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Slatkin looks forward to PSO's 'Spring'

| Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2010

Leonard Slatkin expects to have fun at his next Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra concerts. And why not• The orchestra's principal guest conductor will be leading the music of three American composers he loves, and has a surprise to offer in the best-known piece.

He delights in finding fresh takes on familiar music. The different orchestration of "Pictures at an Exhibition" he's performed at Heinz Hall are a perfect example. This time, he's bringing a complete version of America's most popular ballet score, but which is widely known only in a shortened version.

Slatkin leads the Pittsburgh Symphony at concerts on Friday and Sunday at Heinz Hall, Downtown. The program is Leonard Bernstein's "On the Waterfront" Suite, Joan Tower's Clarinet Concerto with the orchestra's principal clarinet Michael Rusinek as soloist and Aaron Copland's complete ballet "Appalachian Spring."

Copland wrote "Appalachian Spring" in 1944 for choreographer Martha Graham. It was scored for only 13 instruments. The next year, Copland arranged a suite from the ballet for full orchestra, which has gone on to be one of the most popular American orchestral works.

"In 1954, Copland took the sections of the ballet he had not included in the suite and filled out the orchestration to match the suite," Slatkin says. Many of the restorations are brief passages, but Slatkin says there is a 10-minute chunk that is in a very different style from the suite. "I've done it quite a lot, actually, and try to program the whole ballet if I can. I like the continuity."

The conductor also is excited at the prospect of conducting the Clarinet Concerto by Tower, the symphony's composer of the year. "I haven't done it before, but this doesn't really concern me," he says. "I've done so many of Joan's pieces that the moment I saw it, I got it. It's a really good piece and ends softly, unlike most of her music."

When Rusinek received the music for Tower's concerto, he started looking at it, and found it so intimidating, he put it down and decided to return to it the next day. The trickiest thing to work out was the fingerings, in which the best sound for a given note had to be balanced with how to get to the next note.

But, of course, he hopes when people hear Tower's concerto, they won't think about its difficulties. "I want people to think this is a very dramatic, evocative work, which it is."

Additional Information:

Slatkin conducts Copland's 'Appalachian Spring'

Presented by: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; Leonard Slatkin, conductor

When: 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Admission: $20-$88

Where: Heinz Hall, Downtown

Details: 412-392-4900 or website

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