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In performance: Castleton Festival

Edited to add: In Monday's Washington Post: Maazel takes Castleton orchestra to France, by Joan Reinthaler
(read review after the jump, or click on above link)

Color was the main fare on the program offered by the Castleton Festival Orchestra’s program of French music on Saturday evening. Its concert tent may have been a-hum with persistent air-conditioning noises, but over these, the youthful orchestra paraded an elegant woodwind section, agile strings and brass and a clutch of percussionists whose talents spanned everything from the most delicate triangle touches to a physical assault on the tympani at the end of the Berlioz “Symphonie Fantastique” that left the attacker red-faced and sweaty.

Now in its second year, the festival, started as a training program by Lorin Maazel on the grounds of his home and officially launched after he retired as music director of the New York Philharmonic, attracts young instrumentalists (19 to 30 years old) and a group of conducting fellows from around the world. Four of these fellows shared the podium with Maazel for this concert.

The opening and closing belonged to Maazel. Fauré’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” suite seemed light on the bottom strings, but Maazel’s pacing was wonderfully suggestive, and he gave a powerful lesson that his conducting students need to pay attention to – how to sustain or transition a mood through the space between movements. His reading of the two final movements of the “Symphonie Fantastique” was brilliant.

Yorgos Kouritas, currently assistant conductor of the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra, led a well-shaped and sprightly performance of the Ravel “Mother Goose Suite." Matthieu Mantanus, who holds several conducting positions in Italy, found an ideal balance of light and agility for his reading of Debussy’s “Prelude a L’Apres-midi d’un Faune” (and was helped in this by some splendid flute-playing). Timothy Myers, Maazel’s associate conductor for this festival, handled the rhythmic intricacies of Dukas's “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” cleanly but got to its energetic climax so quickly that it seemed to hang there with no where to go. And Brandon Brown, who has guest conducted widely, didn't get the rhythmically articulated foundation quite as clean as he wanted for the Berlioz “Roman Carnival Overture,” but received all the wild woodwind color he could have asked for.

-- Joan Reinthaler

By Anne Midgette  |  July 11, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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