Leonard Slatkin’s Kinah

Notes by TŌN violist Katelyn Hoag

The Origin
Kinah is Leonard Slatkin’s musical tribute to the memory of his parents. His father, Felix Slatkin, was concertmaster of the Twentieth Century Fox Studio Orchestra and his mother, Eleanor Aller, was principal cellist of the Warner Brothers Studio Orchestra. Throughout Leonard Slatkin’s childhood, he would hear his parents rehearse Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello at home. They finally had the chance to perform the work with an orchestra in 1963 when, after the dress rehearsal, Felix Slatkin suddenly died of a heart attack at age 47. Kinah is based on four notes that formed the opening theme of the slow movement of the Brahms Double Concerto.

The Reception
The piece was premiered by Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in December 2015 to great acclaim. Critics have said, “This was a wholly sincere effort that left many audience members genuinely shaken and moved,” and “The piece finds Slatkin spreading his wings as a composer.” Slatkin has conducted Kinah several times since its premiere, with orchestras such as the Pittsburgh Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, RTÉ National Symphony, and the Polish National Radio Symphony. Today’s performance of Kinah marks its New York City premiere.

What to Listen For
Kinah is based on Brahms’ Double Concerto, but the music never quite manages to finish a musical phrase from the piece. This serves as a reminder that Slatkin’s parents never had the chance to perform the work. The most apparent tribute to Brahms can be heard at the end of the piece in the offstage violin and cello parts. One can hear Slatkin’s strong compositional voice in the dramatic dialogue between the various orchestra sections and diversity of sounds. Kinah manages to pack an incredible range of emotions into only thirteen minutes.