Above: Conductor Leonard Slatkin (Photo by Nico Rodamel)
When he’s not busy conducting orchestras, Leonard Slatkin writes books. His second, with the terrible title “Leading Tones,” has just been published by Amadeus Press. In it, the founder of Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest and a principal guest conductor of the MO devotes one chapter to "the ugliest labor dispute in the history of American orchestras.”
That would be the lockout that silenced Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis for 15 months until it ended in January 2014.
Slatkin criticizes management and musicians about equally in his overview. The former remained quiet for too long about its mounting financial troubles, and the latter failed to pose early questions about funding when times were flush. The musicians’ side issued misleading statements, Slatkin charges. Management should have granted the demand for an independent audit of its books.
Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, includes a none-too-subtle scolding of MO’s longtime music director, Osmo Vänskä, who ditched his neutrality and eventually sided with the locked out musicians. Advises Slatkin: “If you are music director, stay out of it unless both sides ask you for advice. Even then, mostly listen.” (page 151)
Overall, Slatkin argues that as the two sides hardened in their opposing positions they too easily lost sight of what was most important: performing music for the public.