Felix Slatkin’s Fisher’s Hornpipe, Wistful Haven, and Carmen’s Hoedown

Notes by TŌN timpanist Jacob Lipham

The Composer
The opening half of our concert concludes with three pieces by Felix Slatkin, Maestro Slatkin’s father, who as a teenager studied violin with Efrem Zimbalist as well as conducting with Fritz Reiner at the Curtis Institute of Music. At the age of seventeen he became a member of the St. Louis Symphony and later moved to Los Angeles, where he became concertmaster of the Twentieth Century Fox Studio Orchestra. While in Los Angeles in 1939, he met and married the exceptionally talented cellist Eleanor Aller, the principal cellist of the Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra. Together they formed the Hollywood String Quartet, which made numerous milestone recordings.

The Music
Felix Slatkin made a series of recordings for Liberty Records: Fantastic Percussion, Fantastic Fiddles, and Fantastic Brass of Felix Slatkin. The scores of the majority of his ensemble arrangements no longer exist, so Cindy McTee transcribed many of them from recordings. One of Felix’s arrangements she transcribed was the animated Fisher’s Hornpipe from his 1962 Grammy-nominated recording, Hoedown. The quick and giddy reel gives the strings a feast of notes to navigate and the audience a lively few minutes of good-humored song. McTee also transcribed the beautiful Wistful Haven, from his 1962 Fantastic Strings Play Fantastic Themes recording. It revolves around an arrangement of themes from Dvořák’s New World Symphony, and is filled out for full orchestra. Felix Slatkin’s stirring Carmen’s Hoedown utilizes famous themes from Bizet’s Carmen into a country-western style dance. Listen for my favorite moments in the piece featuring wonderfully virtuosic xylophone playing!