Maazel sets up music fest at farm

He'll teach conducting at his Va. property

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Conductor Lorin Maazel won't rest long after leaving the New York Philharmonic at the end of this concert season.

The former Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director announced yesterday that he will create a music festival at a location a little less cosmopolitan: his 550-acre farm in Castleton, Va., about 70 miles south of Washington, D.C.

Along with his wife, actress Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, the renowned conductor has created the Castleton Festival, running from July 4-19, with Britten operas and a master class by Maazel taking center stage.

"Our desire is to create a residency program for the stars of tomorrow: singers, conductors and instrumentalists," Maazel, 78, said. The musicians will live on the grounds for a month and work closely with Maazel and other coaches. "This is a very intimate little festival. We will have two theaters at our disposal. The maximum number of [patrons] we can accommodate is 225."

But it may be hard to hold back young conductors for participation in the first full class on conducting Maazel has ever given. Budding maestros stand to learn much from a man who made his conducting debut at age 8. (In case you're wondering, that appearance was in Moscow -- Moscow, Idaho. Maazel's teacher, Vladimir Bakaleinikoff, was music director at the University of Idaho and brought Maazel there to conduct the student orchestra in Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony.)

Maazel plans on guest-conducting after his tenure at the Philharmonic concludes, including a return to Heinz Hall to conduct the PSO, which he "still holds in great affection." He feels bad about having to cancel a 2004 appearance here due to illness. "I have been looking all this time for a replacement period, and somehow it hasn't worked out so far, but it will one day."

Maazel has high praise for the PSO's new music director, Manfred Honeck, whom he first met while conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the 1980s. "I was very happy to read of his appointment because they have in him a super musician," Maazel said. "He is a very accomplished conductor, and I think he will make a fine contribution to the Pittsburgh Symphony."

As for the New York Philharmonic, which Maazel took over in 2002, he leaves with a sense of accomplishment. "I succeeded in restoring the confidence of the players themselves, which to a degree they had lost," he says. He views the hubbub surrounding the orchestra's concert in North Korea, one of the highlights of his tenure, as media-driven and would rather focus on how the group now sounds. "Their self-esteem has grown. They play like angels. That is a goal of a music director."


Classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com . He blogs at Classical Musings at post-gazette.com .


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