By Mike Ashenfelder
The family of Lorin Maazel, and staff and artists from the Castleton festival, hosted a memorial at the Castleton Theater on Wednesday night, July 16, to mark the passing of a great artist and teacher. In the packed theater, the atmosphere was solemn but filled with smiles of love as people exchanged hugs and kisses. On the cover of the program, a photograph of Maestro Maazel captures him conducting, eyes closed, with a Buddha smile of perfect peace on his lips.
Cellist Alisa Weilerstein opened the program with the Sarabande from Bach’s “Cello Suite in C Major.” Weilerstein said after the memorial that she wanted something reverent and ecstatic, not sad. “I was playing for him, in a way, but also playing for his family, which is like playing for him,” she said.
Pacalin Pavaci, concertmaster of the Castleton festival, said a few words about his love, admiration and respect for Maazel. He was followed by the Castleton Chamber Players — Eric Silberger on violin, Daniel Lelchuk on cello and Bradley Moore on piano — who performed the second movement, Andante Poco Mosso, from Schubert’s “Piano Trio #1 in B flat Major.” The musicians’ well-honed intuitive interplay brought out the best in the gently swaying Romantic piece.
Moore, who backed most of the performers in the program, is a gifted accompanist whose masterful dynamics and tempo refined every piece. He told me that Mrs. Maazel chose the music for the program and especially wanted the Brahms “Violin Sonata #1 in G Major Opus 78 ‘Rain’ “ Moore and Silberger played the 1st movement, Vivace ma non troppo, a lyrical, passionate piece, filled with yearning. Silberger — an intense performer — poured his heart into it.
The duo continued on with Tchaikovsky’s “String Quartet No. 1, Opus 11,” Andante Cantabile, a piece filled with great tender, hushed moments. Following that was “Meditation from Thais” by Jules Massenet, with Pacalin Pavaci on violin and Moore on piano. The melody is familiar and timeless, and Pavaci played the song with firm strength and angelic delicacy, leaving the last long-held note to whisper off into the night.
Several people delivered tributes. Christopher Wall, Secretary of the Castleton Festival Board of Directors, talked of the many artists who benefitted from Maazel and he said that there will be memorial concerts in the major centers of the world where Maazel played. Hugh Smith, Treasurer of the Castleton Festival Board of Directors, said that the 24-member board of directors, formed last year, raised $1 million in its first year and will continue to carry the Castleton Festival forward. He said that people all over the world were offering to help the Festival flourish. He also encouraged the young Castleton players to help other musicians as Castleton has helped them, to pass along Lorin Maazel’s spirit of help and support for musicians. He said, “You’ve been mentored. Now, as you grow, do your own mentoring.”
John McCarthy, Rappahannock County Administrator, spoke of the Maazel family (with their exotic livestock and two underpasses) and the growth of the Castleton Festival. He said that Maestro Maazel came here and created a beautiful garden of culture and we all must help tend the garden.
A video memorial for Lorin Maazel stitched together bits of interviews and segments of his performances. He spoke of how the Castleton Festival began when he invited friends here to play in the theater, “Then it grew and took on signs of a festival in progress.” It continued to grow organically into the world-class annual event it is today. He also expressed his vision for young musicians to “Carry the torch of the art form high in the air for years to come.”
After the video tribute, soprano Jennifer Black, with Moore on piano, performed Giuseppe Verdi’s prayerful, “Salce, Salce . . . Ave Maria” from Otello and Richard Strauss’s “Morgen.” The final two pieces of the night were baritone Jonathan Beyer’s often-playful rendition of Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” (with Beyer accompanying himself on piano) and mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves singing Gershwin’s “Summertime.”
Black and Moore’s interpretation of Strauss’s “Morgen” was a jewel-like moment, a bittersweet uplift based on a poem by John Henry Mackay. This piece is so significant to the memorial that the poem was printed on the back of the program.
And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and on the path I walk, the sun will
reunite us, the blessed, on the sun-kissed earth.
And to the beach, vast and tinted blue,
we shall descend and gaze into each other’s eyes
where over us will flow the silence of pure joy.