10 works a maestro won’t conduct again

10 works a maestro won’t conduct again


norman lebrecht

October 11, 2014

Leonard Slatkin, music director at Detroit and Lyon, has responded to our inessentials challenge with these choices:




Works I do not need to hear or conduct again.

1. Pachelbel Canon

2. Any Symphony that has been designated “0” or “00”

3. Berio’s completion of Turandot

4. Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp

5. Beethoven Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph the ll

6. Most of the organ music of César Franck

7. Works that composers discarded but others have chosen to resurrect. ( I have been guilty several times on this one.)

8. Schmidt The Book of the Seven Seals

9. Almost all the music from films I would not care to see a second time.

10. Khatchaturian 3rd symphony




Composers or works that should be heard and played more often

1. Haydn Symphonies that do not have nicknames.

2. Most of the orchestral music of Hindemith

3. Tippett 2nd

4. Rimsky Korsakoff Antar

5. Dukas La Peri and not just the fanfare

6. Hanson Symphonies other than the 2nd

7. Martinu Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Timpani and Piano (oh, yes!! – NL)

8. Bloch Concerto Grosso No. 1

9. Tedesco Violin Concerto No. 2

10. A great number of symphonies by American composers, which used to be played all the time.



  • Thomas Roth says:

    I agree with most of the works that should be played more often. Tippett absolutely and Hindemith – why doesn’t anyone play his wonderful Symphonic Dances? I really missed a Roy Harris disc in the short lived series with American music that Slatkin made for RCA.

    • Kevin Scott says:

      There are many American composers that some of you haven’t even listed that deserve many performances and deserve to be resurrected, among them Elie Siegmeister, Ulysses Kay, Norman Dello Joio, Irwin Bazelon, Howard Swanson, Robert Russell Bennett, Vivian Fine, Julia Perry and Bernard Herrmann (Yes, he wrote several concert works that deserve more performances, including his cantata Moby Dick and his only symphony from 1941).

      The list is far too long, and I know that others will name composers that we have all omitted or took for granted.

  • David Ward says:

    Does ANY ending for Turandot work? Perhaps best to leave with the death of Liu and not add anybody’s interpretation of Puccini’s sketches. Our imaginations could provide the rest (somewhere very dark is where mine would lead).

    Is it ever done like that?

    • Mikey says:

      Hi David (Michel from the MM forums),

      I whole-heartedly agree with you. The Berio ending is dreadful. And the Alfano ending cuts so radically stylistically that I find it painful to listen to. Ending at Liu’s funeral procession would make for a stunning and thought-provoking ending!

      And as for maestro Slatkin’s list! It is absolutely perfect for me, falling right into my range of taste.

    • Simon Gittins says:

      I saw Turandot at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome last year where they ended it with the death of Liu. It was pretty brutal and I am not sure I would care to see it done that way again even if there is a musical case for it,

    • Kevin Scott says:

      Having finally heard Alfano’s original ending and the Berio ending several times, I’m in the minority and would do the Berio version in a heartbeat. It may not be perfect, but it comes closest to the description of what Puccini might have composed, although there are some sections that are simply not Puccini. That he chooses to end the opera quietly makes much sense, rather than Alfano’s bombastic, empty epic ending.

    • MWnyc says:

      I’d like to see some opera house follow the indication Puccini wrote in his score – “poi Tristano” – and use Wagner’s Liebesnacht (with an Italian text) as the final scene.

  • PJ says:

    What in the world is Franck’s organ music doing in that list??

  • Pamela Brown says:

    “4. Mozart Concerto for Flute and Harp”

    Bravo. I have taken a lot of heat for finding this piece cloying and insufferable…

    • sdReader says:

      Gidon and Martha are apparently doing a version for violin, piano and orchestra. I can’t imagine how this would work.

      • Pamela Brown says:

        What sort of audience would willingly listen to that? :-0

        The Flute and Harp concerto should have been given a proper burial a long time ago, along with the Turkish March and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik…:-0

      • HarpFiend says:

        Shame on all of you. The Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto is a great piece. Don’t blame inadequate performances on the music, you should know better. And being one of the few concertos by a major name for the harp, cut us some slack. The number of harpists able to solo with an orchestra is so small these days, that to try and take away one of our staples is shameful. It is a difficult piece to do extremely well. The inadequacy of harpists is another matter, and you can blame conductors for expecting their orchestra members to be solo artists and not hiring solo artists. That said, there are only three harp soloists in the world who really understand how to play it musically. Heidi Lehwalder, Erica Goodman, and Alice Giles. The others are not able to have solo careers.
        And as for American composers, has Slatkin been programming them? When I asked him to do some Berezowsky, his reply was, “I can’t do everybody.” It’s a bullshit list, except for the Pachelbel.
        The pieces done nearly to death includes all the major symphonies by Germanic composers.

  • william osborne says:

    Since a great conductor might be listening I’ll jump in. Good pieces that need more performances even if some of the works might be impractical:

    Berio Sinfonia
    Crumb: Haunted Landscapes
    Schoenberg – Verklärte Nacht
    Berg: Violin Concerto
    Carter: Double Concerto (hard listening but worth it)
    Corigliano – Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (a roof raiser for the audience)
    Ravel: Miroirs (especially the two orchestrated by Ravel himself)
    Bartok: Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste
    Bartok: Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra (Bartok’s orchestral arrangement of the chamber work)
    Schuller: Seven Studies On Themes of Paul Klee

    And while we’re at it, why not some fine orchestral arrangements of some of the songs Nelson Riddle so wonderfully arranged for Frank Sinatra and Mr. Slatkin’s parents in the Hollywood String Quartet. If orchestral arrangements were done well, they would be very useful for pops concerts and other occasions. Americana at its finest.

    • CDH says:

      Come to Ottawa, to the National Arts Centre. Verklarte Nacht gets trucked out regularly. And we have had the Berg (I agree with you, given the right violinist). But we won’t likely hear it again for a long time as Zukerman is in his last season as MD.

  • sdReader says:

    Mahler, Mahler, Mahler has displaced so many pieces — 3 or 4 a night and over and over again, in a focus on ticket sales.

    • Pamela Brown says:

      Indeed. In the Twin Cities there have been at least three Mahler 2’s in the last year; two by local groups (MSO and UofM) and one by the MO, for whom it is undeniably appropriate.

      Just the same, it is very easy to make Mahler sound bad. Really bad. So I hope this trend balances itself soon…

  • Paul Pelkonen says:

    I’m surprised he didn’t add ‘La Traviata.’

  • Ed says:

    Enter your comment here…

  • Ed says:

    Naughty boy

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    Where on earth was your mind after I had a conversation with you when I asked you to consider studying and conducting one of the eleven symphonies of the eminent American composer David Diamond (1915-2005) while you were director of the National Symphony Orchestra? His music is virtuosic (for all sections), extremely well crafted, emotive that directly communicates with audiences. Diamond enjoyed enormous success in the 1940s and early ’50s with champions that included Koussevitzky, Bernstein, Munch, Ormandy and Mitropoulos. His music remains highly under performed but thankfully both his complete symphonies and complete string quartets have been recorded.

    • william osborne says:

      Diamond is just one of many American composers who were fairly powerful in the new music establishment during their lives and quickly and almost completely forgotten after their deaths. A few examples: Walter Piston, Howard Hanson, Douglas Moore, Milton Babbitt, Carlisle Floyd, Roy Harris, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Peter Mennin, Otto Luening, Ralph Shapey, Jacob Druckman, William Schumann, Lou Harrison. The list vanishing honchos could go on and on. What is that mysterious thing that creates immortal music?

  • Milka says:

    If he had included the Beethoven 9th.
    one would take him seriously as a
    musician …but alas …..he knows on
    what side the bread is buttered.

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Item 7 in Maestro’s list may be accurate, however, one work which was withdrawn by the composer and which has been resurrected with success is Leroy Anderson’s Piano Concerto. I still cannot fathom why Mr. Anderson withdrew it from the public. Thanks go to the late Eric Kunzel for acquiring the permission from the Anderson family to bring it off the shelf. This opened the door to pianists and orchestras to share it with their audiences (including our recording together, Maestro–a cherished memory!!)

    • Lloyd Arriola says:

      Yes–that Leroy Anderson Concerto is wonderful!

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        Mr. Anderson was a perfectionist, and apparently, wasn’t happy with aspects about the Piano Concerto. The only issues I have encountered with it are the excessive use of accent marks in the score, which are revised in rehearsals, and the ending on low ‘C’ for everyone. (I took the liberty to add a virtuosic flourish for the four measures from bottom to top of the piano using one of the motifs from the concerto–hopefully works!)

  • James Erber says:

    Pachelbel’s Canon doesn’t need a conductor: it is for three violin and continuo. It does, however, need to be performed together with the succeeding Gigue.

  • Noah Agruss says:

    The Face of the Night, The Heart of the Dark — the Pulitzer winning orchestral piece from 1992 by Wayne Peterson should be afforded more performances, in my opinion.

  • Paul D says:

    When I saw Maestro Slatkin’s second #10, I also thought of the symphonies of David Diamond. As already said, his works are accessible and certainly should not scare audiences away. But, the audience for the National Symphony is not one for adventure (I live in the DC area), so that means keeping to the standard core as much as possible. Two reviewers of the orchestra’s most recent concert, which featured Schoenberg, Mozart and Richard Strauss noted the empty seats in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

  • Chris David Westover says:

    I’ve done Antar recently and it really does deserved to be played more often!

  • Matthew Schubring says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with William Osborne, but it’s William “Schuman”, with just ONE “n”. As for Slatkin’s list, I am also in agreement with most of it but on a personal level I feel obliged to add “Carmina Burana”, which is quite possibly the most overrated piece in the Universe, and certainly one of the Universe’s most overplayed. I experience a feeling akin to that which a condemned prisoner feels upon receiving his stay of execution from the governor, if I can get through an entire year without having to play it.