Leonard Slatkin, who has guided the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington to a new level of quality and recognition, will step down as music director after the 2007-2008 season.
"At that time I will have held this position for more than a decade," Slatkin said in a statement yesterday, "and I view this change as a natural evolution in the career of an orchestra conductor."
Slatkin's tenure has been characterized by a steady upgrading of personnel, expanded national and international tours, and remarkably adventuresome programming that has produced 64 new works from 53 American composers so far.
He developed several exceptional festivals that had the NSO exploring a wide variety of themes and issues, and he also founded the National Conducting Institute, an intensive training program that helps prepare conductors for full-time careers.
A search committee will be formed to select a successor to Slatkin, who will have spent 14 years with the orchestra by the end of his tenure. He agreed to stay on the job for two years after the NSO's 75th anniversary season in 2005-2006, "to ensure a proper transition to new musical leadership," he said.
"The goals which I set when I began my tenure here will have been accomplished," Slatkin added. "In my opinion, the NSO now ranks among the world's great orchestras, a point of immense pride for me and all the members of the orchestra."
Slatkin, former music director of the St. Louis Symphony, was named the NSO's music director designate in 1994 and assumed the music director title in 1996, following Mstislav Rostropovich.
The first recording by Slatkin and the NSO, of John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1, received the 1996 Grammy Award for best classical album.
- Tim Smith