Music Review

Young Castleton orchestra shows its true colors

By Joan Reinthaler
Monday, July 12, 2010

Color was the main fare on the program offered by the Castleton Festival Orchestra's program of French music Saturday evening. The concert tent may have been a-hum with persistent air-conditioning noises, but the youthful orchestra overcame these, parading 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 timpani at the end of the Berlioz "Symphonie Fantastique," which left the attacker red-faced and sweaty.

In its second year, the festival in Rappahannock County, Va., is attracting young instrumentalists (19 to 30 years old) and a group of "conducting fellows" from around the world. Four of the fellows shared the podium with Artistic Director Lorin Maazel for this concert.

The opening and closing belonged to Maazel, who recently retired as conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Faure'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, 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 to the Afternoon of a Faun" (and was helped in this by some splendid flute-playing). Timothy Myers, Maazel's associate conductor for this festival, handled the rhythmic intricacies of the Dukas "Sorcerer's Apprentice" cleanly but got to its energetic climax so quickly that it seemed to hang there with nowhere to go. And Brandon Brown, who has guest-conducted widely, got the rhythmically articulated foundation not quite as cleanly as he wanted for the Berlioz "Roman Carnival" Overture but all the wild woodwind color he could have asked for.

Reinthaler is a freelance writer.

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