The Washington Post
By Cecelia Porter
July 18, 2011
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Castleton Festival performances Sunday demonstrate skill, intensity

Now in its third summer, the Castleton Festival sprang into being as the dream of conductor Lorin Maazel and his wife, Diet­linde Turban-Maazel. This year, the musical fest has spread beyond the rolling acres of the couple’s historic home in Virginia’s Piedmont region to performances at Bethesda’s Strathmore concert hall, the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas and the Black Creek Summer Music Festival in Toronto.

Sunday’s program at Castleton opened with Emmanuel Chabrier’s “Espana,” led by associate conductor Matthieu Mantanus. In a work scored for a huge orchestra consisting of every imaginable instrument, Mantanus skillfully drew all of Chabrier’s multi-hued harmonies and technical demands from the young musicians — both soloists and instrumental sections. Here, as through the afternoon, the acoustics of the blimp-shaped tent amply supported boisterous fortes but did little to enhance more delicate inflections.

Maazel conducted his own “Music for Violin and Orchestra” with solo violinist Jennifer Koh. Consisting of six continuous movements, the work is overlong for its musical ideas: a capricious fantasy roiling in outworn dissonance-dotted semi-tonality alternating with neo-romantic twinges. Throughout, Koh was now a soloist, now an orchestral partner always in stunning control and full of drama seeping through the work’s linear counterpoint.

Clarinetist Robyn Cho in Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2, Op. 74, and the orchestra in Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” proved to be the high points of the day. Cho is a virtuoso of the first order, racing through Weber’s coloratura gyrations while plumbing the clarinet’s highest notes and the depths of the cavernous chalumeau register. Another associate conductor, Blake Richardson, kept the orchestra under his subtle command. But with the Ravel, every solo instrument — from snare drum to saxophone — was a star, with Maazel gradually revving up Ravel’s scale of intensity into the finale’s fireworks.

Porter is a freelance writer.

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