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King of the Castleton

I’m going to return to Lorin Maazel for a moment, since he’s returning to us. Tonight is the first night of the inaugural Castleton Festival, the training festival held on his property in Rapahonnock County, Virginia, devoted to the operas of Benjamin Britten with a couple of orchestral concerts, recitals and master classes thrown in.

Since I’m on the topic, let me clarify what I meant by saying that he and the New York Philharmonic didn’t establish a real artistic profile. I wasn’t criticizing the programming; that’s another topic. I just think that what he offered with them, at best, were stellar individual performances rather than an artistic identity. Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra, for instance, put themselves on the map with their Beethoven symphony cycle in a way that Maazel and the Philharmonic never did.
(read more after the jump)

As for the poster who said he wished Maazel would take over the NSO: For Maazel, the New York Philharmonic represented a crowning glory of his career. Not only was it a plum orchestra, but it may be the only music director position he held that didn’t leave bad blood (his tenures in Vienna, Cleveland, Pittsburgh did not leave him unequivocally beloved in those cities). I don’t think he’d want to take a step backwards by taking on a less renowned orchestra, even if it is closer to home.

What he’s doing, instead, is the Castleton Festival: thirteen performances of Britten’s "Turn of the Screw," "Albert Herring," "Rape of Lucretia," and adaptation of John Gay’s "The Beggar’s Opera," two orchestral performances, various master classes to be announced. Musicians from the Royal College of Music will form the orchestra for two of the operas; the Qatar Philharmonic (which Maazel conducted at its inaugural concerts) will play for “The Beggar’s Opera.” A free open house on July 4 makes the extensive grounds (and the famous zonkey, the product of an amorous liaison between the Maazels’ pet zebra and donkey, shown in a photo on the website) available to the public. It’s certainly a kinder, gentler side of Maazel, and he’s throwing himself into it with impressive energy.

By Anne Midgette  |  July 3, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  festivals , news , random musings  
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It is of course true that Maazel taking the NSO was at best a very long shot, at worst utopic. And I am familiar with his problems in Vienna and Cleveland, less so with those in Pittsburgh. But my point is that the NSO needs a leader who is a strong conductor; Eschenbach is a superb musician but a lesser technician than Slatkin (or at least the Slatkin we had in the first few seasons of his tenure.) Still, he did a good job in Houston and the last season in Philly was his most successful so I can only hope and wish for the best.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | July 3, 2009 9:34 PM | Report abuse

I heard the NY Philharmonic a few times at Avery Fisher in 2006 & 2008, and I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed, either with their sound or Maazel's conducting. Most recently I heard the NY Phil's concert version of "Electra" in which Maazel's conducting varied between loud and louder. The other concerts were perfectly fine but not very exciting.

Maazel has never guest conducted here in San Francisco (at least not in the last ten years) so I can't gauge his style outside the NY Phil. It doesn't sound like he would have been a good fit for the NSO. If anything, a Kurt Masur or Herbert Blomstedt might be more appropriate for that orchestra.

Posted by: knightstale | July 6, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

It is true that the NY Phil can be very loud but this is also a matter of the acoustics of the Avery Fisher Hall. In fact I am very curious to hear the NY Phil at Carnegie Hall for example and I will do that next year when Alan Gilbert conducts. I missed their concert here at the Kennedy Center but a few years ago when Masur conducted Mahler 1st there was less noisy then what I remember at home base - and even with Masur the NY Phil could be very noisy at home.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | July 6, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

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