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Ryan Piurek
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Tuesday, December 19, 2006

IU Jacobs School rules in D.C.

Dec. 19, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It began with the opening notes of the elaborate piano solo that heralds French composer Camille Saint-SaŽns' Piano Concerto No. 2. Approximately 24 minutes and one long standing ovation later, the transfer of power was complete.

Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra

Photo by: Allison Cooke

Leonard Slatkin conducts the National Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal for a performance with fellow Indiana University Jacobs School of Music faculty member Andre Watts.

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The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music took center stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this past weekend with a trio of performances by two of its high-profile recent faculty appointees -- world-renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin and pianist Andrť Watts.

Appearing with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall, Dec. 14-16, Slatkin and Watts marked another milestone in their decades-long musical friendship. For the first time, they performed together as faculty members of the IU Jacobs School.

Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was recently named the Arthur R. Metz Foundation Conductor at the Jacobs School. Watts was appointed in 2004 to the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music.

From L-R: IU Jacobs School of Music Dean Gwyn Richards, Andre Watts and Leonard Slatkin celebrate after the concert on Friday night (Dec. 15) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Slatkin and Watts were performing together for the first time since being named to the Jacobs School faculty.

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The Friday performance began with Slatkin guiding the orchestra through the musical soft spots and bursts of Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera's Concerto for Strings, Op. 33, which culminates in the intense Finale furioso. Next, he teamed up with Watts on a moving performance of Saint SaŽns' most popular piano concerto, a highly demanding piece for the soloist.

The composer himself struggled to master the score at its premiere in 1868, but Franz Liszt, who was present at the performance, recognized the originality and brilliance of the work, according to the program notes.

The concerto "is definitely the pianist's show, a forthright and effective showcase for those who can meet its demands," the program notes explain. "There is no 'slow movement' where one might have been expected … the concerto has for its middle movement a quicksilver Allegro scherzando.

"The finale, a glittering Presto, outdoes the scherzo in terms of sheer drive," the notes continue. "The orchestra is full partner in this grand tarantella, which brings the work to an exhilarating conclusion."

For his effort, powerful playing and the originality he brought to the piece, the sweat-soaked Watts was showered with applause from the audience -- and his conductor and his new colleague Slatkin.

A sign outside the Kennedy Center advertises the trio of concerts, Dec. 14-16, by the National Symphony Orchestra with newly named IU Jacobs School of Music faculty members Leonard Slatkin and Andre Watts.

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In a recent interview, Slatkin mentioned how special the Jacobs School is for the study of music and how the presence on the faculty of such leading musicians as Watts, soprano Sylvia McNair and violinists Jaime Laredo and Alexander Kerr impacted his decision to come to IU.

"For the last two summers, I came [to IU] for the Summer Music Festival. I saw an intensity and commitment to music that you don't see much," he said. "Indiana University is truly focused on the young people, and I saw a real seriousness of purpose to grow in an intense musical environment. The young people there clearly know they are there for the purpose of learning."

On Friday, as if following the maestro's cue, two of the Jacobs School's brightest alums carried out their own musical takeover of Washington. A sold-out concert down the Potomac River at the Library of Congress featured Bloomington's own Joshua Bell and former faculty member Jeremy Denk in an all-Schumann program.