It really has been a lifetime since an 11-year-old Lorin Maazel stood up to conduct the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1941, but he hasn't forgotten those who guided him from being a child prodigy to becoming one of the world's most prolific and respected conductors.
Maazel went so far as to build his own youth-oriented summer music festival at Castleton Farms, his personal retreat in the quiet, rolling Virginia countryside southwest of Washington, D.C.
About to start its third season, the Castleton Festival is all about exposing talented younger singers, orchestral players and conductors to the finest mentors Maazel can find. That includes himself.
It is also about giving budding professionals practical concert and opera experience in front of as many audiences as possible.
To that end, the now 80-year-old Maazel is bringing his Castleton stars to Toronto for one concert each month in June and July and three in late August, part of the inaugural BlackCreek Music Festival at the Rexall Centre at the York University campus.
Maazel is coming to town with much more than his own singers and orchestra. He is the official artistic adviser for classical programming at the BlackCreek Festival, for which he will also lead three concerts with the London Symphony Orchestra and some high-powered international opera stars.
It's an exciting prospect. The maestro has not been heard in these parts since a tour with the Orchestre National de France in 1990. Best of all, Toronto will get to experience the Full Maazel: international star as well as enthusiastic mentor.
“As you grow older, if you love your profession — and, in this case, how can you not love it? — there is a kind of feeling that it is one's responsibility as well as privilege to pass on whatever little one has learned about music-making and, in this particular case, conducting,” said Maazel on a recent stop in Toronto.
He speaks and thinks in perfectly formed paragraphs, not short sentences. His granite face and penetrating eyes have intimidated the world's biggest musical names and greatest orchestras to do his bidding. But the words come out softly.
Seven decades after his professional conducting debut, Maazel remains grateful to those who showed an eager music student the way forward.
“I find myself, at this end of my life, being part of the reverse process,” he said. “Now I'm by far the oldest, so I have a fatherly and grandfatherly attitude toward all these young people.”
Maazel has seven children and a clutch of grandchildren. “So I suppose, without noticing it, all that I've learned from parenting I've put to use in my profession.”
Before there was a Castleton Festival, Maazel and his wife, actor Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, had already begun experimenting with arts-related activities at their Virginia farm, including founding an arts-based primary school.
Over the past 14 years, the activities have grown exponentially.
The Maazels built a much-lauded teeny-tiny opera house on the property that seats about 150 people. This year, the summertime concert tent becomes a semi-permanent structure complete with air conditioning.
And beyond the rolling hills and dales, the festival is taking performances to a concert hall closer to Washington, D.C., making the two stops in Toronto and preparing a co-production with Beijing Opera.
Such swift progress has been made possible by Maazel's international profile. As the maestro himself puts it, in the third person:
“If there's something special about the Castleton Festival, it is that it's being run by someone who is still in the mainstream of making music publicly, of giving concerts, so he's very much out there and, at the very same time, is sharing what he has to share with young people at a level that they're not going to get at the run-of-the-mill music school.”
Besides the Maazels, several organizations around the world choose the artists for Castleton. The result is an international cast of bright young things.
“It's not where they come from that matters, it's how they perform that matters — that's the only thing that matters,” Maazel insists.
“Do the job, you're on. You don't, you're not.”
Maazel may be a prominent perfectionist, but he insists that this is built on learning from missteps: “Making errors of judgment is very important. You can't learn otherwise. I say to my kids, please make mistakes; it's so educational. Just do yourself the favour of not making the same mistake twice.”
It's a promise and a threat, neatly rolled into one.
Lorin Maazel on what makes a great conductor:
I have asked many of my colleagues, can they define what a good conductor is? And all of them came up with the same response – the same I come up with – you can't. But you know one when you see one. It's as simple as that.
“There's a kind of authority. The way a young conductor walks ... to the podium, turns around, takes his baton and takes the upbeat, you already know 95 per cent of what you need to know.... Conducting is basically projection. If you turn inward ... to the exclusion of the music you are there to serve, then you're a no-no. If you have this authority, if you have integrated the music in such a way that you are actually able ... to communicate how you feel about the music and be able to recreate it for the players and the audience, then you are a proper conductor.
Article from: Toronto Star
By: John Terauds