Over the years I have enjoyed the great recordings made by Felix Slatkin (1915-1963), a remarkable conductor, arranger, and superbly talented violinist. Slatkin was especially active throughout the 1940's, 50's and early 60's in orchestral performance and the making of many recordings. In the 1940's Slatkin served as concertmaster of the 20th Century Fox Studio Orchestra, later becoming the conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra (the summer name for the LA Philharmonic). He also was appointed as the conductor for the Concert Arts Orchestra, and became widely known as Frank Sinatra's concertmaster and conductor on Capitol Records, the legendary and highly popular LP label. Liberty Records issued a series of well-received albums under the title "The Fantastic Strings of Felix Slatkin." In 1958 the distinguished conductor received a Grammy Award for a recording of Offenbach's "Gaite Parisienne." In 1962 another Grammy nomination was issued for "The Fantastic Strings" album entitled "Hoedown."
A Distinguished Career in Music
Slatkin studied violin with Efrem Zimbalist and conducting with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. Leonard Slatkin, one of Felix's two sons, has served as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra. Frederick Zlotkin (original Russian spelling), Felix's second son, has served as cellist for the New York Philharmonic, Principal Cellist for the New York City Ballet, and cellist for the Lyric Piano Quartet.
Fred Zlotkin's Interview, Memories & Reflections
Fred Zlotkin offers some intriguing insights into the family background and early years together. The Zlotkin/ Slatkin ancestry is Russian Jewish from part of the Russian Empire now known as Ukraine. Grandfather Chaim Peretz Zlotkin (Felix's father) became the first to arrive in the United States, settling with relatives in St. Louis in 1913. Eleanor Aller, Fred's mother, was a gifted cellist. Fred also reflects upon his father's "fabulous sense of humor." Tragically, Felix Slatkin passed away at the early age of 47, a great loss for his family and also for the world of Classical and popular music.
Legendary Recordings and a Special Favorite
From 1958-1963 Felix Slatkin made many recordings for the Capitol label and also for the Liberty Premier Series. One of these great LP albums is entitled "Season's Greetings: The Fantastic Strings of Felix Slatkin," issued in 1961 on the Liberty label, later issued via cassette tape through Capitol (although in abbreviated form). Slatkin's orchestral approach toward Christmas carols and Holiday favorites offers strikingly refreshing arrangements. The liner notes state that the assembled string orchestra is comprised of 90 players, quite a large number. I love the sound of this magnificent string orchestra, a rather stunning recording given the full symphonic treatment for each individual selection. Each song is arranged and conducted in a highly imaginative manner, offering numerous orchestral highlights and superlative dimensions of atmosphere. In the liner notes to the LP, there appears a simple but evocatively true statement. "This album will endure long after the tree and ornaments are taken down."