its fiercest challenges to forge a brighter present and future.

Publisher: Amadeus Press

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 312

Dimensions: 6 x 9 inches

ISBN: 9781495091896


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